New Year Revelations, Not Resolutions / by Helen Arase

The following post is long overdue, so I apologize if it is a little scatterbrained. 

 

This January, I completed a landscape photography course with the chairman of the Photography Department, Gary Colby. The course is already intense: a 4-unit class equaling 240 hours in 16 days (4 x 4 days a week). We were learning, dreaming and crying about a subject that most of us didn't have much of an interest in, when we started. And on top of a crazy schedule, Gary is demanding (I'll come back to why I love being given a hard time by him). 

In retrospect, we did some really cool things. We learned to use 4x5 film cameras and we developed our film. I actually prefer this to developing 35mm film in the tanks... Something about agitating the hangers as the film is being developed is much cooler than sloshing a tank back and forth. It is smellier, though. We used our polarizing filters, now know the annoying thing(s) about our tripods, and made panoramas.

 January 28, 2015 - There are six 4x5 camera kits. Besides this type, there are smaller 4x5 field cameras that we used as well. This was taken on one of the last days of "Jan Term" with my FujiFilm instax210.

January 28, 2015 - There are six 4x5 camera kits. Besides this type, there are smaller 4x5 field cameras that we used as well. This was taken on one of the last days of "Jan Term" with my FujiFilm instax210.

The class went to the Big Morongo Wildlife Preserve and Joshua Tree and photographed William Keys' homestead, Barker Dam and anything along the way. It was a fun day and everyone was much closer after that. 

And this is the kicker: I like what I did in January. Going into this class I was one of the ones who said something like, "I don't have an eye for landscape. I don't understand how to photograph rocks and trees." 

Now I look at many of the photos, and I know I couldn't have taken them or known anything about the history behind them without this course. I'm happy with what I did in this rushed and crazy timeframe. We turned in close to the equivalent of an assignment per day.

It still amazes me how much I can learn. And Gary is a great professor.

This is Gary Colby:

 January 22, 2015 - Gary is the one with the backwards hat, carrying the tripod. Also pictured - Gabe De Alba, a classmate, and David Bess, a professor. 

January 22, 2015 - Gary is the one with the backwards hat, carrying the tripod. Also pictured - Gabe De Alba, a classmate, and David Bess, a professor. 

Gary has this kind of demanding and sometimes grouchy image with some of the students. But I love Gary. He is the reason I have done as much as I have - and why I keep trying to do more. He believes in the students who want to do something with their lives and are willing to ask for all the help they need in order to get it. 

I'm pretty sure at one point I was delusional and wanted him to be my adoptive father while my dad lives in China. It's like THAT crazy how much he supports you and makes you want to be better. But you come down from that weird pipe-dream pretty quickly, the minute he puts you back in your place. 

 

Now I'm finally at the point of talking about my revelations. They've been hitting me all year long, and we're only one week into February. 

1. I need to be healthier. This isn't new, but I'm trying in small steps, for real. 

2. Bad friends - old or new - have no place in my schedule. I don't care if I've known them for 15 years, complained to one about another, or thought we were close friends only to find out we're not... I don't have time to waste trying to make everyone happy if they aren't going to try for me. 

3. Speaking of time, I need to be more organized. I have a lot of stuff to do and focus on my senior project. It's crunch time.

4. It's extremely flattering to be told you're the top-dog. Literally, "you're the top dog," when talking about the department. I was asked to help check out the scholarship candidates because they think I can "run this place up and down." I was stunned for about two days and I feel like I'm bragging right now, so I'll stop. Also, hearing nice things about you from someone you deeply respect makes you cry when you get home.

5. I need to take more risks. I don't really have many goals - I have maybe five serious life goals that I want to achieve, but I hadn't thought about the little ones along the way. And what about alternate plans? What if "Helen Arase, Photojournalist" doesn't turn out the way I had planned? I'm going to start putting more feelers out there. 

 

I hope I keep getting hit with these revelations. I want to keep growing and I am very grateful for being in the place that I am, with the guidance that I have and the support around me. I am so inspired and driven right now. I don't want to lose this passion.