throughout his life: a predilection for working with his hands, creating and building objects of his own design, and a penchant for photography. Kodak marketed the first roll film in the late 188os, and the company, using the slogan ‘You Push the Button, We Do the Rest’, went to great lengths to convince the American public that photography was no longer a science restricted to a professionally trained elite. Being unable to afford one of the advertised cameras, Harmon brought his talents to bear on a wooden box and fashioned a crude product of his own - a lensless pinhole affair that gave him his first images. Whatever the results of that early camera, they obviously encouraged him to continue with photography and, in fact, to turn to it for a living after a short stint working in a mill not only proved uncreative but also aggravated his asthma.
He opened a small portrait studio in Tacoma, probably in the mid-189os, and the story of his humble beginnings as a professional photographer became a favourite one in his later, more comfortable years.
Once the young photographer had rented a building and equipped it with the necessary paraphernalia for developing and printing portraits, he was totally out of cash and well beyond his line of credit. Embarrassingly, he was a photographer without film for his cameras. Unperturbed, he welcomed his first client and calmly took a photograph sans film, receiving payment in advance. When the client returned the next day to collect the portrait, Harmon announced that he was not pleased with the results and that the process would have to be repeated. Another portrait was taken, this time with film purchased with the down payment, and Harmon was in business. Whether or not his ploy was a product of desperation or a premeditated risk or both, it exemplifies the ingenuity and confidence Harmon exhibited again and again in his photographic career.
Some time toward the end of the nineties, Harmon decided his asthma and his photography both needed a change of scenery.