A Long Time Ago About 4 Hours Away…

Windham Road Circa 1981This is another of The Photo Elective series of photographs that Tina, I and every other illustration major attending The Philadelphia College of Art were required to shoot, process and print. My guess is that the notion of the class was that it enabled the students to compose within the frame of the viewfinder and to learn a process. It was also handy for capturing one’s own reference photos rather than relying on the school’s picked over library. I think the real creativity of the course for the student was trying to figure out how to eat once a staggering sum of money was spent on 35mm SLR cameras, photographic supplies and processing gear. I recall the panic that swept the sophomore illustrators as they received the laundry list of pricey gear REQUIRED for the 1.5 credit course.

This isn’t fair! I’m not a photo major! I just want to paint pretty pictures!

Flash forward a few decades, and very few of the former illustration majors look back fondly at our illustrative efforts on double-thick illustration board (it won’t bow if you Gesso the back!) They are forgotten in the backs of closets or decomposing in landfills.

And what is precious?

Speaking for myself, those monochromatic frames of celluloid shot during the hated Photo Elective are the true treasures! The assigned shots may be contrived, but the throwaway shots like the one above that Tina shot around her hometown in Connecticut captured places, times, moods and certainly cars that are long gone. (Love the Gremlin!) This was an everyday scene. Who would bother capturing it? Fortunately, Tina did.

My regret is that we didn’t shoot a whole lot more.


If you attended the art school when it was known as The Philadelphia College of Art, consider joining our unofficial and informal Facebook group The ARCO Park Preservation Society. Any major is welcome as well as teachers, employees and hangers-on! Check it out!

…and bring those negatives!

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