Before the revelation came upon me that I would rather be poor and know I had fought to do what I loved than be wealthy and know I gave in, I was studying physical therapy. I took a brief internship in that field and caught a glimpse of what my future would be spent doing: butt massages – a lot of butt massages. Also, you’d be surprised how many people don’t mind a stranger catching a prolonged glimpse of their backside, so long as you’re in a button-down shirt and slacks.
After that wake-up call, I managed to get into my first college level art class. It was a digital photography class with several prerequisites that I hadn’t taken. By the end of the class, I escaped with a generous C-, the worst grade I received in college by a whole letter. It wasn’t because I didn’t make work that was good enough (partly thanks to Auto-mode), it’s because I underestimated the work load. In high school, art classes were almost as good as recess was in elementary school. I wondered why my art teacher liked me, but looking back, it’s because I actually cared about what I was doing.
So there I was, defeated. I brooded over it for six months. I then signed up for my second photography class (this time as a newly converted art major — that process is worth its own post), which was darkroom techniques. Working in the darkroom became my passion for the next three years. The following photograph is one I took on an assignment that asked us to photograph within a one block radius of where we lived. Being certain at the time that I wanted to be the next Ansel Adams (my professor was a studio assistant for Ansel in California when he was younger and spoke of him frequently), I wanted to photograph nature. Across the street from my apartment, there was this little patch of land crammed between a road and a large grocery store chain whose name I will not mention. It had a small creek, which was more like a sewer, and a bunch of mangy looking vegetation. I took my camera there, determined to make something work. The following is a scan of the silver gelatin print that came from the shoot; it was one of the first images that I ever was proud of. This was not so much because it was a good print, but because it made me realize one of the reasons why the camera is such an important tool for me: through a photograph, the world and all the things in it can be bent to the will of the imagination.