Durrance combines passions in new book | AspenTimes.com

Durrance combines passions in new book

Stewart Oksenhorn
Aspen Times Staff Writer

“The PGA Tour,” the new photo book by Carbondale photographer Dick Durrance II, opens with an example of the classic golf image of the moment.

Opposite the title page is a full-page photograph of Tiger Woods completing a shot at the 2002 U.S. Open at Bethpage, N.Y. – a tournament Woods would go on to win – his eyes focused laserlike on the flight of the ball, the picture of ultimate concentration.

What follows the Tiger photo takes a sharp dogleg turn. Durrance’s new book is not just a collection of picture-perfect swings, recognizable faces and names, the world’s most famous and beautiful courses. Subtitled “A Look Behind the Scenes,” “The PGA Tour” (158 pp., Andrews McMeel Publishing) documents, in Durrance’s black-and-white photos and John Yow’s text, the big picture of big-time golf.

That means coverage of the massive media presence at a tournament, the early morning practice routines, the throngs of fans, the grounds-keeping forces, the families of the players.

Durrance said the Tiger Woods photo is his favorite in the book.

“That reflects the work of a genius doing what he does. It catches so much of a very unusual character,” said Durrance, who photographed nine PGA tournaments in 2002 for the book.

But there is plenty of competition for best image in the book: a shot of the media center at the U.S. Open that depicts the scores of reporters covering the tournament; golfer Chad Campbell hitting irons on an otherwise empty, fog-drenched practice range; fan Don Jessup sporting a green hat, complete with ball and pin. Durrance is not just a golf fanatic, but a fan of everything that surrounds the game.

“For whatever reason, I love the world of golf,” said Durrance, who will have a book-signing at Explore Booksellers on Friday from 5-7 p.m. “The traditions, the characters like myself who are attracted to the game. I enjoy telling the story of golf and golfers. Watching an event, you have no idea how many people work so hard to stage four days and bring it into our living room. There are thousands of volunteers – people who make Patriot missiles, everyone – who are just junkies.”

Durrance is such a junkie that “The PGA Tour” is actually his second book devoted to the sport. The 2000 book “Golfers” captured the people who play the sport – from Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus to cowboys playing on Nebraska sand hills and Minnesotans who have made a course on ice.

Durrance came to golf late in life. Born in Seattle and raised in Aspen from the age of 5, Durrance focused on more rugged outdoors pursuits. Ten years ago, at the age of 50, Durrance moved from the coast of Maine back to Aspen to be close to his parents, Aspen photographer icons Dick and the late “Miggs” Durrance. Wanting to spend time with his parents, the younger Durrance took up golf. He was almost instantly hooked.

Photography came earlier to Durrance, but not as quickly as one might assume. Until he was a college student, he never picked up a camera except to help out his parents.

In his sophomore year, Durrance’s innate attraction – “a genetic implant,” he calls it – finally emerged. In the library one day, he stumbled across books featuring the work of photographers Ansel Adams, Henri Cartier-Bresson and Edward Weston.

“I spent three hours there – which was a long time for me. I just knew that was my world,” said Durrance.

While still in college, Durrance received his first assignment as a photographer. He was part of a group of students taking a canoe trip on the Danube River in East Germany; National Geographic was interested in getting images from the other side of the Berlin Wall.

Durrance’s photographs proved to be the most popular images in National Geographic that year. It was the beginning of an illustrious career that has included the 1988 book “Where War Lives,” of Durrance’s images of the Vietnam War, and earning the National Press Photographers Association’s Picture of the Year competition four times.

It wasn’t until 1996 that Durrance grasped how he could combine his passions for photography and golf.

“I realized I was spending so much time on the golf course, and not working as much as I could,” he said. “I said, ‘Dicky boy, these are landscapes. You’re allowed to shoot landscapes. And I discovered there was a niche market for shooting golf courses.”

For the past seven years, Durrance, who has a handicap of 10 or so, has spent almost all of his time within pitching-wedge range of a golf course. His professional work revolves almost entirely around photographing golf courses for golf course managers, developers and the PGA Tour. For the past three years, he and his wife, Susan Drinker, have lived on the ninth fairway of Carbondale’s River Valley Ranch.

Stewart Oksenhorn’s e-mail address is stewart@aspentimes.com

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