Monthly Archives: May 2014

Thanks, Mr. Amberg.

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.  Scan30

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.

Who’d have predicted that the high school class I’d end up using most often for the next 30 years was the photography class I signed up for one semester when I was simply one credit short?Rob in swingset serious

Thanks, Mr. Amberg.