Thoughts on Life, Art, Photography, Technology, Teaching and Travel…..
March 9, 2011 1:00 p.m.
My colleague Cathy Crowell and I are sitting on a plane waiting to fly to Atlanta. We are attending the SPE National Conference. I’ve lost count as to how many SPE conferences I’ve attended since 1985 when I first started going to them. We are also bringing a group of photo students with us. These conferences are always great learning experiences for our students.
Photography has been an important part of my life since I took my first photography class at New York Institute of Technology in 1972. The first time I watched my image materialize in the developer while standing in the dimly lit amber dark room was spellbinding to me. I knew at that moment photography was going to be a part of my life in some way. It wasn’t long after that class that I pulled a low number for the draft and knew in the back of my mind I would be going into the military once my college deferment ran out.
Ironically when it was time for me to enlist in the army the recruiter mentioned to me that he had one slot left for a military photographer. Needless to say, I was raising my hand/swearing my oath to the USA and heading off to Basic Training at Ft. Dix within days from meeting with the recruiter. Fast forward 3 months of thousands of push-ups, rifle ranges and many miles of marching and I found myself at Lowry Air Force Base, Denver, Colorado. The base no longer exists now, but I still have lots of photographs and fond memories of those 6 months learning every aspect of photography while attending the Air Force Still Photography School.
We started training with 4×5 Graflex XL press cameras. We learned to load film holders and insert them into the back of the cumbersome camera. I learned about shutter speed, f/stops, depth of field and rules of composition. It came back to me fast because of what I learned at college.
Attending the military photo school was a great and very comprehensive learning experience and was the catalyst for my successful military career as a Photojournalist and then Graduate School and eventually my teaching career. It was my first SPE conference at Penland, North Carolina that I met Cathy Crowell who is the coordinator of the Photography Program at Carteret Community College. We hit it off at breakfast and I eventually went on to work for her and have been ever since.
While sitting in the first workshop of the day, I’m thinking about how photography has evolved over in past 20 years. There’s no doubt technology has dramatically impacted the direction photography has taken over the past 25 years.
Technology changed the direction of painting in the mid 1800’s with the invention of Daguerreotype. Painters had to rethink the art of painting and digital technology changed the nature of photography in every discipline and has had a profound impact on the industry itself. Photographers have so many more tools at their disposal for creating, showing, and marketing their work.
You still must have a good eye – be able to see photographically and operate your camera, however now we essentially have many more creative options than ever before. It’s mind boggling just how far we’ve come in such a short period of time. It’s difficult to fathom where technology is going to take us in the next 20 years.
One of the most rewarding aspects of this years conference for me was looking at both student and faculty work. I especially enjoyed doing a 2 hour critique session with students from different colleges across the country.
I asked each student to write down why they attended the conference and I took a photo of each one of them after I looked at and commented on their work. I must admit I was very impressed with the quality of the photographs that the students shared with me.
The most important part of SPE to me, is meeting people and seeing their photographic view on life.
I came to SPE to make contacts and to get suggestions on my concepts and technical skills.
I came to SPE to meet people in the field and hopefully be inspired. I also came to force myself out of my shell just a little.
I wanted other people who need film to be around forever.
I came to SPE to get alternative feedback from people who were totally unfamiliar with my work.
I came to SPE to bring my work to others for feedback. I’ve felt a little lost this quarter and wanted an outside perspective.
The SPE conference is one of the primary ways of exchanging ideas with colleagues and gathering information or new theories and practice in both teaching and making art. Both image makers and technical demonstrations are inspiring and charge me up with ideas. I attended my first SPE regional in the southeast in 1985 at Penland School of Crafts where I met many new friends, including Patrick Keough. The friendships and connections made at conferences have sustained me over the years.
What more can I say? SPE conferences always inspires and motivates me to make new photographs, learn new imaging software and explore new subjects and techniques with my camera. The group photo we had taken at the conference during the dance party was also a highlight and the students really enjoyed getting a little crazy. Now if I can only track down a photo of me dancing to the Black Eyed Peas I’ll post that as well. 🙂 Click Here to see all the group photos.