Art School

When I went to college, I had desperately wanted to attend an art school. However, those were far out of my price range, and I decided that a four-year university would be better in that I would be educated in other subjects besides art. Over all, I would say that was a great choice, and I loved almost all of it. There were tough times, to be sure. But I made friends there that I am still in contact with, and I learned skills that have been useful to me outside of college. I especially loved my anthropology/archaeology and art history classes (if I had to pick a subject besides photography).

In my major, I had to select an area of concentration. I’d always wanted to study photography. I don’t think I even debated it for a second. It was always going to be photography. It wasn’t just about how to use a manual 35mm camera, although that was the main standby. But I learned to use medium format and large format cameras, as well (my favorite!), and we even learned a little about digital photography (although it was in its infancy) and Photoshop. And taking a good photo is only a small part of what we were expected to do. One class was devoted to using the camera properly, and the rest was on subject matter and understanding your place within the realm of art history. We had to be innovative and defend our choices, explaining why we did what we did. It was rarely one photo, either. We were being prepared to hold gallery shows, and everything was done to transform our work into a cohesive whole. It was challenging and rewarding.

Of course, in our efforts to embrace unfamiliar technology and experiment with the medium, we sometimes encountered the perfect moment at the perfect time, moments that would never come again and were captured for eternity on film. Once, I was extremely happy with my weeks’ worth of shooting large format photographs, and I was in the lab developing my sheet film. It was in a canister, rotating on an agitator so that the chemicals would be distributed evenly, when someone passed by and turned off the agitator. As the lab was noisy and very busy, I didn’t know this had happened until it was too late, and the timer went off and my film was ruined. I didn’t have time to reshoot, as travel would have been required. I had one day to shoot another weeks’ worth of photos, develop the film, and develop the perfect large format prints. I never found out who had turned off the agitator. No one ever admitted it or apologized, but I did save the ruined film as a reminder. Moments are just that. They never come again.

As frustrating as the agitator debacle was, I fell in love with large format photography. I’ve always wanted to buy one, but they are $6,000 at a minimum if you can find one new. Used, you can’t be sure it’s in working order, but they are fairly durable. However, you should still check the components thoroughly before you buy. I’ve, also, always wanted a good medium format camera. I have two that are of the rare, discontinued variety, but they are far from quality cameras. I just find them fun to use. But, just once, I’d like to have a good one. I’ll probably never be able to afford a Hasselblad, but I do have my knockoff Kiev-88. It was a Soviet-era camera that was meant as a copy of a Hasselblad, but the factory didn’t have the same quality-control. Sometimes the camera is great, but sometimes you can end up with a dud. I have yet to get my film developed, but I have a feeling that I will still use it, even if it’s not the best. I just love the feel of it, the sound of it, everything. Yes, even the loud shutter. I must be crazy.


There is a short scene in Descent of the Vile which includes some large format photography. I wanted to include it as a tribute to my photography instructor from college, the amazing Neil Maurer. Hopefully, it adds something to the story, and I get to live vicariously through the actions of the main character (up until the plot twist, anyway).

I’m still waiting on the book to go into editing. As I am moving, it is causing a delay, although things are coming together and I should be at the new address in a couple of weeks or so. Therefore, I will have plenty of time to work on revisions should I get the manuscript back from my editor any time soon. Fingers crossed! I will keep you updated, and I can’t wait to share the story with you. Take care, peeps!

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