June 7, 2012

7 Why I Hold a Camera: Part IV

 See Parts I, II, and III.
We've now gotten younger me into the photography program in the Lamar Dodd School of Art at University of Georgia. 

Because of my abandonment of my no-longer-required classes first semester freshman year (Fall '01), I lost my HOPE scholarship after Fall '02 semester (GA high school graduates get free tuition to state universities as long as a 3.0 average is maintained; this is calculated every 30 hours.). I had to pay for Spring semester 2003, but I figured out that if I took two Summer courses and got As in both, I could get HOPE back before Fall 2003, thus only having had to pay for one regular semester and one summer. 
I made another uncharacteristically mature decision-
I took two of the most challenging courses (for my education) that summer: Art History of Modern Photography and Intermediate Photography with Ben Reynolds.  Art Histories are always hard; if you've never taken any I'd recommend it, as I learned things that have come back to me in waves throughout our travels. History of Modern Photography was obviously pertinent to my work, but also taught me how the processes I was jumping into were developed and the trials and errors of the science of photography. I found inspiration and knowledge that I was (and am) able to apply to my own photography. 
Intermediate Photography doesn't sound too hard at face value, but Ben was a very challenging teacher. He was intolerant of lazy work and an artist (and person) I had(have) overwhelming respect for- meaning, I knew I would do EVERYTHING it took to do well in his class (I've got the youngest-child "need to please authority figures" thing full force), guaranteeing that I wouldn't be too lazy that summer and would not only get HOPE back but improve my photography.  I already knew that I learned/improved more when I felt I had something to prove, and, at the time, I wasn't sure Ben believed in me. I soon realized that was actually just me projecting my lack of confidence in myself, and, as I grew bolder in my work, more skilled in the lab, and able to defend my choices, I was able to hear the constructive part of Ben's criticisms and use it to my benefit. I came to trust and value Ben's opinions and critiques immensely, often harassing him in his office even when he wasn't my direct professor (yeah... sorry about that, Ben!).
I was right about that summer- although I ended the semester in exhausted tears, sure that there was no way I'd earned my As. 
I had, in both classes. It was one of the proudest, most accomplished, and most pass-out-from-relief moments of my life.

All of these are either photographs or scans of prints; I only shot film then (on my Canon Rebel 2000 35mm, my Mamiya C330 TLR, and a 4x5 camera owned by the photography department (I don't remember the brand, although I could find out if someone is interested.).  Many of the prints are too large (11"x14" or 16"x20") for my scanner, so I had to photograph them. Forgive the frame reflections on a couple and the awkward angles. I was merely capable at shooting slides when I had the department's set-up; on my own at home it's laughable!
Intermediate photography. 
All 35mm black and white.

 A print from Color class. We made our own prints on color enlargers, and, while I worked more in black and white in school, learning color balance on the enlarger made my more recent use of Adobe Lightroom as close to mental muscle-memory as a darkroom-to-computer transfer can get! 
This image isn't one of my best, by far, but I included it for a reason. It is the elevator of the North Deck parking deck, which stood next to the (now former) art building.  We often joked that the art school should have an annual "North Deck" show, because of the sheer number of photographs, sketches, and even paintings we art students had of the convenient structure!  I'm not sure what the ceramicists would have offered, but who knows? There might be little clay parking decks out there...
(Sometimes you just try to finish a roll, even if it's terribly uninspired.)

 Medium and Large Format (with Ben again!).  I did shoot some large format (referring to the film size: mostly 4"x5"; I had no interest in 8"x10"), but I naturally gravitated towards the familiar 120mm square of the Mamiya I had used in high school. This is when I ordered my own off of eBay. (See Sophie, my C330, in this post.)
Obviously I still shot some color in this class.

 A gentleman at a country flea market.

 Just something that delighted me at the time- color paper, unexposed, comes in varied GORGEOUS shades of blue.  I still have some random pieces from the end bits of boxes, and I love the colors!

 My fascination with patterns in nature continued throughout school.  I jokingly titled this series my "Bathroom Pictures", because I thought they looked like the pleasing but not too interesting pictures that might be used to decorate bathrooms. 
When we were picking pictures to hang around our house in Idaho, I flipped through these... and three of them made it into the bathrooms.
(These are printed from 4"x5" negatives.)

 A loose print from the series.

 More 'patterns in nature', but this time back with my trusty C330. I've framed seven of these and they hang in our hallway and guest bedroom. 

 Special Topics, or Alternative Processes, was my absolute favorite of the instructional classes.  Not only was it with one of my favorite professors, Michael Marshall (we had previously had him for our Digital class), but learning all of the more hands-on processes fascinated me. We used chemicals and processes discovered by some of the earliest photographers, and I think that, despite the "study of light" being an obvious focus throughout our classes, I truly learned how to both manipulate and trust in light in this class. All of our images were contact images, meaning the negative was placed flush on the paper and the two were exposed to light (nearly always sunlight), usually using a contact printing frame.
Two different cyanotypes.  These were made from a scanned negative, digitally enlarged, and reprinted. 

For my final project in Special Topics I shot abstracted images of the animals at Yellow River Game Ranch, a sort of wildlife preserve for normally wild animals found in and around Atlanta. These animals are incredibly tame, and will follow you around begging for the treat-bags everyone buys at the entrance. I knew I'd get the access and close proximity to these that I wouldn't get with any other non-domesticated animals.  I was also taking a Book and Papermaking class (my second love in the arts- paper making is my zen) and, while I wasn't able to print my tannotypes (cyanotypes toned with tannic acid) on handmade paper due to sizing issues, I did bind my final images in a book, which I'm quite proud of to this day.
Unfortunately for my visitors who get it shoved in their faces, it's not small... about 16"x18"!

Next week I'll dive into how I broke a huge rule, but ended up getting away with it. All the way through my Exit show.


  1. Loving this series! It's great that you were able to take your photos and use them in your house...they are really wonderful!

  2. cool stuff. i don't know a thing about photography but i still think this is really interesting to hear about. i kind of gloss over the camera names and technical stuff but the story and the pics are great. :)

  3. Hard to pick, but I think #2, #9, the B&W C330 'patterns' and, of course, the last one of the yawning (?) donkey (?) are my favourites...
    Told you it was hard to choose!

  4. Really enjoy hearing you share about your passion for photography. Your photos are wonderful. My favorite in this post is near the top -- the black and white with 'OK' above the awning. There is something about it, which I can't quite pinpoint, but it is great...maybe because you sense emotion in the emptiness/abandonment of the place. I don't know! Great work, Gesci!

  5. Laura- sometimes having been an art major means we don't have enough walls! I rotate stuff through every now and then, and feel like my own little gallery!

  6. Becky- thanks!! I really love that one, too! It's one of my favorite images from my early years! I'm glad you're enjoying reading along- hang in there, we're nearly done!! ;)


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