"This is the only way I have of spying on the world."
If you didn't know Gerald Silver was a photographer for the Deseret News, you might consider turning him in to the police for voyeurism."I'm real curious," he says.
Born in Ogden, Silver got the "photo bug" early, snapping pictures of his family and surroundings with his Kodak Brownie Hawk Eye camera.
He started developing his own film and making contact prints when he was 14. "I developed the film on the ironing board," which upset his usually supportive mother. Every time she ironed, the clothes smelled like chemicals.
By high school, he and friend Borge Anderson were on the West High School yearbook staff, and running a business on the side, photographing junior high school annuals and advertising for the Salt Lake Bees.
At West, he was issued a 4-by-5 camera for covering the school's games. The faculty rationed both film and flash bulbs. Each photographer received six pieces of film and six flash bulbs. "It made you very selective," Silver says. "You pushed the button six times."
Silver attended the University of Utah and, with Anderson, continued making money taking pictures. Also during this time, he went on a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. "Everything was kind of split up," he says.
After graduating in 1960, Silver married and soon afterward joined the Army. When discharged two years later, he found his photography business could not generate the kind of revenue he needed to raise a family. So, he joined the Deseret News in 1963.
"They were using these World War II desks at the paper that still had Morse code attachments," Silver says, laughing. "But I never saw anybody use them."
Always the prankster, Silver one time found a can of old flash powder in the closet. He and fellow staff photographers poured a line of the powder out to the city desk, the main bank of reporters, and lighted it.
Through the years Silver has photographed just about every type of picture imaginable. He's had a few anxious moments, such as photographing a mine, hundreds of feet below the surface, where he could hear water dripping and the timber supports creaking. "You just have to not think about that a lot," he says.
One of the most enjoyable "shoots" he ever had was in Tonga and Samoa, covering the dedication of temples for the LDS Church. "Those people know how to put on a feast," he says, adding that there were more than 200 tables loaded with every type of food.
Silver says "photography takes you into interesting places." He was in the lab with Pons and Fleischmann, waiting for cold fusion to show up; he was in the kitchen with Norma Matheson - after her husband's nomination to governor - watching her cook for guests. "Barry Goldwater even cleaned my lens once," he adds.
"Things change every year in photography. Now it almost changes monthly . . . daily." But this is OK with Silver. "He's always been one for trying anything," says Don Grayston, a friend and fellow photographer at the Deseret News. "Jerry's one of my heroes. He's got a positive attitude toward life, and it overlaps into his photography."
About a year and a half from retirement, Silver plans to relax a little. In past years he co-published a couple of photography books. "I'd like to do a book of my own. Maybe have a show in a gallery. Whether I actually do any of this, I don't know."
One thing he does know, however, is that he's enjoyed his time at the newspaper, meeting people and making many friends.