Veterans Create Art in USF Photography Class

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The University of South Florida Museum of Contemporary Art pilots a five week photography program that has a unique group of students.

The class, called “Break down barriers, “is small with only 15 participants, but they all have something in common – every student is a veteran.

Dressed in a blue Hawaiian shirt and slightly twisted hat, student Larry Busby pulls a lime green Dum-Dum lollipop from what appears to be an endless stash in his backpack.

Busby joined the Navy in 1978 and studied photography before taking a long break.

“After leaving the Navy 10 years later, I put down my camera and went out to find a real job,” said Busby. “I didn’t want to do the starving artist thing, so I finally became a park ranger and have been a park ranger for about 24 years.”

Now that he’s about to retire, Busby has decided to start taking photos again. But the last time he took pictures he was using a darkroom to develop a film.

After not working with a camera for about three decades, Busby was lost in today’s digital age.

Credit Larry Busby

A self-portrait of Larry Busby taken during the lesson.

“About two years ago, I chose [photography] and the whole world had changed, ”said Busby. “I didn’t know what a JPEG or a raw file was, I didn’t know the difference. Megabytes, megapixels, I didn’t know anything about it, so I had to learn it.

Professor Jim reiman taught students how to use Adobe Lightroom. Reiman is also the principal photographer of Tampa Art Institute.

“This is a photography workshop where we introduce students to the ways to take portraits,” Reiman said. “Every week we talk about a concept a little bit, then we do some technical work, then we try to put it all together.”

With all of Busby’s experience, he has an eye for great photos. This course gives him the opportunity to improve his photos.

“It’s like giving more brushes to a painter,” Busby said. “The more brushes a painter has, the more creative he can be, right? Same thing here. The more brushes I have here with the technology, the more creative I can be.

As Busby seeks a career in photography, for his classmate Jayme Williams, art is a hobby. She served in the Navy for six years before graduating from USF Sarasota-Manatee in 2017.

“I love to photograph everything, especially insects, nature and animals,” Williams said. “What I really love to do is express myself, so photography is one of those things where, whatever you do, people can’t tell you if it’s good, bad, or a bad photo. It’s you. “

Part of the class is the self portrait, which Busby uses to tell his own story.

He was piloting a P-3 Orion spy plane when he was in the Navy. As a ranger, he had to put out forest fires and clean up debris from hurricanes.

“I hide my face in all of these pictures that tell my story of my work,” Busby said. “These are nameless and faceless jobs. No one knows who did it, but someone did and it was me.

The USF CAM will select two photographs of each of the 15 students at the end of the class. These photos will be exhibited on December 12 and 13.


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