ANDOVER – At age 78, Andover resident Jack Holmes has seen a lot of the world.
He’s been to all seven continents – seeing everything from bullfighting in Mexico to orcas hunting penguins in Antarctica – and with every trip he takes a journal and camera with him.
Holmes taught high school science in Lynn until he retired in 2006. During that time, he spent his summers traveling with his wife – also a teacher.
“If you’re a teacher, you’re unemployed in the summertime,” Holmes said.
These trips included time in all 50 states, all the provinces of Canada, and once his children were out of school, much of the world. Holmes had always been a photographer, but eventually it became the purpose of his journey.
“When I started, I photographed while I was traveling, but over time I began to realize that I was traveling to photograph,” Holmes said.
He also started putting together presentations with his photos, which he attributes to his time spent as a teacher.
“I guess I kind of think of myself as a storytelling photographer,” Holmes said. “For me it’s about sharing what I love.”
Holmes said he does the presentations for many different groups such as local libraries, clubs and other organizations.
“Some people say they travel with me,” Holmes said. “They can’t afford the time to travel, so I take them on virtual trips.”
In 2011, Holmes and his wife booked a cruise to Antarctica. He wanted to go because the voyage would take him to his final continent.
The cruise started on December 22, or the second day of the Antarctic summer, Holmes says, and landed in Antarctica on December 26. Holmes said the timing of the trip made for an incredible experience.
Holmes witnessed penguins fighting birds trying to get their chicks, as well as an orca hunt. In the hunt, Holmes saw an orca catch a penguin, throw it into the air, and then be caught by another orca as it came down.
On Dec. 20, Holmes will present his Antarctic journey at the Andover Senior Center during the Men’s Breakfast event.
Many of Holmes’ memories of his trip come from emails he would send to his mother about his adventures and a journal he kept.
Holmes has a studio in Lowell where much of his work takes place. When people come to see his art at his studio, Holmes said he ends up becoming a travel agent. He said people always leave wanting to travel regardless of whether they end up buying a photo from him.
His work is also shared internationally. In May, a set of his photos — showing abandoned farms in North Dakota — will be at an exhibit in Porto, Portugal.
“What does that have to do with Portugal, nothing,” Holmes said.
For the job, Holmes went to a number of abandoned farms in North Dakota, in an area that claims to be the center of North America.
“They were first settled in the 1880s, 1890s because of the railroads that recruited northern Europeans to farm,” Holmes said.
But eventually the area became abandoned as people moved into town.
“Some of the places were cleaned up nicely and others were reduced to rubble as plaster ceilings and walls fell off,” Holmes said.
“In some of these places you would get a strange presence, I don’t believe in ghosts, but I say you got a sense of presence in some of these places,” Holmes said. “You’re walking around and you hear your footsteps, and you hear the wind outside, and that’s all you hear, and you’re alone.”
Holmes has two favorite photos. One photo titled “Violent Ballet,” won a National Geographic contest. The photo depicts a bullfight in Mexico. He said the photo was the result of being in the right place at the right time.
But he prefers one photo a little more, one that’s a little more understated.
Holmes took the photo “Raven” many years ago in Alaska. The photo depicts a crow flying high above a fog-filled forest. He said he likes the moodiness of the photo and how minimal it is.
“The only thing that’s really sharp is the raven,” Holmes.
Jack Holmes and his photos can be found on Facebook under Images from near and far.