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Belle Vernon photographer focused on black and white

| Sunday, June 9, 2002

Craig Suppo of Belle Vernon sees the world in terms of black and white.

Suppo, 34, is a camera buff who specializes in black-and-white photography. Ever since he took up photography as a hobby and possible profession 15 years ago, he has focused on taking pictures of the past — dilapidated steel mills, old and abandoned buildings, railroad trestles, bridges and other structures bearing history of man's past.

"I prefer black-and -white to color photography because it's a textural way of seeing the world," said Suppo. "There is a certain beauty in old or abandoned buildings and factories. To me, it's the remnants of man in an industrialized area."

A graduate of Belle Vernon High School and Penn State University , where he earned a bachelor's degree in film and video production, Suppo is the son Carl and Lois Suppo, who also reside in Belle Vernon.

"When I turned 18, I became acquainted with the work of Ansel Adams," he said. "My brother, Chris, knew of my interest in photography and bought me an Ansel Adams book containing photos he shot in West Yellowstone and Yosemite National Park.

"He is the only person who influenced the way I work. The way he was able to use different ranges of gray in his black-and-white photos was outstanding. Adams was able to show the beauty black and white can reveal about subject matter."

Suppo worked nine years on residential construction with his father before taking a job as a field representative with the American Red Cross, working out of the organization's Greensburg office. When he isn't working, he loads up his car with $8,000 worth of equipment, including two Nikon cameras, slides and tripods, and travels around the state searching out sites to photograph.

He estimates he has shot more than 1,500 photos. He keeps the negatives on file and mounts his favorites like "Fading Away," a photo of a Monessen steel blast furnace that was in the process of being torn down.

"The entire project took three years and I was able to get a photo before the dismantling was complete," he noted. "I took the picture on a hazy day and it looked like the old furnace was fading away into the haze, with the foreground in sharp focus."

Another favorite photo is "Silent Trestle," which shows a black train trestle against a snowy winter background with wet snow clinging to the trees. Suppo said he appreciates the black-and- white photo because of the contrast he was able to show.

Suppo developed an interest in photography after buying a used Yashika camera for $30.

"The camera was a little rough, but it got the job done for me," he said. "My cameras today are a little more expensive, like an F100 and N6006 Nikon."

He has taken several classes in lighting and writing and said he concentrates on the use of light to create powerful images.

"I shoot some color and get good results, but it's the black and white that really interests me," he stated. "I want to build my own darkroom where I can develop my own film and make prints. Eventually I hope to make a living with my camera and sell to the major magazines. I may even go into making motion pictures."

The aspiring photographer also has a number of other hobbies, including snow skiing, golfing, scuba diving, bowling, hunting and traveling.

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