About a month ago, Randall Phenning posted a photograph on Flickr that very much intrigued me. He wrote that the photograph belonged to his grandpa, and linked it to a whole series of images. I emailed Randall who told me more about Fred Phenning and his very beautiful images.
You posted a series of extremely interesting photographs taken by your grandfather. By the look of it, it seems they were taken in the fifties and sixties around the USA. What was your grandpa, and his life like?
My grandpa was epic. There is no other word to describe the man. He grew up in Nebraska, USA. He was at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 (the Japanese attacked the port that day and launched the US into WWII), was a chief on a Navy destroyer for years during and after the war, came to northern California and then had/raised my father. He was very humble about himself. He never really spoke to me about Pearl Harbor except for one time. He gave me a few photographs he had taken from an observation plane of Hiroshima (the first nuclear weapon used in war was dropped there) but for the most part he did not talk about the war. He talked a lot about family growing up and how my father was when he was smaller.
This is, to me at least, the most interesting picture of all the series. Who is it? Can you tell me more about the woman and situation?
The woman in the photo is my grandma. She has always had a soft spot for cats while my father and grandfather didn’t so much. I am not sure about any of the other info about the photo.
How did you stumble upon these photographs?
I didn’t so much stumble on the photos as beg my grandma to let me have them when my grandfather passed away. I knew he had thousands of photos stored in boxes and my grandma was more than happy to let me have them. I wish I had been able to grasp what photography was before he passed away. I started becoming interested in it maybe a year after he died and by that time we had already sold his darkroom enlarger and cameras. Really quite a shame. I had been working on arranging some sort of project of his since I received the boxes of slides so it took me maybe 6 to 8 months to scan, process, then whittle down hundreds of photos into the series that I put up. I hope it serves his photography justice, he was very very good.
You recently celebrated your 21st birthday. What do you wish for in the upcoming year?
My 21st was just recently haha, thanks for the wishes, it was a great birthday. Very mellow. As far as the future goes: I hope to get into a university to study photography, start assisting for a semi big wig photographer, and just continue on my journey that is set before me with all the highs and lows that are along the way. I just bought a nikon SLR too so that could be interesting I suppose, really different from medium format range finders.