Les Campbell is one of the best-known photographers in Massachusetts' Pioneer Valley and he is likely the most honored photographer in our region. He has taught weekend seminars in many parts of this country and Canada and has been a feature presenter at over a dozen regional and international photo conventions. His framed photographs hang in numerous homes, businesses and institutions and have appeared in many regional and national publications, including National Geographic, National Audubon, Massachusetts Audubon, Birds and Blooms, and the journal of Photographic Society of America. He has been nationally recognized for his pioneering work and achievements in the field of slide presentation as an art form.
Fresh out of high school in 1944 Les began working at the newly constructed Quabbin Reservoir. Forty-four years later in 1988 he retired from his position as Senior Sanitary Engineer at the Quabbin water laboratory where he was responsible for monitoring and safeguarding the water quality of the 287 square mile Quabbin and Ware watersheds.
In the late 1940's, Les' passion for photography grew out of his first hobby of "birding." It was his fascination with birds that drew him to the camera as a means of recording and sharing his enjoyment of their beauty. His search for photographic subjects quickly expanded to encompass all of nature, people and landscapes.
Les states that, for him, photography has never been a profession. He considers himself a serious "amateur" photographer and thus his approach to photography was as an avocation rather than as a vocation, he has always been devoted to promoting the excitement and joy of photography as a rewarding leisure time pursuit, one that can and often does lift one to the heights of exultation and spiritualism.
Throughout the more than sixty years Les has been taking photographs, he has generously shared his knowledge, enthusiasm and appreciation for the gentle art of amateur photography. It is through his lectures, teaching and his highly acclaimed and inspirational audio-visual slide presentations that his passion for photography becomes most evident.
In 1952 Les moved to Belchertown to a job related home on the grounds of the Quabbin Reservation. His two sons and three step-children were raised to maturity at this location.
For Les the road and journey to Sky Meadow began in 1950 with his first serious camera - a 4X5 Super first camera D Graflex with a 7 and 16 inch focal length lenses. Here are two of his most famous pictures taken with this camera around this time – and a few others that demonstrate his versatility.
Les' journey from his home-town of Ware to his final destination in Belchertown has covered many years and many miles throughout this country and Canada. He recognizes the four following eras in this journey:
1941-1959 - The Developing Years – Les in this period did mostly black and white work doing his own processing and printing. In 1956 was the top exhibitor of nature prints in international competitive exhibiting. He also began what would most define his career – color slide photography.
1960 to 1982 – The Multi-media Years – Les pioneered lap dissolve multiprojector slide presentations and was a popular and prominent speaker throughout this country and Canada. He presented programs regionally and nationally to both amateur and professional organizations. He was a feature speaker at many regional and national conventions, the largest of which were the PSA International Conventions in San Francisco, St. Louis, Philadelphia, New York City, Washington DC, and Montreal Canada. His high water mark of this era was as the concluding featured highlight presenter at the Photographic Society of America, Detroit, Michigan Renaissance Center (1977). His program here was called "Gentle Shines the Light" which used 12 projectors manually controlled on screen format 12 by 48 feet.
1983 to 1993 – The Quabbin Years – In 1984 Les and his late wife Terry-Ann were responsible for the founding of the Quabbin Visitor's Center and its support group "Friends of Quabbin". Through this endeavor widespread knowledge of the Quabbin story has been generated. Les' personal concern has been for the preservation of the visual photographic record of what was sacrificed and lost in this project.
1993 to present – The Sky Meadow Years – Retired from traveling slide presentations and recently retired from his professional duties at the Quabbin laboratory, Les' photography emphasis once again returned to prints. Now in color, matted and framed and available for purchase at his Sky Meadow Photo Gallery.
Memberships and Accreditations
1967 PSA Fellowship (FPSA) - PSA stands for the Photographic Society of America, the largest association of amateur photographers in the world with many international members. This society has a limited number of awards that are given to only one person annually. Les has been honored with four of these awards:
— The Buxton Award 1956,
— The Stuyvescent Peabody Award 1972,
— The Victor Scales Award 1973,
— The Appreciation Award 1981
1968 Massachusetts Audubon Society Conservation A Award
1970 Citation from the University of Massachusetts signed by President Lederlee
1972 Belchertown Citizen of the Year
1973 Recipient of a Surprise Testimonial at the Chez Josef in Agawam, MA; Attended by over 400 fellow photographers from all over eastern US and Canada with an Eastman Kodak Rep as MC
1973 Elected honorary member Hon. NEC. New England Camera Club Council represents over 120 New England camera clubs. Their 34th annual Conference was dedicated to Les Campbell.
1991 Environmentalist of the Year – Springfield Naturalist Club
2002 Lifetime Achievement Award – Valley Photo Center, Springfield, MA
2008 Appreciation Award –Pioneer Valley Photographic Artists
Over the years Les has founded or cofounded many events and organizations many of which still flourish today:
Quabbin Bird Club 1946
Belchertown Color Camera Club 1948
Massachusetts Camera Naturalists 1959
Annual Weekend Conference of the New England Camera Club Council 1956
Mass Audubon weekend Natural History Conference 1967
Quabbin Visitor's Center and its support group Friends of Quabbin 1984
Quabbin Valley Association of Historical Societies 1987
Quabbin Photo Group 1985
Pioneer Valley Photographic Artists 1996
Les is also an honorary member of several camera clubs in the Northeast and an honorary life member of the Boston Camera Club, the Charter Oak Color Slide Association, Hartford, CT; the Brattleboro Camera Club, Vermont; and the Springfield Mass Photographic Society.
Two events that do not have a specific date but were major events in Les' career –first was an innovative production called Photo-Musicale which was produced in collaboration with the Belchertown High School concert band photography, modern dance and literature students. This production was an enormous success bringing in large financial grants for the music program. The entire cast traveled to Boston, Hartford, Martha's Vineyard and Welland, Ontario for performances. This innovative program featuring Les' photography utilized 12 projectors on a screen format 12 X 48 feet.
The other event was the concept and orchestration of a Year of Special Events commemorating the 50th anniversary of the death of four Commonwealth of Massachusetts towns (Enfield, Prescott, Dana and Greenwich) to make way for the construction of the Quabbin Reservoir. The year 1988 was designated by then Governor Michael Dukakis as a Year of Remembrance for these lost communities. For these lost towns major events were a Remembrance Ball at the University of Massachusetts held on the same anniversary date as the disincorporation of the towns April 27, (38 and 88); a Quabbin musical put on by the Ware Community theatre and a commemoration of the 1901 Dana centennial. This was held on Dana Common with over 2,000 people participating.