|The LaVale Toll House, located along the National Road in LaVale, Maryland.|
When you look at one of Clarence Carvell’s well-crafted documentary photographs, you learn a little about the place and a little about the man who took the photograph. When you look at the photographer himself, you see a man who has enjoyed the experience of four successful careers. “From the finer points of managing a business to the delicate touches of crafting a fine arts photograph, HCC has been instrumental in making them happen,” he says.
The northern Maine native came to this area as a trumpet player in the Air Force Band at Bolling Air Force Base in Washington, D.C. “I was surrounded by graduates from elite music schools, and quickly realized I was out of my element,” Carvell remembers. He studied electrical engineering and transferred to the band’s broadcast studio.
In the early ’60s, Carvell took a job with ACF Electro-Physics Labs, traveling exten- sively while “playing” at photography. Ten years later, he moved to Columbia and con- tinued his education at the recently opened HCC, taking engineering classes under the GI bill. When satellites took over the job he had done for years, his engineering career ended. With experience building radar sites and increasing growth of Columbia, Carvell decided construction was a good career change. He and a partner started a construction company, building and rebuilding houses. That’s when he went back to HCC for accounting and business classes and eventually earned a business degree. “HCC was perfect because I could work, go to school at night, and study with teachers who had experience running their own businesses,” he says.
In the ’80s, at almost 50 years old, Carvell embarked on another new career. He and his wife Marti traveled and took photographs, which he admits were not very good. So he joined a camera club and headed back to HCC to take every photo course HCC offered. He then enrolled at UMBC to earn a bachelor’s degree in fine arts photography.
Under the tutelage of UMBC professor Jeremy Stephany, Carvell began a project taking 8,000 photographs of the artifacts along the National Road from Baltimore to the Illinois state line. The National Road . . .a photographic journey was published at the culmination of a 13-year study.
Since that first book there have been many others, including photo studies of Nova Scotia, Newfoundland/Labrador, England, The Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and Cuba. He also documented the living history events of Civil War for the Civil War News. He taught photography classes at HCC and served as a technical consultant to the photography department, and founded the Maryland Photographic Alliance, a fine arts critique group.
Carvell believes that photography is a powerful tool. “I try to tell a story. When I’m successful in getting the message across, I can see it on a person’s face and I know the photograph is meaningful.”
When Carvell and his wife took photography classes at HCC in the late’80s, there was no color darkroom. They arranged with the college to find space, purchased the equipment, and Carvell did most of the work to install and build what was needed. Several years later, when the Horowitz Center was being built, they donated the funds for a complete photo lab in the new building. Their legacy of support continues today with the Carvell Photography Endowment.