May 31, 2012

2 Why I Hold a Camera: Part III

See Parts I and II.

After a bit of an existential crisis, nearly decided to not go to college, but then moving into my dorm room 4 days after the "Welcome, Freshmen" festivities,
(I think the European 'gap year' is a brilliant idea)
I showed up at UGA as a prospective biology major. 
In case that sounds a bit off to you, 
the advisor I saw at orientation was terrible and more interested in shuffling the line of bewildered newly minted high school grads through his door as fast as possible.  He told me UGA didn't offer photography as a major, and despite my knowing differently [there are actually two options: fine art photography or photojournalism]
I was in the early stages of said quarter-life crisis and figured that if  I ended up still going to college that fall I'd just get to campus and worry about my specific major/classes later.
Besides, I had friends to hang out with.

Anyway, I began taking some classes that near bored me to sleeping through them tears. Luckily, when we were picking lab partners in my Chem lab class, I gravitated towards a cute and friendly guy.  While he did turn out to have a long-term girlfriend (and I soon met Paul), Eli and I ended up becoming friends, and he was there for a pivotal "I'll jump if you jump" moment for me.

Let me explain my mental status at the time. I was raised by a mom who, while a very dry realist, also wanted her daughters to be and feel able to do anything each of us wanted. She pushed us towards the highest levels of academics (not inappropriately), we were in any extra-curricular activity we showed an interest in, and she was a master at that "I'm not mad, just disappointed" speech whenever I didn't live up to my full potential.  I'd attended a magnet school (for high achievers, basically we were all socially awkward nerds) from 4th grade-12th grade, and filled out my college applications under the idea that my undergrad would only be important for getting me into the right graduate programs.
Photography did not seem like the obvious light at the end of this educational tunnel.
It seemed frivolous, and more of a novelty hobby.
The idea of letting go of a practical, "safe" major was terrifying- wasn't the cliché "poor and starving artist" a cliché for a reason??

At one point, when I had to title this image, I jokingly titled it "What's Your Major?", pretending to show the analogy of the mangled vines as my confusion in contrast to the rigid fence as my former life plan.  Art critiques can be incredibly inspiring and constructive at times, but they can also be filled with really pretentious-sounding crap.
Back to the timeline at hand.
Eli is a brilliant artist, but I believe he was one of the vast "undecideds" at the time of our Chemistry class.  As we exploded chemicals, as I stuck a glass pipette through my finger, as we goofed around with potentially dangerous acids, we talked, and discovered that we were each considering transferring to Lamar Dodd, UGA's art school. Eli was a lot braver than me, and was happy to let me be the "me, too!" as he went to the dean of Lamar Dodd (a woman with a harrowing reputation for making students cry) to petition his case.

Next thing I knew, I was allowed to sign up for spring semester's Drawing I and Color Composition, two of the four foundation courses for the art school, and take the portfolio review for admission at the end of the term.
I promptly stopped going to my fall classes, except English Composition II, which I truly enjoyed, and Italian, which I really wanted to learn, but failed anyway.
After a harrowing escape with my life when fall grades were mailed out, I returned to school for Spring semester and moved into a townhouse off campus.

Pretty much the only drawing I've ever done that I'm proud of: a charcoal reduction of two nuts. I call it "My Nuts."  As in, "Paul, we should hang "My Nuts" in the kitchen!"
(Sadly, right now "My Nuts" live in newspaper in a portfolio, as the matting was destroyed during our move overseas and I've been lazy about re-matting it.)
Here we'll fast forward a bit.
Despite my crippling inability to draw, I managed to pass the portfolio review (I put two photographs from high school in it, despite the guidelines saying current work only),
finished my foundations courses in the fall (Drawing II and 3D Design),
and excitedly enrolled in Intro to Photography for Spring 2003.
I had a great teacher, and, despite my over-confidence going in, I managed to get over myself long enough to learn a bit.
I somehow passed the Photography portfolio review and entered the major program as one of the nine members of the Fall 2005 Exiting Class.
I've always had a fascination with the point at which nature and industry meet, and this has been a recurring theme in my work.  This is from a series I shot throughout downtown Athens, GA.

I know this is getting lengthy, but, if you want, hang in there. I just felt like I should explain the pre-photo program bit before launching into the photo program.  There will be a lot more pictures in the next two posts, promise!


  1. Not lengthy...very very interesting! I want more, I didn't want it to end.

  2. Thanks, Laura! It really means a lot to hear that you're interested!


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