Amanda Koster

thoughts and experiences of an international documentarian

how i found my passion 1: ‘fail’ the intro class

with one comment

do stuff. let yourself do stuff.

hang out. watch yourself. what makes you happy?

key: be present. don’t worry about money, time, right, wrong, does this look good, will my parents be ok with this, what about my degree from university…

that is all ego yelling at you cuz it is threatened by your doing, being, engaging.

‘i don’t know how to be happy.’ well, if that was really the case, you may have checked into the loony bin already + wouldn’t be reading this, you’re still curious. so, good news is you’re still here, hands untied, and still wondering about this. so, chances are you do know what makes you happy, what you love, tho not allowing yourself to emerge.

photography was like heroin for me (not totally relevant… maybe like chocolate cake). well, not at first. truth is first i failed photo 1. they were talking about emulsion, photo paper, chemical reactions, all of this stuff. i didn’t care. i felt it was irrelevant. i was there to learn how to make pictures, not the science behind it.

so then i completely failed photography 1. never even made a contact sheet: a) wasn’t engaged b) resigned and didn’t care. when we finally got to be in the darkroom (after all that talking about it) i just said ‘you go first’ to my friend mary, and managed to pretend like i was doing something, but was totally checked out + did nothing. couldn’t care less.

then i traveled to africa. i felt like i was let out of this cage called ‘classroom.’ i just took photos to my hearts content. snap-happy all over the horn of africa. made a ton of mistakes… screwed up the exposures… kept openeing the camera back b4 rewinding the film… dropped my camera… pieces flew everywhere… jerry rigged it with duct tape. i didn’t care about the class, forgot everything the teacher told me and dove in.

someone in ethiopia asked me if i had been to california and i said no. ‘what, you are here in ethiopia and you have not seen your own country, I have seen california!!’  good for him. so i felt stupid and when i returned from africa, i booked an Amtrak ticket across the usa. i traveled alone from new haven, ct (where i was living) all the way to arizona, across the south, to arizona, up to chicago then back home, tons more photos. that was incredible. (i know you are all wondering where i got the money for all this: waitressing and credit cards)

returned home with bags and bags of film. i decided that even though i knew everything there was to know about photography, i needed to take a class in order to use the lab for free. i just was never a big ‘classroom’ person. i had told the school (who after this class continuously gave me scholarships) i signed up for photo 2 ‘so i could use the lab’. showed up in class very cocky knowing everything and NOT needing any class, was just on a tight budget and this was a cheaper way to develop my photos… and then dumped my bags of film out on the table.

my teacher at creative arts workshop terry degradi was pie-eyed and sucked in her breath. she looked at me very confused in disbelief (word got out that i had a ‘bad attitude’ and floundered photo 1). you see, terry let me do.

ok, now watch this:

terry then got me my first job as a photographer at yale halfway thru class.

i was given the job as darkroom monitor (more free darkroom time).

the director of the photo program harold shapiro asked me to teach photo 1, asap.

‘no way.’  told him. i detested photo 1. ‘why me?’

‘because something happened to you. for someone to totally reject photo 1 and come back to photo 2 with unbridled passion, you will be able to transfer that to others.’

(footnote: i stopped classroom teaching for the obvious reasons. i like to do. so now other do-ers, do it with me via salaamgarage)

Written by amandakoster

November 4, 2009 at 5:09 pm

Posted in passion, photography

Tagged with ,

One Response

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  1. I still remember the day that I took that intro darkroom class from you – you asked everyone about their photography experience and I said I had none. You asked me some questions, showing me that I *did* have photography experience (and you were right, I was hiding because I thought my experience wasn’t *real* photography). It was a great intro class – now I know why. Very glad you decided to teach beginners – I’m sure they are too.

    Kathlyn

    November 4, 2009 at 6:25 pm


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