Keep Things Simple

By Maiko Ando

Life is not always as easy as we expect. Challenges, unfortunate accidents, and frustration could be happen every time in life. Though, there is a man who lives in simple.He has been developed necessary infrastructures under specific goal. He had a good sense of which direction to go with things.

Paul Neevel

Paul Neevel, who has been living in Eugene for 40 years, is one of Eugene’s local free-lance photographers . His studio is located in Laurel Hill and he takes photos of portraits, wedding ceremonies, and also works for a newspaper. He is the one who lives in simple life but ungrudgingly make an extra effort to accomplish his goal.

He was born in northern Minnesota and raised in Wisconsin,in his father’s hometown. There were only about 1000 people in the town at that time, and he graduated from a high school where he had had only 28 classmates. He got two degrees of climatology in University of Wisconsin, in 1965. During his college years, he says, he hadn’t learned photography but had a strong interest in art photos. He often went museums and to a library to find art books.

After he graduated, he taught math in high school in Wisconsin. “All this time, I was getting into photography and I was doing some exhibitions,” Neevel said. He started to learn photography by himself from this point. “But I didn’t make money yet,” he continued. Soon, he began to think of going to school again for photography. He first thought of University of Iowa, but owing to other factors in his life, he rejected that idea.

A few years later, he decided to come to Oregon with his wife, who got married with him right before they moved to Eugene. He decided Eugene for a place to stay because at that point,  “It’s a magical time here,” Neevel said. It was too cold in Midwest, where he spent his childhood.  It sometimes went under -50℃, and he couldn’t even walk to next building. In Oregon, “You can go out everyday at the year, if you have a rain clothes,” he said. He likes the climate in Oregon which is not too cold or too hot.

In 1970, he started his second college life in Oregon. He first got a master degree in journalism, and then he earned a Master of Fine Art degree, specializing in photography.  While he was learning photography, he did mechanical dissection of cameras as his job. He kept fixing cameras until 1989, when he started to work for the Eugene Weekly as a freelance photographer. At the same time he started to take wedding photographs as his business, too.

He owns two of the same kinds of cameras, Nikon D40. One is for his private life, and the other is for his work. “I carry the one all the time,” he said. You can tell he is always with the camera because the grip is shiny and the body has scars.  He carries it everywhere he goes. He also carries batteries and memory cards with him for just in case.

He takes a number of portraits, which is clear from his website. The subjects in his photo seem to be very natural and happy. He smiled, “I like casual ways,” he says. His gentle-mannered personality makes people natural.

For few years ago, he had challenges at learning digital photography, but “that’s just fun, really.” He always sees things in positive way and tries to enjoy the problems that emerge with changing technology. ”The digital camera works. If I get Alzheimer’s, I can just look at my pictures ’cause I took pictures everywhere I was. So like ‘oh yeah! I know what I did today!’ ” He says.

He added, “It’s such a freedom after having paid for film so many years.” He relishes small pleasures.

He has done two exhibitions in Jacob Gallery, and he’s expecting for a next exhibition two years from now when he will mark his 50th anniversary of taking photographs. “Keep things simple,” is his motto.  “If you try to make it too complex, you can’t have direct communication,” He says. “I deal with any subject but I like to keep things simple, and try to be a straight photographer.”

“I think it’s always challenging, but I  don’t look at things that way,” he said. His face wrinkles up when he smiles. That’s because Paul Neevel smiles all of the time.

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