I taught my first photography class in the spring of 2011. Having always been a hobbyist, I felt incredibly unqualified. I had to concentrate intently on not hyperventilating from the barrage of nerves that threatened me each week. When I try to remember that first class, it is mostly a blur. In its original incarnation, the class met three hours a week for 14 weeks. I cannot for the life of me remember what I managed to talk about for a total of 42 hours, over the course of the semester! Apparently whatever it was was mildly informative and moderately entertaining, because the 24 people who signed up left me with positive evaluations, and I even had some people say they enjoyed the class so much they planned on coming back. I am still a bit flabbergasted by this.
Over the years, the class has morphed into its current format — a six week class presenting the technical aspects of photography, followed by a second six week class composed of guest speakers and photowalks, each with a maximum of twelve students. Sometimes there’s a waiting list, other times it’s me plus four — the minimum number of students required for the class to make. The class I dubbed the “Making Friends with Your Camera” class ended up bringing me more than a few friends of my own.
One student from the early days wanted to learn to take photos of her granddaughter. It’s funny, though, how she started down one path and ended up doing something completely different. A classmate’s invitation to go on a wildlife photowalk sparked a passion for bird photography that came completely out of left field. After she finished my basic class, she took off running — seeking out additional photography classes, watching YouTube tutorials, practicing, practicing, practicing. Always learning! And her work has won awards — people have purchased her work to hang on the walls of their homes and their businesses. I’m incredibly proud of her.
It was really a no-brainer when I realized this fall that I really need to, really want to pass the torch and I thought of Cheryl. I’ve enjoyed the almost eight years that I’ve taught this class. I guesstimate I’ve probably helped between 250 – 300 people make friends with their cameras. But I have other things I want to focus on and I know my former student — my now friend — will do a fabulous job of helping people make friends with their cameras when she becomes the new photography teacher in the spring. I’ll begin my last session this evening with my friend observing and assisting. I’m a little sad — teaching this class has been a huge part of how I define myself:
“What do you do?”
“I have my own business, I’m a writer, and I teach photography at the college.”
I have the business to help our family economy. I teach photography because my teacher asked me if I would when he moved away, and I discovered I enjoyed it.
But the thing that I’ve done since I was in grade school, the thing I want to find more time for, the thing that I always find myself coming back to is there in the middle, in the heart of my answer:
I’m a writer.