In 1957, the fashion photographer Richard Avedon took a now well-known picture of Marilyn Monroe. After shooting her in a number of glamorous poses, he told her the session was over – and then clicked after she relaxed. The result was powerful, a photograph that showed the real Marilyn. This photograph inspired a project of my own, to capture portraits of people with their guard down. In the spring of 2006, during my first year at Keene State, I worked with Professor Bob Kostick of the Art Department on an independent study exhibition. I took close-up portraits of 10 people and mounted them in large boxes that were lit from behind. I presented the project at the 2006 KSC Academic Excellence Conference.
In a way, that project exemplifies both my first year as a student here and my first year teaching here. With its focus on people, expressions, and communication, the exhibition paired journalism and art, as I did in creating an interdisciplinary major, photojournalism, when I transferred here from a community college. And Professor Kostick’s willingness to work with me, a student he’d never met, on such an ambitious project typifies the kind of support I received as a student and eventually as a new faculty member.
I arrived here as a junior, and I came to work and to accomplish my goals. Everyone on campus was eager to help me in my mission. “How can we help you do what you want to do?” was the prevailing response.
A year after I graduated, I came back as a contract lecturer and to serve as advisor for The Equinox, the student newspaper. Shortly thereafter, the opportunity came up to apply for a tenure-track position in the Journalism Department. To qualify, I needed an advanced degree. I spent the next two years teaching full time and studying in a Master of Fine Arts program. When my father and mother both died during those years, that support was there again. My former teachers, now my colleagues in the Journalism Department, checked in regularly, asked what they could do to help, and stepped up to cover my classes.
I became a teacher to be a positive influence – to help young people and show them what it means for somebody to really care about them. That’s what my professors did for me, and that’s what I try to do for my students.