Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Jumpin' John

After my junior year (11th grade) of high school, I bought my first good camera, a Canon AE-1.

The head of the high school yearbook said I could work on the yearbook staff if I had a camera. So I worked my hiney off and saved and bought the camera during the summer of 1979, a couple of months before beginning my senior year.

I called the teacher and told her I had a camera, and she said I could go to a summer yearbook workshop that was happening just before school started. The workshop was held in my hometown at University of Louisiana - Monroe, so the week long event was a total blast. Easy to get to and I learned black and white film and print developing.

When school started, they supplied me with a "potato masher," a big flash like pros used, to take pictures at football games and whatnot.

The camera, I just carried around all day at school and took photos of the other nobodies like myself. The yearbook's main photographer was another senior, but this guy was born to be a pro photographer. He already had tons of equipment and experience and was being counted on to deliver the great shots.

Steve did fantastic work, but there was only one issue with all of that; Mrs. D, the teacher in charge of the yearbook wanted photos and she wanted them fast. And a bunch of them.

What to do? Steve was such a social person, he often was able to take photos at events but somehow didn't have much time for grinding out the film and print work in the school's darkroom.

"Uh, Mrs. D? I can stay late on school days, and I can come in on weekends and do darkroom work for you. As much as you want. Whenever you want," Said I.

She looked at me like I had a two heads. A high school student, working on a yearbood for which he got no credit, and for which he was willing to work what amounted to a part-time job for free? She immediately took me up on my offer.

My feet didn't touch the ground for two weeks. Unlimited Kodak Tri-X (ISO 400, B&W film) for the school year, and as many prints as I could churn out for Mrs. D.

When the film was developed, I would make contact prints by putting a piece of 8x10 light sensitive paper down, lay out the strips of film, flatten it it all together with a piece of glass and shine the enlarger light on them for a few seconds, and then develop that print and let it dry.

Mrs. D would take a stack of these contact sheets, each showing small pics of a whole roll of film, examine them with a loupe and circle the ones she wanted me to print.

After school for many days and many weekends through the year, I did much of the darkroom work. Steve did his share, but I was Mrs. D's go-to guy for rush jobs and weekend work.

But the sweetest part of the whole deal is that I made sure, with Mrs. D's blessing, to develop lots of photos of the nobodies, dregs, and wretches that usually never make it to the yearbook because yearbook space is usually given over to the beautiful and the popular. I'm very proud of my senior year yearbook because lots of folks got their pics in there that wouldn't have otherwise because of lack of being a jock or popular.

Why in the heck is this post titled Jumpin' John then?

Well, one Monday after my high school's football team had won a playoff game the previous week, several classmates called to me in the hall. "Hey! There's Jumpin' John!" and then move on. I had no idea what they were talking about.

Finally someone on the football team told me. They had all come in Sunday afternoon to watch films of the game, and when our running back scored the winning touchdown, the coaches rewound the game film, and then said, "Now, watch what happens on the upper part of the sideline when and after the score."

And they re-ran that portion of the film, and there was Me on the sideline, camera held to my eye, waiting for the running back to dive for the short touchdown, took a couple of shots, watched for the umpire's signal confirming the score, whereupon I apparently started running and leaping and dancing up and down the far-side sideline.

The football team got a laugh out of it, and the coaches re-wound the film and they watched it again, and one of the coaches mentioned for the players to watch and see that I got the shots, waited for the official to signal the score, and THEN started my celebrations.

So I was Jumpin' John there for a few weeks in the fall of my senior high school year, and then some other schmuck did something stupid and they left me alone and started eating on other carrion. High school students have short attention spans thankfully.

Not that I cared anyway, I was bigger than most all of them and they were sure to do their picking on me in a good-natured way.

Anyhoo, that's my story.

The top pic is of a physics classmate pretending to pound Mr. Luther with a dusty chalkboard eraser.

The middle pic is of a behind-the-lines tackle I photographed in a playoff game against Lake Charles High School.

The final photo is a bust of none other than the great William Shakespeare, dressed up as a Neville Tiger fan. It was in our English class.


Hammer said...

Just goes to show that a real go getter can make things happen.

I don't see many kids with that much gumption these days, a few but not many.

Babystepper said...

Well, JJ, looks like you've been a great photographer for a very long time.

Reading your post, I think that means I would've made it into your yearbook that year. That's a very nice thing to know. And a very clever idea.

This Eclectic Life said...

Way cool story, "Jumpin' John." I was on the school yearbook in my day, and I know what you mean about it only being the "beautiful people." Didn't High School stink? I'm so glad I'm not that age again. Thanks for the story and the cool memories (and some not so cool) that it brought back. The stories that conjure memories are the best kind of all.

Sharon Lynne said...

Glad your back in the saddle with a good story to tell! Yep...you brought back a lot of memories. My 16 year old son is at the same high school I went to. It's such a wierd feeling to walk through the halls...walk past my locker...the lunch area, etc. A few of the teachers are still there who were VERY YOUNG when I was there 30-something years ago!

I would have made it in your yearbook also.

Moi said...

am glad i decided to vist this blog of urs....the pics are precious.....the first one had me laughing for a long, long time..love the expression on the classmate's face......the second one is a piece of art and third one is hilarious!!! :)

Ben said...

Great story, thanks for sharing.
No one is born to be a first class photographer, everyone has some leaning period, it's just different pace maybe but we all getting somewhere as long as we keep shooting.

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