The staff of Sen. Barry Goldwater is trying desperately to find a place to hang the citation he will receive from the Photographic Society of America this morning.

The honorary PSA membership, to be presented by society president Paul T. Luebke, will compete for space with an uncountable number of black-and-white and color photographs of Navajo Indians, the Grand Canyon, Spain and John Wayne by the Arizona Republican and a good many other photographers; several dozen kachina dolls left over from the collection Goldwater and his wife gave the Heard Museum in Phoenix; more than 75 model airplanes, built by the senator, who claims to have flown every airplane the Air Force flies; autographed photographs from near (the White House) and far (the moon); and several hundred (give or take) citations and awards (serious and otherwise).

Goldwater likes making pictures, he says, because "in the Senate, you have to work with 99 other people. In the darkroom, it's all in your own hands."

Goldwater the photographer received this evaluation from his friend, the late master photographer Ansel Adams, in a foreword to a book of Goldwater photographs,"Barry Goldwater and the Southwest": "Barry Goldwater is, in my opinion, a fine and eager amateur. Some of the best photographers in the history of the art have been amateurs, in the sense that they did not live by their avocation. Yet they worked as hard as any competitive photographer in the professional field."

In between his hobbies and Senate activities (he is chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee and of the Commerce subcommittee on communications), Goldwater found a minute to talk by phone about his photography, which competes with ham radio, aviation and a half-dozen other hobbies.

"I've been doing it all my life, at least for 55 years," he says.

In "Barry Goldwater and the Southwest," one of his six books, Goldwater writes: "My introduction to photography was the gift of a camera from my wife on our first Christmas together. Then one day, I was asked to describe Peach Springs [Ariz.] by a student from what is now Arizona State University. Rather than try to describe it, I felt a photograph would be far more effective."

Goldwater said he was surprised to find that libraries had few pictures of Arizona. "I could find no pictures back then of the small towns, little roads, out-of-the-way places or the Indians. So I started photographing Arizona."

Since then, he has accumulated 15,000 negatives (and unnumbered prints), 3,000 "lantern" slides and 20 miles of 16 mm film. He's now finishing cataloguing the lot, to be given to the University of Arizona.

"I like black and white better than color," he says. "I have a darkroom at home in Arizona where I print my own when the water's cool enough. In Washington I use a friend's darkroom."

He likes to photograph people -- especially Indians and Mexicans -- and landscapes, particularly the Grand Canyon and other Arizona scenes, but also the North and South poles. He takes only one picture of a subject, he says. "I don't chase it. When I find one I like, I take it." His favorites are one of a Navajo chief called Charlie Potato, and of a street sweeper in Escorial, Spain, with the sun shining through a cloud of dust. He's also recorded "a good record" of his four children and his 10 grandchildren, "from birth to the present time."

"I started taking pictures in Washington, but I gave up. I couldn't compete with the other photographers." He and former senator Howard Baker, a shutter-snapping colleague who has published his own photographs of Congress and Washington, often swap f-stops.

"I used to do photographic salon exhibitions," Goldwater says. "I was one of the leading exhibitors before World War II. I've shown photographs in 300 salons, in almost every country."

Advising other photographers, he tells them the same thing an Arizona master, Tom Bates, told him: "Stick to one camera, one kind of film, one type of developer and method of development and one paper."

He stretches the advice to include a 4-by-5-inch Graflex, a 2 1/4-inch Rolliflex, and a 35 mm Nikon. He has a movie camera, "and I'm looking into video."

It's hard to see the photographs for looking at his shortwave radio, a rain gauge, an Atlas radio and various other devices. "He loves electronics -- his American Motors 1969 Javelin also has a ham and aircraft radio," confides Jim Ferguson, his press aide. "He even builds television and radio sets."

The new PSA plaque will join several brass bulldogs from the Watchdogs of the Treasury Inc.; a bronze citing Goldwater as the guardian of small business; a hunk of rock topped with a sterling silver airplane; the Brewer Trophy for Contributions to Aeronautics; the Quarter Century Wireless Association Hall of Fame citation to K7UGA (his shortwave radio designation); the Stansfield Turner Memorial Award for the Worst Intelligence Estimate of the Month; a huge bronze elephant from the South Carolina Republican Party; a set of three winged pilot insignias from the Republic of China Air Force; and 19 other Air Force and other military awards and decorations on his wall. And what his aide, Jim Ferguson, calls "a ton of medals littering the place" beginning with the China Defense and Battle Star and the China Hump Pilots Medal.

You'd need a panoramic lens to get them all in