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"Klag's photos are by-products of the scientific meetings and conferences he attends."

 

Stethoscopes and SLRs

For Michael Klag, nature photography provides a creative outlet and a different take on the world.


Internist Michael Klag call photography "A perfect complement" to life as a Hopkins faculty member.
He started taking pictures as a teenager, sometimes shooting 13 rolls of film a day for his high school newspaper. He bought his first camera, an SLR (single lens reflex), with money he'd earned from his supermarket job in Norristown, Pa. The kind of photography didn't matter. In college, he earned money producing slides for his professors' lectures.

Then Michael Klag put the idea of becoming a photojournalist aside and became a doctor instead. It was 16 years before he picked up a camera again.

Currently, Klag, now vice dean of clinical investigation and director of the Division of General Internal Medicine at Hopkins, is exhibiting his photographs outside Pathology Photography, where he takes his film to be developed. He is the third physician to have his work featured in a Path Photo exhibit, a tradition that began five years ago with displays of the department's work and which has grown through word of mouth. (Next month, a fourth-year medical student will exhibit her photographs.)

More than a few physicians have a photography habit. Klag thinks it may be because of the similarities in the two callings. "Parts of medicine are very visual," he says. "I liked ophthalmology because you can see the pathology of the eye, and because the eye is so beautiful."

For him, photography also is an outlet. "Medicine takes a big commitment," he says, "and it's nice to feel you're not uni-dimensional, that you're not a total geek-nerd."

Klag considers the borderless, mounted prints on the walls of his office to be objects that delight him, not sentimental mementoes of places traveled. Except for two photos of his youngest daughter, they are all landscapes. Here is a color-saturated shot of windmills in Holland, there the barren wilds of Western Australia. Some shots from Florida emphasize patterns-shadows from a line of beach chairs, a trio of trees that appear to be swaying.

Virtually all of Klag's photos are by-products of the scientific meetings and conferences he attends. "I graft it on to some work-related thing," says Klag. "Otherwise, I sit in a hotel all day long, I could be anywhere!"

On the rare occasion that Klag can't get outside at all, he takes pictures from his hotel window.

"I may only get 20 minutes to take pictures, but it's totally unstructured, and those 20 minutes keep me going."

Would he trade being a doctor for being a photojournalist?

He thinks not. "It wouldn't be much fun, being on deadline, under pressure to come up with a product."

Then the internist suddenly remembers why he decided not to become a photojournalist.

"I can remember reading a story in "Modern Photography" about a guy who won an award for a photo of a political assassination in Japan. It showed a Japanese diplomat being skewered by a Samurai sword. The photo was taken with a big, bulky 4x5 camera."

The magazine described the scene. "First, the assassin stabbed the diplomat in the back. Then he came around to the front and stabbed him again. This photographer knew he could only take one picture, given that he had this big camera with sheet film. He was calm. He waited for the guy to come around front and stab him, and he caught the peak moment of action.

"And I'm thinking, Well, if I had a

15-pound camera, I hope what I would do was not take a picture, but hit the guy with the sword over the head. That's when it really occurred to me that to be a photojournalist you were an observer. You were passive. You were not a participant.

"I wanted to be a participant."

-MEM

 

 

 

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