I had kept quiet only telling a few people in the moment, the impact the death of our Lecturer had on me.
We came into college the next morning as a class to show support and solidarity to the Lecturers for the loss of their colleague and friend. In conversation with one of the Lecturers in the afternoon, I spoke briefly of how much he helped me, I was kindly told not to keep such a "lovely wee story" to myself, to share it. So this evening in honour of the help and support Jim gave me that impacted my photography in such a huge way, I have written this blog entry to tell this story.
I attended my first Photography evening course in 2010 hoping to learn more about my passion and what was then a hobby that I dreamed of being my career one day. My planned had been to go back to college once all 3 children reached college, which they were due to do that year, but plans changed when we decided to have our 4th and my dream was put on hold another 5 years.
Shy and introverted with little confidence in myself, this dream seemed like it was untouchable. Still I spent the next five years telling those around me that I would go to college and study photography when all my children were in school. Not many believed me, and why should they I could barely believe I was capable of it myself. But every time I heard a dismissive "I'll believe it when I see it" it fueled my stubbornness.
It was 2015 before I knew it and I realised that in just over a year my children would all be at school. I was no closer to college and no closer to believing I could. I looked over the college website and discovered they still had evening courses running. Before I could give myself enough time to think, I applied for the Intermediate digital photography evening course with the hope that it would build up my knowledge before I started college and perhaps help make the idea of college more of a reality.
As soon as I started the evening course, our lecturer Jim made everyone feel welcome and the lessons fun with his sense of humour. The other students were friendly and the atmosphere was positive. I was still shy but I would talk of my dream about going to college and becoming a photographer. Jim encouraged this immediately, assuring me that I could do it and my photography was good. I found it very hard to believe but the continuous encouragement slowly built up my confidence, a little at a time.
Towards the end of the evening course it got closer to the date to apply for college.
I chatted allot about it to Jim who was of the opinion that I could handle starting at HND level and my work was good enough to get me in. In fact he recommended I do just that.
But I was petrified of going back to college after all these years facing crowds and groups of people, petrified of struggling with the early morning routines and the workload.
I explained this, supporting my decision to start at NC. I just wanted to start from the bottom work my way up, I was terrified of all the technical side of photography. I struggled to wrap my head round manual mode, shutter speeds and photoshop, terrified of failing and wasting everyone's time.
Jim supported my decision understanding why and told me I would find it very easy, I'd fly through the course but I would love it. I still struggled to believe him, but I trusted he knew what he was talking about. So I applied to college, my nerves were at a new high, Jim seen that and continuously reassured me.
I was really worried, worked up and had no clue about putting together a portfolio for my interview, he calmly reassured me that he would help and not to worry about it.
True to his word and apologetic it took a while to get round to, he instructed me to print out images on a4, no more than 4 images per sheet a compilation of 20 pages of what I felt was my best work and bring it in on one of the last weeks.
The advice and critique he gave me was invaluable, I walked away from it confident in the fact that I had a decent Portfolio. I still remember everything he said about each image or set.
He had instilled so much confidence and pride in my work that I decided to send the images away to be printed in a photo book remembering his advice about continuity throughout the portfolio. When my book arrived it was an exciting feeling seeing my work printed!
The scary task was to talk about my images!
I put my name down for a second course, Jim agreed the more I could do before starting the better. The course I wanted to go on was cancelled due to insufficient interest and I was offered into the Studio Photography evening class with the promise that camera techniques would be involved. The word "Studio" terrified me!
New scary equipment requiring lots of technical knowledge that I was terrified of not remembering! This was the first time I started thinking, if I'm afraid of it perhaps that's a good enough reason to do it!
To my delight Jim was teaching this evening course too!
Someone familiar, going into a classroom full of new people wasn't quite as terrifying knowing this.
The Saturday class started at a perfect time, on the lead up to the college interviews, once again Jim was full of encouragement, continuously insisting I had nothing to worry about.
My nerves continued to get the best of me but he never tired of reassuring me or listening to my worried rants and questions.
My interview eventually arrived and I managed to get through it. I stumbled over words and had a knotted stomach climbing up to my throat, yet I talked about my work, showed my portfolio and walked out hopeful despite my fears.
The following Saturday the very first thing Jim said was "how did it go" he was full of enthusiasm and made me feel like he genuinely cared.
I talked him through how it went, ending with I think it went ok!
As the weeks went on my anxiety got the better of me, once again Jim reassured me it would be fine. I remember him asking who interviewed me, I couldn't remember his name but described him, Jim conspiritorily said to me I know who that is, I'll find out how it went for you.
The following week, he greeted me with a huge smile telling me I did fine and not to worry I'll hear from the college in a few weeks.
True to his word, it was fine and I got accepted.
I was quite sad when the final Saturday class ended, in early June 2016, everyone exchanged social media contacts like we did with the first class. Jim had explained that because I was continuing at the college I couldn't exchange contact while I was a student.
In those two courses Jim wasn't just a lecturer but a mentor.
When I started college, I knew Jim mainly taught 2nd year HND and degree but when ever he seen me in the corridor he would always say hello and ask after how I was getting on at college.
I remember the Lecturer Ronnie would ask the class if we were familiar with certain things, like working in studio or in manual and so on. Often Ronnie would look at me after asking and say I know you know Emma, referring to conversations he had with Jim about me.
The feeling amongst lecturers that Jim had spoken about me was very new to me, I couldn't wrap my thoughts around the knowledge. I am shy, bashful and shocked when I receive praise or compliments. I become extremely embarrassed and often feel unworthy. But that feeling gave me a sense of pride and determination to prove worthy.
Jim's encouragement an interest in my photography career went a long way to making me realise I was worthy of it.
Those close to me at college and at home know that from the moment I started NC Photography I chatted very enthusiastically about Jim. How he was an amazing lecturer and I was hoping to eventually be in his class again. If I'm honest I'm surprised the fellow students from as far back as NC had not got completely fed up with the continuous talk of my evening classes.
I didn't have a huge amount of confidence when I first started but the little I had was fueled by Jims constant reassurance and mentoring.
Finally in HND2 I discovered we would have Jim as our main lecturer, I was excited! Even when I discovered that the group of friends we had been in since NC was getting split up and I would be thrown out my comfort zone, I didn't lose that enthusiasm.
Our studio classes in the past few weeks will be treasured by all his students.
Over the years at college I've chatted consistently about life after college, as times gone on with increasing belief in that future. One of the things I looked forward to was the chance to maintain contact with the lecturers that have impacted my work and life in a huge way. I heard of the fellow students from the evening courses develop a friendship with Jim and work with him at his studio, I had hoped one day to do the same.
I only knew him for a short time, only as a lecturer and mentor but in that short time he had a huge impact on my life and photography.
In the two year as a student I got the sense of the ethos in the photography department. The lecturers were more than colleagues, there were friendships formed. Every now and then we would get glimpses of that, it is one of the things that makes studying at the college so lovely. Often if we stayed late, especially in the dark room, we would walk past the studios and get glimpses of the lecturers working together on personal projects. If you were lucky one of them would enthusiastically usher you in and share with you what they were working on.
In those moments I got glimpses of them working together on making a giant pinhole camera or taking portraits with Jim's acquired rustic background he loved (featured in background of the photo to the left). Jim was always in the thick of these moment exubing his passion of Photography. You couldn't help but grin.
There are many little moments and memories over the last two years but for me this is the legacy he left. This is how he fundamentally affected my photography and my confidence as a photographer.
If you read through my blog, you'll see the nerves, anxiety and low self worth I struggle with, not to mention the endless personal difficulties that impact these things, it is a testament to the amazing lecturer he is that he succeeded in helping me as he did.
Jim was the first of several Lecturers to have a huge impact in shaping the photographer I am now. He was the one that got me through the doors of college, which introduced me to the the ethos of the COGC Photography department and of course the lecturers that continue to have a huge impact on my work, my confidence and my future. The photography department to me is more than a college it had become my home away from home and a sanctuary. Thanks to Jim I had the courage to make those first steps!
I'm still very timid about the idea of sharing this, conscious of the extent of the loss those that are closest to him feel. But a fellow student reminded me that he would want me to confident in myself!
He will be truly missed.
My thoughts go out to his friends and family at this time. xx