Oh Lucky Man
You asked for it.
Wander into the William Jeannes library in Plymouth Meeting Pa. and discover
paperback books illustrated by Richard Powers. The librarian tells me all about him and his art. My brain completely shifts to the right side. I can no longer able to add 2+2. If it is not visual I'm not interested. As a pre teen and a teen this caused a lot of problems that I and all my alleged mentors never recognized.
See an exhibition at the Philadelphia Museum of Art by AA and Jerry Uellsman.
I am transfixed by Moonrise. My feet are stuck to the ground. Why don't my photos look like this?
Saturday night in a bar in Bryn Mawr Pa. I start talking to the guy next to me and eventually get around to telling him that I will be going to Brooks Institute in February of '72. He looks startled and tells me, as he is getting progressively more and more sloshed, that he graduated from Brooks and was something of a big wheel there. Of course I don't believe him and as a challenge I tell him to call Brooks and tell them I want to start school before February. HA HA.
August 1971, monday two days later
I'm at work at Vernon Graphics in Norristown Pa. I'm the b&w printer. My job was to print 10x10 aerial negs. I printed the entire state of Colorade photographed from 32,000 ft. My wife calls and says that Brooks called and wants me to start school on friday. That guy in the bar was for real. To go or not to go? We went . I was in school the following monday. I recently bought one of those inspirational postcards. The message was,"isn't it funny that ,WHAT THE HELL, is usually your best choice"? Story of my life.
Santa Barbara, California, Brooks Institute.
This town was, simply the garden of Eden. There is no more beautiful place on earth. I know. I've looked. Brooks, on the other hand , was a trial. It was a great school, I suppose, with a great reputation but completely wrong for me. I was already 24 year old and I had to graduate from somewhere. I made it through and graduated in '74. My by now very pregnant wife by my side. Our departure from Santa Barbara was memorable. Up the coast for about 200 miles when the engine in my VW van siezed and blew up. A week in Los Banos California seemed like a month.
Couldn't find a job in Philly and was becoming desperate. I asked my father to get me into the apprentice program in his union. The loyal brotherhood of Boilermakers and Pipefitters. I would have apprenticed as a welder. His decision was crucial to my and our life. He turned me down. Just daid, "No".
Working on high steel is a noble job but I'm eternally grateful that in his wisdom he did say no. So I found work in a brick plant. A refractory, and made bricks by day and at night I worked in a lab making color prints and Cibachromes. I got laid off there and kicked around Philly for the next four years doing weddings, working in camera stores etc. I was always making photographs for myself no matter what my paying job was.
I've always wante to teach so I sent out 300 resumes to schools around the country. Was I ever naive. I sent resumes to Yale, RISD etc. One of these resumes found its way tho the Photojournalism department at Indiana Univ. John Althauser read it and promptly threw it in the wastebasket. Then he reconsidered and asked his wife if they taught photography at the campus of Ivy Tech State College in Columbus In. She said they did and would give them the resume. I know all this because she eventually became my boss. There was an opening there and inexplicably, I got the job. I spent 12 years there teaching every facet of photography you could imagine. I even taught dye transfer printing. The value of this time was that I was able to teach myself more photography then I could ever learn in a school. I was eventually accepted int the MFA program at IU and spent four years teaching and going to graduate school. My main opus at IU became a documentary study of my heritage in the coal nining region of Eastern Pa. It's a remarkable landscape that I ended up spending about 10 years in. I just roamed the mountains and made photographs.
The politics in the Junior College system just blew up and I wanted out. I felt trapped but had resigned myself to staying there. My wife, not me, found a posting for a teaching position in Texas and insisted that I apply. I was very reluctant. Our son was in high school, my wife's career was on the rise, yet she insisted. My wife is a Zen master who can see the future. I've seen many examples of this in our life together. I applied, got the position and have been in Texas ever since teaching Fine Art photography.
Life is funny. Nothing is causeless. You are never really in charge.
Thanks for listening.
Jack B aka Severian-Autarch of Urth