One of Rick Lang's favorite things was to travel the countryside and back roads and find inspiration for his photography.
"His photographs are timeless and had a romantic view of the Southern landscape," said Peter Schreyer, executive director of the Crealde School of Art in Winter Park. "It could be an old weather-beaten sign, the side of an old barn with an old advertisement or an old factory. Some speak of a time that has passed, and some are an active, living reminder of where a town or business or region comes from."
Lang, who had directed the photo program at Crealde since 1995, died Tuesday from complications of melanoma. A Winter Park resident, he was 58.
As a teacher and administrator at Crealde, Lang supervised five instructors and managed a department that had more than 1,500 students a year.
"He was a perfect addition to the photo department and brought some technical and commercial skills to the department that we didn't have," Schreyer said. "We were able to develop new classes and programs, and over the next decade the size of the organization tripled. He was a very important person in that aspect."
As a documentary photographer, he exhibited his black-and-white pictures at museums and galleries throughout the Southeast.
"He photographed a lot of buildings and signs and was very curious about old signs on buildings," said Patrick Van Dusen, retired senior professor at the School of Photography at Daytona State College, where Lang studied. "He was very successful in getting grants and photographing in Mississippi and other Southern states. He would go to places that modern time had not really caught up with yet."
A tireless advocate for the photographic medium, Lang was often asked to judge exhibitions and lecture to student groups throughout Florida. He was a three-time recipient of the Individual Artist Recognition Award from United Arts of Central Florida.
His work is on display at the Southeast Museum of Photography in Daytona Beach and is scheduled for display at the Seminole State College Gallery this fall.
Despite his success, Lang never forgot his humble beginnings.
He recalled in a recent blog post the first showing of his work. As a student at Daytona State, he was asked to take part in an exhibition at the Orlando Public Library.
When Lang and a group of students attended the opening, they found the work spread out throughout the library. After searching unsuccessfully for his work, he wondered if the organizers had decided not to hang it. Then, one of his fellow students told him he had found Lang's photos hanging in a locked office where the books on tape were kept.
At the time, the books on tape were checked out mainly by the visually impaired, which meant that most of those who went to the office likely could not see his photographs.
Instead of getting angry, Lang found the incident amusing.
He summed up the experience this way: "Its value, at least for me, was to remind me that my work is not always going to be placed in what I might think [is] the best and appropriate spot. It keeps one humble, and that can be a good thing."
Lang is survived by his mother, Elizabeth "Betty" Lang, of Winter Park.
Baldwin-Fairchild Funeral Home, Lake Ivanhoe Chapel, Orlando, is handling arrangements.