Matt and Tara Theilen of Carson City run a photography business. They specialize in destination weddings at Lake Tahoe. Back in Novemeber, when Tara gave a talk at an international gathering of wedding photographers, Matt struck up a conversation with Eirik Halvorsen, a photographer from Norway. Eirik talked about a class he’d been offering via Zoom, to help people take better cellphone shots. One student from each class would win a gift certificate to a local small business of their choice. It was Eirik’s way of supporting his own business and the businesses in his community at the same time.
Inspired by the idea, Craig Fritz, a colleague from New Mexico, began offering prints for sale online once the coronoavirus pandemic took hold and it become clear that many small businesses would suffer. Craig named the project “Art for #Small Business.” He awards a gift certificate for a local small business, worth $50, to one out of every 15 customers. He’s added a few other photographers to the project, and Matt Theilen is among them.
“All the wedding photographers I know right now, we’re just basically at a standstill,” Matt said. To keep busy and semi-employed, Matt has been digging out some of his favorite negatives from his days as an outdoor and travel photographer and printing them for the small business sale.
“It almost feels like I’m in college again,” Matt said. “I can work on whatever I want. It tempers the pandemic stress a little.”
One of his most striking black and white images is a dramatic aerial shot of Pyramid Lake’s Anaho Island. About 10 or 12 years ago, when he was teaching photography at TMCC, a student got him in touch with the owner of a small plane. The plane was modified so that a photographer could point a camera straight down. “It looked like in the movies, where the guys are looking down a little periscope and dropping bombs,” Matt recalled.
The plane’s owner shot photos near Mount Shasta with a giant film camera, using a reel of film eight inches wide. On the way back, as the the two flew over Pyramid Lake, the owner offered Matt one shot.
“It was tricky,” he recalled. The pilot had to slow the plane to avoid motion blur. Later, after he processed the entire roll of film in one piece, he cut out the Anaho Island negative and had the TMCC student deliver it to Matt in class.
“This print has never been released,” Matt said. “Since it’s from an 8×10 negative, the detail is amazing. If there were people on this island, you’d be able to see them.”
“Anaho Island” and Matt’s other art photographs are available for sale here. Craig Fritz’s are here. Shaunte Dittmar, another Lake Tahoe wedding photographer, is also participating in the Art for #Small Business print sale. Her work is here.