August 15, 2018

About Phil Hollenbeck

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I was born under a full moon in Baltimore @ 10:25 AM, February 21st, 1943. My 84 year old very Southern Baptist Aunt has always wanted me to be "born again" but I keep telling her, "Believe me, Aunt Mary, once has been more than enough, already."

So, I was a war baby and spent my formative years with my mother and her parents. Dad went in the Army Air Corps early on, like 1937, flying DC-3's. Known as "gooney birds", they were the work horse of the Air Corps. He was stationed at Luke Field, Hawaii. When the war broke out he volunteered for glider training and ended up in Europe, dropping troops & supplies over Normandy, etc. Most glider flights were at night and they never really landed. They crashed. The tow planes were, yes, gooney birds. Glider pilots were part dare devil, part loose cannon. My father tempered that trait with swimming, bodybuilding and photography. He did a little writing but was a much better pilot than writer. His photography was average. Mine is not.

While at Luke Field, Amelia Earhardt made her last fuel stop before being abducted by aliens. My father photographed her stepping out of her plane. When I was ten, he gave me his camera, a 35mm Kodak, the one he used to shoot Amelia. A Brownie Hawkeye was given to me when I turned eight. The Kodak was much nicer and would take a lot more pictures. One of my portfolios that I show today opens with the picture of Amelia Earhardt and a letter that my father wrote on onionskin paper with an old Underwood typewriter. This is my story, how the seed of photography was planted in my little peanut brain, and I'm sticking to it.

Career-wise, things have been good but I'm never satisfied. As soon as you're satisfied, you're done. I've shot people, places and things. A mixed bag of editorial, corporate, advertising and a lot of personal work. I never strived to have a photographic specialty. As long as I had a camera in my hands, I was happy. Sure as hell beats repairing potholes in August or plucking chickens for Tysons.

A photographic stint in the Air Force, three kids, one studio gig in Dallas and the summer of 1970 found me opening my own studio.

Kids grew up, pets died, divorce became final. Freedom! I never looked back, though I did pick up a couple of stray dogs.

I've won a few awards but that is no comparison to the friends I've met along the way. In 1984 Oxford University published a book I did on Texas and, more recently, I worked on another book titled, "Freaks & Fire: The Underground Re-Invention of Circus". Neither one made any money. I classify photo book publishing as a true labor of love.

I've done a few speaking engagements but I'm really terrible. I like to think that I'm a much better writer than I am a speaker. I've done some of that, too, and for real money back when the dollar was real money.

The Dallas Society of Visual Communications is a professional organization that I've been a member of for over 35 years, the last 17 of which I've sat on the board. In 1991, ROUGH Magazine was founded by myself and three friends as a DSVC publication. I resigned as Editor recently and split my time between Dallas and Eureka Springs, Arkansas

Three years ago there was a third stray dog that was rescued by a woman named Catherine. She lives in Eureka Springs and I am no longer a stray.


About Phil Hollenbeck
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