Essex native Roger Wonson bought his first camera, an Argus 35mm A2F, for $9.99 in 1938 at the age of 14.
At the time, he recalls, a gallon of gas cost about 13 cents and he would mow lawns for 25 cents.
That was the beginning of a lifetime of photography for the 88-year-old Wonson, who now resides in Beverly.
His works will be part of a two-man show titled "Two Men ... Two Perspectives: A Retrospect of Life and Nature" at Eventide Art Studio & Gallery in Essex. A free public reception on Saturday from 6 to 9 p.m. will feature jazz music which Wonson himself will performing on his saxophone, apiece of equipment he first picked up when he was around 12 years old.
Wonson is a descendent of the Choate family. His grandparents were Rufus and Sarah Choate, who were the last owners of Choate Island, also named Hog Island, which has been owned by the Choate family since John Choate bought it for 20 pounds in 1667. It is now part conservation land, managed by the Trustees of Reservations.
"Even though Essex was a small town, it had much to offer — the history of early New England, historical buildings, old cemeteries, ship building industry, delicious seafood, beautiful marshes and the Essex River," said Wonson. "For many years we have revisited the island and the old home built by Francis Choate in 1725. We never tire of hearing the stories of my mother's happy life there."
Rufus and Sarah Choate had three grandsons, and Wonson is the last one living.
Wonson followed in the wake of his parents in terms of his interest in the sciences and fine arts. His mother was an artist, poet, teacher, and musician. His father was an electrician and a tenor who sang in the Congregational Church choir.
As a child, Wonson's darkroom was the family bathroom. His first enlarger was a "Federal" and a "Yankee" developing tank.
At the outbreak of World War II, Wonson was attending Northeastern University. His schooling was cut short when he joined the Air Force and was placed in the technical training command. He was sent to Yale, where he received his commission as an officer.
"It was an interesting experience since Glen Miller's band was at Yale, also before going overseas," recalled Wonson.
When the war ended, Wonson finished his education at a small engineering school in Washington, D.C., where he wouldmeet the woman who would become his wife. He and Mary Sue Wonson, 90, have been married for 64 years.
The couple returned to the North Shore to raise a family, building a home in Beverly. He worked as an engineer for Raytheon, from which he retired as a senior engineer in 1986.
During the 1960s, Wonson moved into medium format twin lens Yashica mat and a Kowa Single Lens reflex camera. He took a photography course at Montserrat in Beverly where he studied with Bernard Masterson, a commercial photographer who had a contract with Howard Johnson to take pictures of food to be shown on their restaurant menus.
In the 1970s, he taught an evening class in photography history at Gordon College in Wenham, and had an article published in Modern Photography on the development of a large picture drum that eliminated large trays and saved on chemicals.
He liked to do experimental photolithography and silkscreen. He worked with color separation using high temperature inks on silk screens applied to tiles and fired in a kiln.
In 2000, he entered the brave new world of technology and immersed himself in digital photography.
"I've seen a lot of changes and I'm so excited about the digital image," he said. "What I used to do in the dark room that used to take hours, I can now do in a moment. With the push and click of a mouse, I can change things. It's a wonderful application of modern technology. One of the greatest features of digital photography is computer control employing the various software programs."
Wonson loves to play with images and 3-D. The show will include some anaglyph images that should be viewed through 3-D glasses, which will be tied to the photograph.
"I like to change things around with photography and make it different," he said. "I love to work in offbeat ways. I may change the character but I maintain integrity of the image."
One of his flagship photographs is of Motif No. 1, the Rockport fish shack.
In addition to his photography, he found time to form a big band that played swing music of the '40s era. He also joined the Second Congregational Church choir, where he was a tenor soloist for 34 years. He still plays with big bands twice a week.
Ron Walsh, nature photographer
The other photographer in the show is Ron Walsh, described as a true lover of nature and photography.
He remembers the first photograph he took at the age of 12 of a boat on a pond. Though he didn't have the opportunity to make a career in photography, he always had the desire.
Three years ago, he began shooting nature with a digital Panasonic Lumix. Digital photography afforded him the ability to do what he loved without the costs of darkroom equipment and supplies, according to a press release.
He most often takes photographs from his canoe, where he captures both images of vistas as well as scenes of common everyday sights in nature that most people miss while outdoors, explained gallery owner Teri Eramo.
"He manages to turn these images into tender natural still lifes," she said. "His photographs are so intimate."
Gail McCarthy can be reached at 978-283-7000 x3451, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you go
What and who: Gallery show "Reflections: Two Men ... Two Perspectives" featuring works by Essex native Roger Wonson, a photographer, artist, musician, storyteller, and Ron Walsh, a New England native and nature photographer.
When: Free public reception Saturday from 6 to 9 p.m. featuring jazz music provided by Wonson, David Brandt and Karlton Brandt.
Where: Eventide Art Studio & Gallery, 3 Main St. in Essex
How much: Free to the public; the show runs through March 17.
Details: For more information, call 978-890-7198.