When the time came to pick a subject to specialise in, I chose photography. Ever since my very first experience in the dark room, I was captivated. The process was mystical and magical. Go out, grab an instant in reality on film, process the negative (winding those spools in the dark! Oh, my!), then make a contact sheet (it was all B&W in those days), choose your favourites, then enter the red lit, moody, moist and fume filled dark room to play with the enlarger, the light sensitive paper and the chemicals to expose and develop an image. It was all so ethereal.
You could never be sure what you were going to get. It was taking a slice of life and transforming into a piece of art. It was based on reality but leaned towards interpretation, expression, personal vision. The challenge was to surprise yourself. Seek, seek, find, capture, push, push, process, manipulate and create a reflection of yourself in the form of captured light on paper. Blacks and whites and all the shades of grey. Fifty, one hundred, a thousand. Mood, mood, mood.
Armed with camera and lens, a few spare film rolls in their canisters, I would venture out in search of potential magic. It taught me to see. More closely, more broadly, to notice the light and the shadows, the lines, composition. How to frame an image. Whether to go wide or zoom in. The options were endless and the experimentation endless. Action shots, water shots, still lifes, portraits, night shoots.... I loved it all.
It was about discovering the artist inside you - starting with how you look at things. How you learn to see beyond the obvious, to celebrate the delightful nuances of the seemingly mundane, to notice the games light plays - to chase it and capture whatever you can.
It was a great way to train. It was about self application, about expansion of vision, about appreciation of subtlety and boldness and the shades in between. Our class was lucky, we had a teacher who was just back from studying in New York. A passionate, devoted, inspired photographer named Arthur Georgeson who was relentless in pushing us to push ourselves and our imagery. He taught us much. He shared his love for hand colouring and a couple of us really, really got into it. Taking the pictures even further from the original. We also manipulated Polaroids, SX-70s, and drew and scratched and collaged our photos. It was a splendid year.
When I found out that for the photographic majors, it ended at year two, I begged the head of school to let me continue on into year three, to swerve into the painting major. I was in love with creating images, I was just beginning, I was ready now to tackle the challenges of canvas and paint. I knew where I was coming from. I had things to say. Let me, let me! I pleaded. None had ever asked before. Certainly not with such verve. He shrugged. There is a space...Tony dropped out... Tick, tick, tick.... OK!
Painting was just as thrilling and my foundation in still images gave me confidence and a slightly different edge amongst the other painting majors - many of whom I knew from first year. They welcomed me. There wasn't much structure to it anyway. No classes per say. We each got a studio space; a bit of wall and some panels. And we came in five days a week and worked, worked, worked. But it was fun, fun, fun. Just as it should be.