I have been waiting for this day all summer long. My first day back in class (evening class that is). Basic photography.
I have always enjoyed taking pictures. But... somehow I have always been a little scared of my camera. I am not sure why! I have read the manual a thousand times, but never gotten around to using the manual mode. I would always chicken back to the camera's programmed mode. The photo blog at Pippala Leaf and Ichthyophaga ichthyaetus awed me finally into action.
I signed up for classes at a nearby community college. I wasn't sure what to expect. It was just a community college after all. I was excited nevertheless.
After about 8 hours of work and subtle clock watching later, I joyously head to college. I reach the college a little early. So I decide to explore the art center a little bit. Glad I did. This painting I saw. Hanging on the board it was. A picture I took. Wow! I said. Artist unknown it is.
I finally find my classroom. I seat myself on a cozy and discreet little corner seat.
Eventually, more students come in. To my surprise, almost everyone is a teenager. The dress style ranged from hip-hop , to punk rock, to gothic, to Latino hip ....guys and gals had it all covered (for the most part). I find myself ridiculous in khakis and a button down shirt. I felt like I was a million years old.
Guys would walk in and with the coolest/slightest upward head nod, say... "Whatzzup Man". The SOB that I am (Stale Off the Boat) , I find it easy to respond in a even cooler way. I go... "Howzzit goin man".
This head nod thing goes on for a bit. Then in comes the teacher. A beer bellied, in his early forties, shorts wearing guy. He walks in with a ton of snacks, pops in a video of Simpsons, outputs the video to the projector and then looks around at the students. He doesn't speak a word. Instead, he starts writing on the board. "Help yourself to some FREE food"
At this point, I am pretty sure, I am in the wrong class. I start nervously plotting a discreet exit.
The teacher then writes..."Welcome to Photography Basics. The class will start at 6:39 and end at 9:07. There will be no breaks in between (kidding). Each cell phone ring will cost 1.15$ (not kidding) "
I trash my exit strategy.
Each time a new student walks in, the teachers taps ferociously on the board and draws attention to the word FREE food. Every body starts laughing. The atmosphere in the class eases up. By now, there is loud obnoxious snack munching sounds all around.
The time 6:39 . The Simpsons video ends. The lights go dim. A Moby music video starts. Out of shape middle aged men and ultra geeky guys are shown dancing/auditioning for the latest Moby music video. The whole class is in splits. I can hear the occasional "That is funny dude".
The Moby video ends and a 1970s sitcom starts. The whole class is again in splits. I can hear the occasional "What show is that man?"
I am beginning to wonder if all this had some hidden connection to photography. Just as I was thinking this, the lights come back on and the teacher finally speaks , "So what does all this have to do with photography ? "
The class is silent.
The teacher goes "Nothing really!. I just like to have fun. Sense of humor is very important in my class. If you don't have one, you will have one by the end of all this"
The discussion now moves onto defining moments in American history and photography. Pearl harbor, Elian Gonzalez, September 11, The President being told that the second tower has been hit, etc etc
The students start talking about all these pictures. The discussion finally comes down to politics. The teacher then says this, "Republicans or Democrats, I don't really care. I just vote for someone who makes a good caricature and Kerry doesn't make a good one"
That gets me a little irritated. In my mind I say this to the teacher, "Dude, Kerry might not make a good caricature, but atleast he doesn't refer to the internet in the plural !"
The irritation only lasts a second. The teacher moves on to other topics. Every second sentence is peppered with a joke. Not a single soul in the class could stop laughing.
The teacher finally rolls out a slide show of his work, pictures taken and achievements. The guy has been with Nikon for a long time, as a photographer, as a marketing rep and now as a consultant. He has been on assignments for the National Geographic, NASA and host of other organizations. The pictures are simply breathtaking.
The slide show and the class ends with this quote by Albert Einstein, "Imagination is more important than knowledge"
The class is unlike any I have ever been to in my life. He brings a whole new style and vision to teaching. It almost felt like a Hollywood movie. I couldn't help but sit through all this is in utter amazement, awe, goose pimples, fear and skepticism. All at the same time.