first and foremost!

Howdy! I just realized that I need to find a 35mm negative scanner so that I can upload some of the first images I shot way back in the late 80’s. My mom has some of them framed and hanging in her home, but that doesn’t do me much good 1000 miles away. Can’t believe she framed some of those prints! What was she thinking?

Anyway, you might enjoy a picture of how I looked back then, just for fun. Check out that rockin’ pick-up truck in the background. Not mine, but rockin’ just the same.

CHS 1988 - Cape Girardeau, MO

taken in the parking lot of our high school

Just so you know, at my 20th CHS Reunion last year, I won the award for the best hair in 1989! 😉

CHS

High school was fun, and I enjoyed being a total nerd and president of the Anthology Club and a proud 3-year member of the Latin Club. And I was particularly fond of our school’s drama department, Red Dagger, where I learned about props, lighting and how to construct monster flats. I drug my dad to all of our productions, even though I’m sure he was less than thrilled. (Thanks, Dad!)

WEBSTER UNIVERSITY

Then I went away to Webster University in the STL. This is where I first learned about Photography Techniques and History of Photo and getting into a little trouble.  Here’s proof that I existed:Webster University - STL

Oh, how I loved the smell of the developer, but I was most in love with the fixer! It was a badge of honor for me to walk out of the darkroom after many long hours of printing (crap) and feel drunk. I signed up for every hour available in the darkroom so that I could print anything and everything  that I shot. Most of it was total crap, and I knew it, but I didn’t care. It was a learning process that I wanted to take advantage of. For the first time in my life, I was creating something, and it felt good. I knew that it was going to be a part of me for a long time to come. I just needed to figure out what the hell I was doing. Criticism in the classroom was a bear, but it pushed me to be a better photographer and printer. So, thanks everyone, for telling me my prints were crap!

COLUMBIA COLLEGE – SEMO – BACK TO CHICAGO

Michigan Avenue, Chicago

ah...Chicago. How I love ya!

In 1991 I followed a boy to Chicago. And I stayed there, even after we split a few years later. But not before returning to Missouri to complete my degree. I could hardly afford to eat in Chicago, much less go to a fancy arts college (Columbia College <3) and eat! So I went home for a couple years and got my Bachelor of Science in Corporate Video Production. Southeast Missouri State Univeristy didn’t offer photography as a major, so I just hung out around the darkroom until they asked me to teach darkroom technique to the freshmen. Gladly!! Don’t have to ask me twice! Took a minor in Graphic Communication, which sucked, but it allowed me to complete a mean independent study where I got to do a private shoot at an abandoned seminary college. The IS was awesome, and scary, and all mine, so it was all worth it. My photos still were not so great, but I was proud anyway. OK, so I graduated and was back in Chicago within a month. Can’t keep a girl away from the city she loves!

NATIONAL PHOTO

I moved back to Chicago in March of 1997 and started a job with an amazing company called National Photo. It was a family run business that had been in operation for some 30 years or more when I got there. We did everything from actors’ 8×10 headshots to custom 54″ prints. (That was a feat in a color darkroom! But more on that another time)

I started out as a stripper. Don’t get too excited, I was stripping negatives. I worked my way up to the finishing department, then the color darkroom where I had my own little room. I decorated my darkroom with some of my favorite jobs, including a bitchin’ Rick James headshot. I was in that room on the day of the Columbine shootings, and I remember rushing back from the printer after each print went in so that I could hear what was going on. I was also in there on the day that Chris Farley OD’d. He was just down the street at the Hancock building, and I kept thinking I should sneak out and see all the hoopla, but this girl had deadlines to meet. (no pun intended)

After a few years of working at NP, there was a job opening for head custom B&W enlarger. Oh! My dream job of dream jobs!! I immediately ran to the bosses and said, “I’m in!” But it wasn’t that easy. They brought in a few other folks to interview and gave them a shot at printing for a few hours to prove their worth. Well, when it was my turn to hit the dark room, I kicked butt and took names. I was NOT giving up this job opportunity! So, eventually, I was offered the job, and I lived in that darkroom for a long time. Me and Howard Stern in the early mornings made a great team!

I got to print the coolest stuff in there! My favorites were the jobs for the Chicago Historical Society where I got to make prints from ancient 4×5 and 8×10 negatives.  The regular daily jobs came in, too, but they were boring. I lived for the obscure older-than-dirt negative to roll in. Proof sheets be damned.

So, eventually, NP decided to go digital. If you want to keep up with the competition, and all…So, I moved to the prestigious position of Head Digital Minilab Printer. Now, you may think that a “Minilab” printer’s job is super easy, just push a button and move on type of job. But you would be dead wrong! I was still able to do some awesome custom printing on that badass machine!

love of my life The bosses sent me off to Elgin for a week or so to train with Noritsu on their digital printers. It was a fun week of learning the ins and outs and secrets to making a great print and taking apart this monster of machine. I’m a nerd at heart, so I liked the technical stuff the best. I came back from training ready to take charge, and that’s just what I did.

Chicago

I got to print for some of best photographers in the city, and I was proud of every one of those jobs. Heck, I was proud of the little stuff, too. And I honed my printing skills during these years. I sure do miss that old Noritsu. Even on the days when I thought I would never make it through the stack of jobs that was never-ending, or when chemistry needed to be changed and I had a mess all over, those were the best days of my working life!

Now, as much as I adored my life in Chicago, I got sidetracked by romance and left it all behind to move to Italy. But let’s save that for another day. I am still reveling in the wonder that was my life in Chicago for all those years.

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12 thoughts on “first and foremost!

  1. Dear Tee,
    Congratulations on your first post here. It’s just great. A reminder of just how talented you are. I am always impressed by how you can “see” photographically. It just seems to come naturally to you. I’m so proud of you.

    Love,
    Dad

  2. way to go t!
    i love your first post. i’ve known you for so long but never knew some of the details that got you into photography. when you talked about class critiques it made me think of my years in college and how much i really miss those days. i can’t wait to read more! 🙂

    • Claudia, those critiques in the classroom nearly broke me! But I guess they do serve a bigger purpose than just to break your confidence. Eventually I realized that the professors really did know what they were talking about, and were not just trying to make me look like an idiot. 🙂

  3. Wow I learned so much about you from this – thank you for sharing it! Sounds like you’ve had a really interesting career & life. And we haven’t even gotten to the Italy part yet!
    We didn’t have an official Latin club at my school but I did take 3 years of Latin. And yay for historical societies and photography – right up my alley. I’m extremely amateur, for sure, but I’m a fan of anything that essentially documents history (or whatever else).

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