St Clair's Bio

I was born in 1942 in Oklahoma, but grew up in Fort Worth. After graduation from Texas Christian University in 1964, I attended and graduated from the University of Texas School of Law and became licensed as an attorney in September, 1967.

St Clair Newbern III

While in my senior year at TCU, I started taking photographs and fell in love with the medium. My first good camera was YashicaMat ( a Japanese knock off of a Rolleiflex ). I later purchased a Leica IIIf, with three lenses. It was with that first of many Leicas, and motivated by the wonderful images that filled the many good photography magazines that were published at that time, that I started learning to see. The work of W. Eugene Smith and the FSA photographers, Russell Lee and Marion Post Wolcott, showed me the wonders of people photography, as they went about their daily lives. It was mostly the street photography of Gene Smith, and his seminal work in Pittsburgh in the 1950s, and his photo essays in Life Magazine...”Spanish Village”, “Country Doctor”, “Nurse Midwife”, Schweitzer – “A Man of Mercy” and his last body of work from Minamata, Japan, that showed me a whole different world as seen thru the seasoned eye of the photographer. “Tomoko In Her Bath” from Minamata has been justly called the 20th Century Pieta. I have two of Smith’s images hanging in my office at home. I am inspired by them every day.

While at UT Law School I was very lucky to get a part time job working at Texas Student Publications for Frank Armstrong, who encouraged me to use a skill that I did not realize that I had and who taught me black and white photography from the viewpoint of a photojournalist.

While working at TSP, I started working for United Press International as a stringer, and after graduation from UT Law, I was invited to join the photography staff at UPI in Austin, Texas, where UPI had one of the largest photo bureaus in the country. Lyndon Johnson was President and his frequent trips to Texas made for lots of interesting work. At UPI I fine tuned the photojournalistic training that I had gotten from Frank at TSP. Shortly after going to work for UPI, I learned that I had passed the Texas Bar, but I stayed at UPI until 1968, when I left and returned to Fort Worth. The other photographers that I worked with at UPI thought I was nuts, with two degrees and a law license, but I loved every minute of it. There is nothing like seeing your photographs going out on the wire and being used all over the world to tell a story.

In 1968, I left UPI and, with my young family, returned to Fort Worth to work in a family business and eventually practice law which I have done for nearly 40 years. For the longest time after returning to Fort Worth I knew something was missing. It was not for many years that I realized that leaving behind something for which I had both a passion and a calling, had left a hole in my heart. It was not until the late 80s that I turned back to photography to heal another part of my heart and began taking summer workshops with masters of the medium. I studied with Jay Maisel, David Alan Harvey, Sam Abell, Alex Webb, Mary Ellen Mark and others. It was from David Harvey that I first heard the phrase “the ballet of the street” , but already knew exactly what it was that he was referring to. I found that David and Sam were not only gifted as photographers, but wonderful gifted teachers who encouraged me to throw myself back in to photography.

Traveling for both business and pleasure has allowed me to see many parts of the world, and to photograph cultures far different from the one in which I grew up and have lived my whole life.

I am blessed with a good eye, good health and strong support from my loved ones, and I hope to continue taking photos for the remainder of my life. It is difficult to be commercially successful as a photographer these days, but I will continue to try and, hopefully, my work will inspire and motivate others to do good.

July, 2007