If you go to any literary events around Baltimore, you’re bound to run into Bill Hughes; he’s the guy with the handsome mustache and the fancy camera. He’s always paying intent attention and then snapping photos and then shaking hands, quick with a kind word. I’m starting to count on seeing him around. To wit, last Friday at Stephanie Barber’s book release party I found myself thinking, “Wow, this is a great turnout, I wish I had thought to bring a camera. Maybe Bill Hughes will be here.” And voilà he was, camera in hand. I asked him that night if he’d answer some questions. He surprised me by some of the answers.
What kind of events do you photograph?
My focus as a shutterbug has been mostly on the Peace & Justice community, both locally and in Washington, D.C. Broadly speaking this includes subjects as diverse as: Anti-War, Human Rights, Medicare-for-All, the Environmental and Occupy Movements, Anti-Torture, the Labor Movement, the Dream Act and Marriage Equality.
My primary passion with respect to the issue of Peace & Justice is to contribute to the restoration of our Republic and take our country back from the grasping 1% Gang before their overwhelming greed irreparably wrecks it, along with the earth’s climate. This kind of hell-raising on my part comes naturally, since my mother was Irish.
I’ve also done a lot of photos associated with what I label “Baltimore’s Literary Renaissance.” The latter is my way of paying back to the community and its evolving cultural life. It has also been its own reward. I love literature. I’ve also met so many wonderful and talented people along the way, plus one or two dork heads, too.
When did you start taking these pictures?
On the Peace & Justice front, my activism as a photographer dates back to around the year 2000 and my opposition to the first Iraq War.
I think on the local literary scene, my photo-taking started in 2008. I’m a hobbyist photographer, but from time to time, some of my photographs have been published in national publications and two of my videos have made it onto national cable and TV networks. One of them dealt with one of my favorite activists, who is also a champion of Medicare-for-All, Dr. Margaret Flowers of Baltimore.
How did you get your start?
Deborah Rudacille and John Barry asked me to tape the “New Mercury Readings,” which were then located in a Federal Hill gallery. Not long after that, I became acquainted with Patrick Tandy and Davida Gypsy Brier at Benn Ray’s Atomic Books, and their popular zine, “Smile, Hon, You’re in Baltimore.” In fact, I’ve contributed a few articles to their publications, plus some photos. Before I knew it, I was taking photos of readings at the Atomic Books with Kathy Flann hosting; Minas Gallery with Jen Michalski, Michael Kimball, Julie Fisher, et al; Patrick King’s “Last Rites’” gig on Mulberry Street; in Greektown for Rafael Alvarez; “Poetry in the Park” for Andy Rubin; “City Sages” at Rubin’s “Cyclops” and at the JHU Barnes & Noble book store on 33rd Street. Recently, I’ve done some photos for Jeff Shipley’s zine, “Tales of Blood and Roses,” at the U. of Baltimore’s book store; Tracy Dimond and Amanda McCormick at the Bohemian Coffee Shop; Oscar Strangeways and Kat Malone down at Gallery 788 on Saratoga Street; and Eric Goodman at the Watermark Gallery. Of course, CityLit’s annual celebration of Bmore’s literary revival, under the baton of its energetic maestro, Gregg Wilhelm, at the Pratt Central Library is a must-go for me; as is Bmore’s annual “BookFest,” in Mount Vernon Place Historic District.
I’m interested in how you catalog your photos. How many pictures do you have? Do you save them on external harddrives or what? Do you have a naming system for the photos, or do you not bother with renaming them?
All of my photographs, including my travel photos, are stored on DVDs and external drives, but they aren’t catalogued. Nor, have I ever bothered to count them. I don’t have the time to do it. Mercifully, most are still available on Facebook and/or on Flickr. Copies of my videos are on DVDs and stored in a plastic box.
Sometimes it seems like I get home from an event and the pictures are already up on Facebook. How do you do that so fast?
I don’t drink! So, I usually head right home after an event and get to work putting them online. For example, I took photos and taped an anti-war rally one morning in Lafayette Park, opposite the White House, way back in September, 2007. A number of the activists were arrested. The leader of the demonstration, who was also one of the parties arrested, was worried that no one had taken photos/video of the police/activist clash that came at the end of the rally. His second-in-command told him as he was being placed in the paddy wagon: “Don’t worry, I saw Bill running for the Metro. It will all be online later today.” She was right!
How many events do you go to a month? I am sure sometimes you must go to more than one a night, right?
It depends! During the summer months, the local literati head for the out-of-town resorts. Who can blame them. Bmore can sizzle in July and August. Things pick-up in the Fall. I would say, I average about four events a month, depending on my schedule and other considerations. I’m also a professional actor, and work in that industry can fluctuate wildly. I recently made an appearance on “America’s Most Wanted.” I played the role of the character “Nibs.” The program title was “The Roger Hart Segment.” A few weeks ago, I worked as an extra on the HBO’s show, “VEEP.” Also, my wife, Ann, and I, usually take one long trip a year. Last year, it was to Turkey, and before that, India. We loved, too, getting away to the picturesque countries of Central America.
What are some of the most memorable readings you’ve seen?
The quality of the readings continues to get better and better every year in Bmore, whether it’s in the realm of fiction, nonfiction or poetry. So, I wasn’t surprised when I heard that one of poet Elizabeth Hazen’s poems has been selected for the book, Best American Poetry for 2013. Ms. Hazen is a representative of our local literary community, which is overflowing with talented writers in every genre. On any given readings, something “memorable” can and usually will happen.
NB: Bill Hughes is a proud Bmorean, who was born in a hospital near Federal Hill Park and raised in Locust Point. Besides his role as a shutterbug, he’s a professional actor, (think John Waters’ Pecker); and, the author of three books of essays and one of fiction, Andrew Jackson vs New World Order.
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