It seems like every Tom, Dick, and Harry with a cell phone these days considers themselves a photographer.

And while it’s true that the built-in camera in most of today’s cell phones is better than most high-end digital cameras that were being manufactured as recently as 10 years ago, having access to a quality camera does not make you a professional photographer any more than having access to a blog makes you a professional journalist.

When I moved to the Pine Belt nearly 10 years ago, there were at least a dozen professional photographers with honest-to-goodness brick and mortar storefronts. Today, only two or three remain – including our longtime collaborators Lee Cave and Artie Rawls.

On the contrary, a quick Google search of “Hattiesburg photographers” reveals the names of more than 40 different picture takers – most of whom work out their own homes (or sometimes cars) and some of whom have actual bonafide talent. 

As far as I’m concerned, Danny Rawls is at the top of the talent heap.

Retired in recent years from managing the Southern Miss Image Center, Danny’s portrait work is nothing short of breathtaking – even when working with a hard-headed “muse” such as myself. 

A minimalist by nature, Danny doesn’t rely on excessive lighting or digital wizardry to make his photography stand out. Instead, he has a unique eye for perspective and an uncanny knack for letting his subjects be themselves.

Most importantly, Danny knows when to be silent and when to let his photographs speak for themselves. His frames are perfect snapshot images of a singular moment in time and the older I get, the more I have come to appreciate those moments.

For someone whose livelihood depends on words, it’s probably not wise of me to admit this, but sometimes those pesky collections of letters seem to get in the way.

Maybe we should all take a page from Danny Rawls and just quit talking for a while and be present in the moment.

Who knows what beauty we might find waiting for us?


Gustafson is the editor and publisher of Signature Magazine. His column often appears under the “Walking the Line” title – an homage to the late, great Johnny Cash, who was keenly aware of the importance of being silent.