Universities

I heard from a number of people that enjoyed reading my last post about Father Michael and Benedictine University.  It is a bit strange sending one’s thoughts out there into cyberspace, so I was glad to hear from people that had read it and were touched by Father Michael’s story.  I even received messages from some people at Benedictine, which was a pleasant surprise.

I thought I’d follow up with a few photos from projects I’ve worked on over the years for other colleges, universities, and places of higher learning.  I enjoy these type of assignments.  Each university has it’s own flavor, and it’s fun trying to capture those images that show off the unique personality and character of the campus and student body.

I have worked on a few different projects for DePaul over the years.  This first image is law students going over some details before they present their final case to the instructor-

Of course it is simple to take great images of Notre Dame.  They make it easy with all the amazing architecture-

And I spent a couple of days at the University of Missouri taking photographs for a book they gave out to new students.  This is a scene in their on-campus hospital-

Looking Back

As we move into 2010, I thought I would take a moment to look back at my favorite photography experience from 2009.  Interestingly, it didn’t take place in the most exotic location, or produce my favorite image of the year.  But it was one of those moments that made me very glad that I am a photographer.

Benedictine University in Lisle, IL hired me to photograph Father Michael Komechak for use in a few promotional pieces.  He was the curator of Benedictine’s art collection, and it was mentioned that I might be capturing him in front of some of the artwork.  It was made pretty clear to me that Fr Michael had strong opinions about certain subjects, and he would have the final say as to exactly where and when this would all take place.  In my mind I started to add up all the possible problems that go along with having an unknown setting with a 77 year old ‘opinionated’ subject.

I did one day of scouting for potential locations, just so I had a few ideas in case I needed to steer him in a certain direction.  It was a cold winter day in early February when we finally met.   Father Michael seemed nice enough and was actually asking my opinion on where I thought we should take the photo.  I asked him where he spends most of his time, and what activities does he do on campus that would help tell the story.  He thought for a moment and then casually mentioned to me, “Well, why don’t you come to my office.”

I’ve photographed in enough college offices to know that they are almost never interesting.  They are full of stacks of papers, books, old computers, and random corkboards covered in colorful notes of paper.  But Father Michael led me to a corner door which contained an office unlike any other.  I expected to at least see a desk, and initially I couldn’t tell if there was one in there.  Instead what I found were piles of paintings, sculpture, pottery, beadwork, African masks, and countless other things all haphazardly arranged in a way that made it look as though a tornado had just thundered through an art museum.  There was hardly room to walk, and my one and only comment upon entering this place was “Oh, wow!”

It was at that very moment that I knew Father Michael and I were going to have a great time together.  We spent the next 2 hours talking about photography and art as he showed me through the collection.  He knew every piece, who donated it, and where he thought it should be shown around campus.  I learned that there were two additional rooms attached to the first one, also stuffed to the gills with artwork.  The second room had hundreds and hundreds of paintings, all stacked up and leaning against each other.  Well, I knew that this is where the story was.  This is Father Michael’s passion.  This is where the photos needed to be.

He agreed wholeheartedly, and we spent about 20 minutes in the first room moving things around just so there would be enough space to take a photo!  Also, I wanted it to remain ‘overwhelming’ without looking messy.  At one point he was down on all fours crawling under tables, moving boxes around.  He loved this place and these things in it.  After moving, stacking, and rearranging, we finally we got to a point where things were looking right.

In my mind the photos are almost incidental to the great conversation we had.  At 77 he still had so much passion about art and life.  He was thrilled to talk about each and every piece that we stumbled upon.  He was a photographer as well, and I was delighted when he ran across some of the images he’d taken back in the 60s.

Very soon after our photo session Father Michael was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and he passed away on August 30th.   Luckily he was around to celebrate the 50th anniversary of his ordination in May.

One of the reasons that I love being a photographer is that I get to meet people like Father Michael, and they let me into their world for a moment or two.  I feel that these are rare events that not everyone gets to enjoy, and I’m a better person because of such encounters.  I just hope that 2010 holds more opportunities like this one.