The Artist in Me (and You)

I’ve mentioned before that I’m not a full time, professional photographer – I’ve been working in the IT world for nearly 40 years. I started out in a support role, moved to programming and web development, and now am a manager with a team of developers under me. I love what I do, and am very glad I chose this path – I want to be clear about that.

I started college in 1977 as a photography student at a small art school in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. After a year, I transferred to the University of New Mexico where I studied art and art history from professors like Beaumont Newhall. Then after my sophomore year, I started looking for summer jobs and internships for art students… needless to say, there weren’t many. I loved New Mexico and loved photographing the beauty of the American southwest. I also did freelance work for the Associated Press during my time in Pittsburgh and New Mexico. However, I decided to switch my major to a technical field, and continue on with photography as a hobby.

I returned to Pittsburgh to finish school and earned a computer science degree from the University of Pittsburgh.

It’s a bit ironic, I switched to a very technical field of study, and at the same time, photography was going through a huge transition. The very analog process of producing photographs was changing to a mostly digital medium. During this time, Kodak, and most of the film world was being shaken up. Film would almost completely go away as adoption of this new digital medium was being pushed by the major players in photography. Ironically, Kodak would pretty much leave the photographic marketplace as film usage decreased and they couldn’t adapt, even though they actually developed the first usable digital sensor.

That brings us to today. I’m a few years away from retirement from my IT career. A few years ago I was desiring to get back into photography professionally, so I contacted the photo editor at the Chicago Sun-Times and asked about freelance jobs taking sports photos. I can’t remember exactly what caused me to contact that person at that time, but it turned out to be the right person, at the right time. I started taking weekly football and basketball photos for the newspaper and that lasted right up until I relocated to Texas.

I still love photography, and especially sports photography. And I want to be an encouragement to everyone I meet and discuss professions and careers with – especially youth. I think it’s important to follow dreams and do what you love – but, it’s beneficial to be practical too. I guess I was fortunate to get into a career that I really loved, even if it was my second love. The irony in my life is that I initially chose photography, an art that was completely separate from my second love, computers. However, as time progressed, they became very closely connected – so my career choice that has supported me and my family for many years is actually now very closely connected to my first love, photography. Very cool, and very fortunate, that my 2 loves are so closely related now.

I’m looking forward with anticipation about the next portion of my life and how that will play out. I love to dabble with analog, but also fully embrace digital as I think they are both relevant.

Thinking about my early study of photography, I thought it would be nice to look at some of my early photographs, both analog and digital… they bring back lots of good memories for me – of various times in my life.

I’ve always had a bit of an artistic element to my work – I think that’s natural if you’ve been around other artists and studied other art work. However, I always felt a desire, maybe a calling, to document events and happenings. To record things they way they were at a time in history. As I look back at my photos from Pittsburgh, I can see how much things have changed since I was there. I think it’s important to have some historical perspective of the way things were, as well as documenting important events that happen.

I dabbled in portraits, but wasn’t particularly fond of them. I always had trouble dealing with people – one of the reasons I never practiced wedding photography. People are seldom happy with the way they look in photographs, and it was hard for me to not please people all the time with my work. That’s more my problem than anything else. As I get older I care less and less about pleasing people. Don’t get my wrong, I still enjoy when people are happy with the work I do, but I’m realizing that you can never please everyone, and it’s futile to worry myself too much about that.

So, here’s my encouragement to you today. Follow dreams, chase your passions, explore new avenues to release the artist in you… however, I encourage you to also embrace your practical side. As with me, you don’t have to completely disregard everything you’re passionate about. You can both follow your dreams, and support yourself and your family. For me, working with computers not only supported my family (and by the way, allowed my family and me to support many charities and organizations that do much good in the world), but it also had an artistic and creative element. That allowed me to thrive by exploring my creative side.

Even if it wasn’t my first love, I found satisfaction and fulfillment in my chosen career, and it provided time and the means for me to explore and grow the artist in me!