His client list reads like a who’s who of everything and everyone.
And in a town where there’s never been a shortage of great photographers, beginning with Ansel Adams, Geraint Smith’s images more than hold up; they capture the transcendent beauty of the High Desert without departing from his distinctive style and point of view.
Geraint was born in the Rhondda Valley, a coal mining community in South Wales, one of four children. His mother was a homemaker and “my dad worked at the mine in the valley below.” He told me as we sat together at Manzanita Market a week or so ago, chatting over tea (me) and coffee and ice cream (Geraint.)
We’d met over the years and I’d approached him to do a piece right before I fell ill, but now here we were, making up for lost time.
Although the family moved to Yorkshire when Geraint was still a child, the sing-song Welsh lilt remains as he describes early memories of “going up the hill to school, down the hill and over a bridge to the shops across the valley.”
He says that the Westerns he watched at the local cinema are indelibly etched in his memory and looking back, he can’t help thinking that “ I unconsciously knew I would eventually live in the wide open spaces of the American Southwest.”
His earliest memory of photography goes back even further, when he was a very small boy and his father would let him carry the family’s Kodak Brownie, occasionally allowing him to take a picture. But it wasn’t until after the family had moved to England in the mid 60’s, when he truly developed a love for photography after buying his first movie camera in his teens.
“It was such a study in contrasts,” he says now. “There we were in Yorkshire with coal mines, steel mills – industrial wastelands – and yet on the other hand we were surrounded by some of the most beautiful countryside in Britain!”
“I was inspired by that.” He says softly.
In 1978, at the age of 22, after a stint in London, he moved to Los Angeles where he studied cinematography and film.
“I soon discovered that I preferred still photography and chose to focus on that.” He explains.
Over the next decade or so, he traveled back and forth from L.A. to England and Europe, but decided to remain permanently in the United States. His career as a freelance photographer working for the City of Pasadena, Caltech, the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the Pasadena Symphony Orchestra, began at that time.
While still living in Los Angeles, Geraint made several trips to Taos to visit friends who had moved here, and fell in love with the majestic vistas and magical light like so many others had, before him.
In 1988 he made the decision to move here, not realizing at the time how much his life would change, and how many sacrifices he’d need to make on his journey to the present.
From making furniture and sculpture, working with wood and metal, designing websites – anything it took to keep a roof over his growing family’s head (Geraint has two children from a previous marriage), he continued to take photographs of the landscape and the light which had inexplicably drawn him here.
Eventually he opened his own gallery and as his work began selling, his clientel grew and continues to grow. He closed his gallery in town and reopened one in Arroyo Seco, where he says business was great for quite some time, until it wasn’t.
“When it began slowing down (when the economy took a downturn), a few years ago, I just decided to close it.” He told me, “It was great fun for a while, but I felt like I was wasting time sitting there all day, waiting for someone to come in.”
He married his long time sweetheart Pamela Morgan (who took the photograph of Geraint at the top of this page), and these days, with his kids grown, his second gallery closed, he shoots on commission for that long list of aforementioned clients, while offering “personalized photo tours in the Land of Light.”
In his Taos Photo Tours which offer workshops and classes, he invites fellow photographers (both professional and hobbyists), to explore the enchanting landscape of Northern New Mexico and southern Colorado; locations that have inspired so many others – photographers and artists – over the decades.
“I never tire of seeing these places,” he tells me as we get ready to leave, the Market is closing and they are threatening (jokingly) to lock us in there with the ice cream!
“I see something new and different each time I look.” He smiles, “and it’s a pleasure to be able to help others discover what makes this region so magical.”
And with every new trip he takes, whether near or far, we are sure to be gifted with yet another image of breathtaking beauty! His eye for detail and composition (that probably began when that small boy first crested that hilltop in Wales overlooking the valley below, where his dad went to work five days a week), was certainly nurtured further by the Yorkshire moors and dales, and all these years in Taos have only served to deepen his singular vision and broaden his view.
Over the years Geraint has donated his images to non profits and charities here in New Mexico and around the world. If you are associated with a non-profit organization, and would like to know more about this process, see his site linked below this post.
Needless to say, choosing images for this post was nigh impossible – I wanted to use them all, so to learn more about Geraint Smith, his Taos Photo Tours (and to see much more of his stunning work), please visit his site for all that as well!
All images by Geraint Smith except for the top photo, taken by his wife, Pamela Morgan