Breaking boundaries

Tracy Simmons

A gun rests on his hip, a radio is clipped to his shirt, a golden badge shines from his chest and a camera hangs on his shoulder. This has been his uniform for nearly 25 years.

Lt. Robert Morgan, 50, is more than a police officer with the Clovis Police Department, he’s a photographer as well.

“I always had a camera to take photos when I was a detective 22 years ago,” he said.

That was when he worked as a deputy medical investigator for the Police Department. Today Morgan is a shift commander.

Crime scene photographs are important in criminal investigations, and Morgan said he investigated the scenes of any unintended deaths, including motor vehicle, industrial and homicides.

In 15 years he said he has studied 600 death scenes.

“I was concerned that the photo had to be good,” Morgan said. “I had one shot to get the photos and tell a story with them.”

At that time his interest was in forensic photography.

When Morgan realized the importance of his photographs, he decided to start taking classes at what use to be Eastern New Mexico University-Clovis, now Clovis Community College.

“I wanted to better learn the operation of a camera,” he said.

Morgan said the pictures he was responsible for at work weren’t pretty and he didn’t have the chance to be artistic with the photos. In his class, however, he said could capture creative things with his camera.

His new angle of photography became a therapy to him, he said.

“I get behind a camera and I can lose myself being creative,” Morgan said.

Looking at photography as a fine art, Morgan said he began taking all the classes he could in photography and even repeated some just so he could use the darkroom.

Soon after graduating, Morgan decided to teach. That was 15 years ago.

“Students come to me with the idea that they need an art credit for their degree plan,” he said. “They have the idea that they can’t draw, can’t paint but they have a camera. I teach that someone even as uncreative as me can be creative with a camera in hand.”

He said police officers walk a fine line in their work, but art, however, is thinking outside the box.

“If I can do it, anyone else can,” he said. “I work hard to show that to students.”

Morgan said he learns just as much if not more from his students when it comes to art.

“For me it’s almost entertaining (teaching). When a student sees he can be artistic with a camera, (I love) to see that sparkle in their eyes,” he said.

Morgan said photographers are always learning and in 1994 he was accepted into the FBI Academy in Virginia. He said only six New Mexico officers are selected to go each year and feels honored to be one of those.

He also has his own photography company, Bob Morgan Photography, where he photographs weddings, proms, graduations, portraits, etc. He said most of his business is through word of mouth.

“When I retire it will be a full-time venture,” he said.

He also said he loves to photograph geographic structures, especially deserts.

Student Lillie Trabal said she bought a nice camera after taking one of Morgan’s classes so she can photograph her son.

She said she can now use photos to make memories.

“I use to be afraid of cameras, but in his class I learned to operate a camera and now I feel comfortable with one,” Trabal said.