Sunday, August 7, 2016

Memories Part III - Art again

In my last post, I wrote about my first memory of photography and the art classes I took when I was a child. I really only dabbled in art then - drawing a little and the usual children's projects and I felt both at home and intimidated when I entered art classes then.

After I graduated high school and failed to become a hairdresser (thankfully as that was really not my calling), I went on my first job interview at a wedding photography studio. I was 17 years old at the time and my boss - the owner of the studio - was an old Swedish man named Tryg (like trigonometry). In fact, he and his wife Ann ran the studio with a stern hand but they had their soft sides too and I saw them as gradnparents. I was taught how to print color in the strangest of manners. I don't recall it all but I remember learning to just look at a negative and "know" the timing to print it. It definitely was not the way I was taught later on at the university but it was instinctual based on the density of the negative. So I printed everything, I put together all of the orders/albums and then I was "promoted" to being a sales person and photographer booker (I hired the photographers). I never photographed nor was I asked to but I did get to load films into the Hasselblad backs a few times. At that point, though, I was doing every job except take photos.

To you, readers, that might sound disappointing but at my age, it was an excellent learning experience. I worked long days and was there for 6 years or so. I got to observe a lot and I learned so much about interacting with different personalities, as well. Tryg and Ann decided to retire and they sold the business to two men that were, well....let's just say, not worthy of owning his business and had no idea how to run a photo studio. In fact, I think Tryg was so burned out by that point (he owned the business for over 40 years!) that he just took the first deal that came along.

Everyone was fired except me because I was the one that knew every aspect of the business by that point. The lab part of the studio was shut down, though, and the work was sent out to outside labs. Some of the photographers quit because they couldn't handle the new owners' attitudes and soon after, did I, because I was verbally abused by these guys.

However, when Tryg was there, I loved that place. I worked with a small staff of office workers, a quirky retouch artist (back then, ALL of the photographs were retouched by hand. Computers didn't exist at all and our retoucher was great at her job.) and a bossy saleswoman that I had to work with at times. I witnessed a torrid love affair between our videographer and one of the salesgirls that was hired for a short period of time (yeah, she was fired because of the drama that was created there). And it was my first experience with customer service and my exposure to wedding photography...of which I decided then was not the type of photography that I wanted to do.

When I quit, I immediately got a job in a very small camera repair shop and realized that obviously I needed to become a photographer but I wanted to expand all things in my life. I wasn't doing much of anything at that time other than work and getting drunk with friends so I wanted more in my life.  I decided to go back to college and at 23 years old, I was considered an older student. I went to a community college first, because I was afraid to dive into a university environment. I matriculated immediately into the art program with a concentration in photography but because I was working a full-time job, I only took a few classes a semester.

After 3 years of that, I saw that I was learning at a slow pace and I knew that my job at the camera shop was not going anywhere. I quit my job, transferred to a university and went to school full time. I took a part-time job answering phones in a hospital and the rest of the time, I threw myself into learning and art-making. I was so into my craft that I spent long long days at school, getting up at 6:30am to be the only one in the darkroom when it opened at 8 and in-between classes, shooting and printing some more. I took the first Adobe Photoshop classes given and it was really a new technology then and I took other art classes too. I took all of the other well-rounded classes - English literature, math, science, economics, philosophy and needless to say, I was burnt out. By the time I graduated, I was at the cusp of 30 years old  but with a university degree. I graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts with high honors (magna cum laude) and also with that year's award in photography via the school's visual arts department. At the graduation ceremony, I cried. I had worked very hard to get to that moment. It was the first time I did something I wanted to do and succeeded. I was proud of myself and I was driven and from that moment on, I never stopped creating art. It was, in my opinion, my very first success. Maybe in reality there were others but this was the first huge one.
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