There is one thing in life that I know for certain- you never know how long you are going to have with people in your life. Today my former high school photography teacher, Mr. Christiansen, passed away suddenly at school. He was encouraging, inspiring, and never took life too seriously. I took every possible photography class from him- and my senior year was all independent studies because I ran out of classes to take. In Mr. C’s class- for the first time in my life- I felt like I was good at something- and the funny thing is- I wasn’t very good at all, but Mr. C kept pushing me to shoot and develop more.
He always had a nice way of telling you that your photo composition needed some work- with a little sarcastic silly head nod and stare down that always made me grin. We had many conversations about cameras, film and all things black and white. I remember him telling me about how “he really wanted to buy the new 20D, but his wife would kill him if he bought another camera.” He then looked at me and said quietly “I’m buying it, don’t tell my wife.” Mr. C’s class was always a lot of fun, but I worked HARD to get an A every time.
I never thought that I would be able to make a living doing photography, which is why after high school I seemed to fall away from it a little bit. I played with the idea of going to school for photography, but couldn’t really find the right one, so I enrolled in UNL. My first year I took VisLit classes- 4 8 week courses over 2 semesters. Drawing, Mixed Media, Digital Art, and Architecture. I found my love for photography sneaking back into my projects, which is when I decided that I was going to do it. I did another semester of classes and applied to Brooks Institute, got in and just graduated in June.
Now I’m making a living doing photography and honestly if it weren’t for Mr. C’s classes in high school I don’t think I’d be where I am today. During Brooks, I went back and visited him at Southeast several times, the last time was in May right before I graduated. I got to spend almost an hour talking with Mr. C about photography, film, travel, and my plans to move to Seattle to do photography full time. I expressed my gratitude for all his teaching and advice over the years. Little did I know, this would be our last conversation.
It’s been a sad week- my Mom’s would be 63rd birthday was yesterday and then hearing the news today- just tragic. Mr. C was young, too young to die just like my mom was. My heart goes out to his wife, children, colleagues, students, faculty and all his family and friends.
I went through some old folders I have kept from Mr. C’s high school classes- and a few photos of my Mom happened to be in one of the folders which I found to be quite the coincidence since she’s been on my mind too. Here are a few photos I took with my iPhone of folders, negatives and prints from class. Finishing with the photos I found of my mom in the folder.
Life’s too short- and it’s important to remember the ones we lost- too soon- and let their legacy live on. Mr. C was so important to me I felt it was necessary to give my two cents on how he impacted me. Here’s the article posted in the Lincoln Journal Star that I was fortunate to say a few words about Mr. C in. Look at it HERE.
It’s really neat to look back and see how much I’ve grown as a photographer over the past 7 years. I’m happy I had Mr. C along to shape the beginning stages of my photography. I’ll always be grateful for that. This post is dedicated to him.