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Mac Read: Scientist and Artist

Anderson Artists Guild member John “Mac” Read went to work in a grocery store at age 11 in his hometown of Rome, Georgia, earning enough money to buy his first camera, “a cheap little box camera,” he said. “I took pictures of anything I could find.”

But his greatest passion was chemistry, which he studied at Emory University, ultimately earning a Ph.D. He spent 26 years with Dupont, headquartered in Wilmington, Delaware, starting in the Plastics Department, identifying problems and products, such as what made up a polymer with a flame retardant. Then he moved to Central Research, where collecting and processing data from off-site labs was a big deal in the days before personal computers. He also was involved with magnetic resonance before MRI’s were known.

His next stop was Orange, Texas, where he made the materials used to create polymers. This included synthesizing hydrogen cyanide, which was notorious for being used by Hitler. Then he returned to Delaware to work in pharmaceuticals, doing analytical research to identify molecular structures.

After retiring, he and a partner started a consulting company to assist companies in trouble with the Food and Drug Administration.

After selling the business, he moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico. There, he and a friend started an art gallery. While he had no success in selling art, this led to another business—photographing art—which did very well. He continues to photograph artists’ work and has taught classes on how to photograph art. He places the artwork on an easel bolted to the wall and uses an exposure meter to ensure uniform light. He also has a few other tricks to adjust the color.

He moved to Asheville, North Carolina, before arriving in Anderson to live near his daughter. He continues to pursue photography, something he never left behind, using 4 x 5 inch film that allows him to retain good definition when blowing up the images to 40 x 50 inches. He is especially drawn to architecture, such as the old churches he often shot in New Mexico. He still sells his work in the Red House Gallery of the Swannanoa Valley Fine Arts League in Black Mountain, NC.

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