In 1977, I took a photography class at HPHS.
Highland Park High School was known for its arts programs, from theater and music to audio visuals. There was even a full working television studio.
I needed an extra credit senior year and I’d already taken all the drawing classes. I knew I didn’t possess any particular skill in other areas of art, so I signed up for Photography 101.
We learned composition, lighting, lenses, and angles. We took field trips to Chicago to shoot the City. We made stop-action clay-animation movies. Mr. Amberg was a wonderful teacher, and photography seemed to make sense to me.
Mr. Amberg said I had “a good eye.”
It was funny – my father was a terrific artist in every other medium. An industrial design major, he could draw, paint, sculpt, and work with wood. He had a natural eye; his favorite saying was “See what you’re looking at.” In other words, don’t draw what you think something looks like. Avoid your preconceptions and draw what it actually looks like. I never really could.
But boy he took terrible photos. We have hundreds of photos of our childhood, and nearly all of them are awful. I never understood how a skilled artist couldn’t seem to translate that same basic skill in some way to photography. He can compose a balanced, nuanced drawing or painting, but not a shot through a little camera window. Regardless, it was something that I could do. And I learned that I really enjoyed it too.
Thanks, Mr. Amberg.