I’ve been even more fortunate to work alongside even more great educators since I returned to campus as an employee.
You might understand, then, why I was so excited to hear about retired photography professor Harold L. Baldwin’s recent generous donation to the university photo gallery that bears his name.
Baldwin was one of my professors.
I’d barely handled a 35mm camera before I took his basic black and white photography class my junior year.
All mass communication majors had to take the course, so I rented a camera from the bookstore for the semester.
Within a few class meetings, I was crawling into old houses, haunting cemeteries, and cornering friends and family pets to capture the images that Baldwin required of us every week. I was perpetually in the darkroom, juggling chemicals and vying for one of the “good” enlargers to print my photos. I struggled to recall the zone system Ansel Adams and Fred Archer developed to help photographers turn the things in their camera lenses into what appeared in their prints.
I passed the class.
I was reporting for a now-defunct Murfreesboro daily newspaper then, so I bought a used camera, just in case.
I happened to arrive at a non-injury school bus wreck one cold afternoon, and my photo of the relieved transportation director wound up on the front page.
I was hooked.
I shot photos everywhere. Some were published, but most were not.
I was lucky to be able to work with some of the best photographers in the country, many of whom also were trained by Baldwin.
Throughout my writing and editing career, I’ve always had my camera handy as a backup if the “real photographer” was unavailable, which is why my photos sometimes appear on the university’s website.
There’s no need to explain how photography has changed since I was in his class. Everyone has a digital camera on the phone in her pocket now, and everyone is posting photos online.
Without teachers like Baldwin, however, everyone isn’t yet a “real photographer.” He and the people he brought to MTSU taught me — and thousands of other students — a craft that helped me get and keep jobs. He also taught us how to appreciate the art of photography, both in class and in the gallery, and to elevate the art of our own photos.
Two small prints by Adams now hang in my home office, not far from one of my photos from a concert and another of Walter Hill Dam.
They have nothing in common, except that they are all in black and white.