Photo-J

Rewards of being a professor

Sometimes we go through life wondering if what we’re doing is worthwhile, or if what we do makes a difference. The enormity of the universe can sometimes simply be overwhelming when we consider how small we are in comparison. But, occasionally moments arrive which bring clarity to what we do and we realize we have been a part of something good. Such was the case this past weekend.

Several years ago while I was teaching photography at the Art Institute of Colorado, I had the pleasure of having an exceptional student arrive in one of my studio classes. He had just recently served in the Marines and he didn’t fit the stereotypic role of college students. He was driven to excel and that he did very well! As he neared graduation, he talked with me several times about his desire to study photojournalism and attending grad school. I wrote a few letters of recommendation and eventually he was accepted into the PJ grad program at Boston University. That made me very happy!

Nearly three years ago, after he completed all his course work, he set off to pursue his graduate thesis project, which was a lengthy cultural photo essay, in China. He’s had many adventures living, working, and photographing in mainland China, specifically in a city called Jiujiang. In order to immerse himself in the local culture, he accepted a teaching position at Jiujiang University and has produced an excellent book. So when he sent out an email stating he was coming home (in the St. Louis area) for a short vacation, I was excited when he agreed to take time from his hectic schedule to have lunch with me! To be able to sit down and share a meal with my young friend and listen to his stories and his excitement as a photographer was one of those sublime moments in my life. It made me realize why I got into teaching photography and that indeed, being a professor is absolutely worthwhile!

You can see his work at his website, by clicking here. His book, Jiujiang: 九江 Nine Rivers, can be reviewed and purchased by clicking here.

In this photo, Chad Owsley on left, and Terry Ownby. © 2010

Military Photo-J

I’ve had a very interesting photographic career. Even though for two decades, I shot food for advertising and other commercial assignments, I was fortunate to simultaneously pursue photojournalism while serving in the U.S. military. After looking at my blog, one of my Army buddies asked me where were my PJ shots? Good question, since more than half of my 22 years of military service was as a photojournalist. Even though I’m posting an image today, I may very well devote an entire page on this site to some of my more memorable PJ shots.

This diptych comes from my last tour-of-duty in the República de Panamá. We were based at Santiago, in the Provincia de Veraguas, which is located in west-central Panama; roughly a 6 to 8 hour ride on an old school bus! My best friend, Koby, and I were sent to the north-western corner of the province, in the mountains up near Provincia de Bocas del Toro, to provide newspaper and TV coverage of humanitarian work by U.S. Army National Guard engineers. They were rebuilding a clinic in a small mountain village. Our only access to this hinter region was by air, so we hitched a ride with a flight of Vietnam-era Huey’s from the Illinois Army National Guard. After completing our mission, our flight decided to practice “nap-of-the-earth” flying along the Río de Jesús, which had a real pucker factor, but that’s another story for another time!

© 1992 Terry Ownby, Huey’s flying along foothills of the Ande’s in western Panama.