Welcome to Part Two, the natural conclusion to a narrative started with Autobiography of a Shutterbug, Part I. If you missed that story, you should pause and read the first installment. If you don’t really care, and you’re trying to get through my project as quickly as possible just continue reading, you won’t miss too much of the backstory.
It’s Wednesday, again, and I am walking into the church once more to teach photography to a handful of curious students. My red plastic bin, the same from last week, is loaded with new toys. I have gathered a supple supply of props because I’m going to show the kids how to arrange a still life, operate a digital camera, select a suitable lens, review the exposure, and import images with a computer. Easy peasy, lemon squeezy.
I wish more people felt that photography was an adventure the same as life itself and felt that their individual feelings were worth expressing. To me, that makes photography more exciting. ~ Harry Callahan
As I setup the make-shift studio, lay the objects upon the table, I think about how draining this Project 365 has become. With an obligation to thoroughness, I find long narratives (such as yesterday’s) to be mentally taxing. With that being said, it’s my intention to reign that back in today, thus producing a Short, Yet Sweet story for the day.
Deer skull, cheese grater, and empty tea tin.
To finish my photographic story, we must rewind history to the point of graduating from college. My wife and I moved back to Pittsburgh, PA, with our respective framed school degrees. My first job afterward was that of a sales clerk at a one-hour photo lab. I worked the store, ran the register, and processed film for ordinary people. I still remember that I wore a suit to the interview! I worked there for three months before securing a new job, working in a darkroom, printing 5-inch prints for wedding photographers. I worked there for three months as well. Anyway, it only took a total of six months to decide that we wanted to move to Maryland—in conjunction with friends who were moving, to follow their teaching occupation—and try out a life beyond the city and state where we were born and raised.
Spoiler: Maryland was terrible.
We moved because I answered a newspaper ad for a wedding photographer in the area of Washington, DC. The job never panned out, and I hopped to a steady job at (I bet you guessed it) another darkroom. I performed the exact same work, printing 5-inch prints in the dark. After six months in that role, I discovered another job that was based in Georgetown.
Despite requiring a two-hour commute, each way, I hopped to that job due to more pay—plus it was slightly more interesting. I worked in a Stock Photography house. Oh how technology has changed the way that the world does business now! In the olden days (I’m referring to 1996), if you wanted to use a piece of stock imagery, you would engage the services of a business that maintained a physical stock of film images (specifically, 35mm color slides). As the client, you’d supply your request, such as “find me an image of a kid fishing at sunset,” and it was the job duty of the stock house to find matching photographs that you may or may not use in your publication. The slides were selected and pulled by one person (not the role I fulfilled, even though I would have loved it), and then packaged/shipped by another person (that was me, the FedEx packager). It wasn’t an awesome job, but it was interesting, at least.
At the end of our yearly apartment lease, my wife and I were already packed and ready to move back to our hometown. Yes, it was that bad. I mean, I really loved the Chesapeake Bay and lighthouses and National Mall, but that was about it.
Metal fork and spoon. Baby orange and green apple. Plastic astronaut and Volkswagen Beetle toys.
By 1997, our migration home was complete. I secured a job as a store manager for Olan Mills Portrait Studios, and I worked there for a few months before quitting that awful job. My next move placed me at a camera store as a retail sales clerk where I worked for bare-minimum wages, and peddled off-brand camera gear to amateur photography hobbyists, for inflated extortion-like prices—I apparently have a history of working with scoundrels. Another awful leap to another awful occupation. That was my final job within the photographic industry, before making the leap to the world of web technologies—a tale recently told in Because You Have To Do, What You Have To Do.
I feel like I tried to make an honest occupation with my love of photography, but it seems like every job that I pursued, sucked the life out of the portions of photography that I really loved. At that point, I hopped to a new career as a web developer, but still retained my interest in the hobby.
From year to year, I attempted to make money with my camera. I shot (a lot), completed some personal projects, photographed a few weddings, attended some art shows, and sold some prints. For the most part though, I focused on building my own web design and development business, as well as starting a new family in the meantime.
Soft box studio, two directional lamps, seamless background. Tripod, lens selection, and mounted camera.
Once I made the transition to a new career, photography became less important, and faded into the background of my life. During a span of several years, I distinctly remember not making any photographic images. It just wasn’t important. I really, honestly, think that break was very healthy for me.
Around 2007, my brother encouraged me to return to photography, and we even worked on hosting a Flickr group together that prompted artists to work on a theme for the week. Those were fun days.
From there, I began to return to photographic ideas that I once walked away from. I wanted to explore the world of plastic toy cameras, and I did just that. For one year, I photographed with simple plastic machines, developed my own film, and became a bit of self-proclaimed expert on the subject matter. As a representative in the specialty, I was blessed to have my work featured in several trade publications, and served as a guest writer on occasion—I still have the hard copies stored away.
A natural progression, from toy camera photography, was pinhole photography, and for a span of two years, I thoroughly enjoyed creating my own cameras and producing unusual images from tin cans or deer skulls. As a result, I began to teach photography classes, hosted a blog website, and published my own pinhole book—subsequently, generating income for my family. With all of those experiences, I would say that the sweetest moment happened when I was selected for a print story in American Photo Magazine, of which I also have a hard copy squirreled away.
Yes, I can now hear their voices and elephant-like footsteps approaching the classroom.
Following the effort placed into producing my pinhole book, I required a break from the art form. I was simply burned out. Too much, too fast. And I returned to another project that I always wanted to pursue: documenting a 150-mile bicycle trail that runs from Pittsburgh, PA, to Cumberland, MD. The project took much longer than expected, but in 2016, five years later, I published my cycling guidebook. I have never been happier to finish a project that I was certain that I wouldn’t complete.
The year of 2016 was a transition period for me as I moved away from self-employment to working for the Man at a full-time job. The change in pace was welcomed though. Considering that I didn’t have to fight everyday for every morsel of food, and a steady paycheck appeared in my bank account each month, I was more inclined to consider a creative project once again. So I started photographing strangers on the bus: Peculiar People of Public Transportation.
The following project, I bet you can guess, was Project 365. If you ever wanted to jump to the beginning, you would do so with Becoming Double Fours. And I have thoroughly enjoyed every moment of this last year.
Photography is a very therapeutic endeavor, for me. I find that it is a stress reliever, as well as creative outlet. I have no intentions of ever trying to make a buck from my photography again—at least, on an occupational level. In looking forward to the next year, I foresee myself returning to the collection of traditional film cameras, such as my favorite Mamiya that is pictured in today’s story.
Good evening kids! Tonight we are going to learn how to take a photo with a digital camera. Can someone tell me what we learned last week?