All because

          In high school I loved to write. My friends knew me as a writer and some actually thought I was good at it. After getting a distinguished senior portfolio, I started to think I was too, until I went to the University of Kentucky. Two years there have intimidated me and helped me to realize what real writing is.

           I applied several times to work at UK’s independent student newspaper, the Kentucky Kernel. I was getting nothing back in response, so finally I said that I wanted to write sports, news, features, edit, design and photography. On the side I was applying to a few other local newspapers to write. When those responses came back almost immediately I was tempted to accept, until Dave LaBelle came to my journalism 101 class to speak.

           Although Dave is an incredible speaker, I’m not sure it was his words that convinced me to try photography. Dave showed our class his work and the whole time I sat in my seat thinking to myself, “I want to give someone feelings like I’m getting right now.” His photography was beautiful but more importantly it was emotional. That’s significant because Dave is an emotional and compassionate person.          Around that same time I got an email from the current photo editor, Keith Smiley. He was responding to my application. He recently found my first email to him:

          Hey I’m excited about the meeting, this being my first actual contact with anybody since turning in my contact sheet.  I have a question as to what the cell phone project is, and if I could do anything to help with that.
          Also, I wont be able to make it right at 4 (at least I don’t think anyways) because of my classes.  But I’m close so I’ll be there right at 4:15.
           Looking forward to the meeting,

          This started my relationship with the Kernel. During that meeting Dave welcomed me with open arms that meeting. I went out and dropped my graduation money and summer savings on a camera with two kit lenses. Since that I’ve been in love with photojournalism and learning every aspect of it. Dave comes into all of that, having taught me everything and been there for me like I was his own.

           It was two years ago that I met Dave. He’s became more than just my teacher. He and his family have become good friends of mine. Over the time I’ve known Dave I’ve heard so much about his high school photo teacher and how he saved him. Overtime, I was able to put together how important Mr. MacArthur, or Grandpa Mac as his kids call him, was for Dave. Just as Dave was able to spark my interest in photography, Grandpa Mac helped Dave get his foot in photography’s door as well.

          Dave always told me about how he didn’t like school and try. With a little chuckle, Grandpa Mac says he was a hooligan who was skipping class. He wasn’t sure what he was getting into when he accepted Dave’s mother’s pleas to allow him into the class.

           When Dave was in high school his mother went to Mr. MacArthur to ask him to allow Dave into his photo class. It was the only thing he showed interest in, and she convinced Grandpa Mac to accept Dave in front of the 300 kids that were in line for the class. Grandpa Mac called Dave the best photojournalist the school has ever seen and that he’s ever taught.

          Before I even met Dave’s teacher, he told me that he didn’t know his mother had done that for him until a few years ago when Grandpa Mac told him. It seems unfair that such a pivotal event went unnoticed for so long in Dave’s life. Dave was never able to thank his mother for her efforts. She passed when he was young.

          For about an hour Ed, Elliott and I sat in Grandpa Mac’s living room and dumped our pictures onto our computers while Dave tried to explain to Grandpa Mac what we were doing.

          “We’re developing our film basically,” Dave said. “What I’m doing is taking my pictures from this little disc and putting them onto my laptop where I can see the processed pictures and do our editing.”

          Grandpa Mac just looked up and gave a slight chuckle.

          “You may as well be speaking Chinese to me,” he said.

          On the wall behind the couch I sat one were beautiful black and whites Grandpa Mac had taken over the years. I could tell most of the images were personal. The whole thing seemed so symbolic. It seems I could never give it the poetic justice that it deserves.           Here in one room was Dave, who seems responsible for giving me such an itch for journalism. But really, I needed to thank Grandpa Mac because without his empathy for Dave’s situation around 40 years ago I wouldn’t be in Ventura, California right now. I wouldn’t have driven the amazing 5,000 miles this summer and there is a strong chance I would have cashed out to something far more useless than my camera.

          All of that is debatable and philosophical fun, but even if you refuse to appreciate the beauty of such an undisclosed alternative future, it’s hard to say that it’s not just flat out cool to meet your teacher’s teacher.

           Even though he’s bound to a wheelchair from an aggressive cancer that the doctor’s said would take his life over 14 years ago, Grandpa Mac is still teaching. While telling us stories of shooting ship wrecks and his own stories of war, he would stop to tell Dave’s children, Henry and Tucker, to stop this or that because they were going to hurt themselves. As soon as they would calm down he would continue.

           Grandpa Mac may have not been able to understand the foreign language of our technology now, but he appreciated it. No matter how many times he said it didn’t make sense to him, he continued to hush the kids so he could hear Dave talk about how it worked.           That really gave me an appreciation for learning, because when I was talking to Grandpa Mac while everyone else was playing, running around the yard or taking pics he told me about when he was diagnosed. He said they told him he would die in two years, so he believed it. He started giving his slides (photos) away, didn’t buy anything new and was basically in a state of waiting. He told me about how much he regretted doing that because he gave away a lot of beautiful, historic and symbolic images.

           Grandpa Mac still has an astounding symbol since diagnosis. It’s his will to keep learning. If a 93-year-old man can sit knowing he’ll never use this technology and want to hear about it just so he can have an idea of what his student(s) are doing now, then I feel like I can learn anything and have the time to do it all.

           I have a definite spot on the Kernel staff next semester. But if I had to fill out an application I would still check everything. Design, sports, news, features, editing and photography. The only difference this time around would be that I wouldn’t be waiting on a response from an editor. I’m going to ask questions, get stories and learn as much as I possibly can, no matter how much the AP style, design rules and news lingo seems like Chinese.


9 Responses to “All because”

  1. I just wanted to let you know how much i loved reading this. Dave sparked my interest in photojournalism too, my sophomore year when he came to speak at my school. i remember sitting there completly mesmerized by his photos of fish jumping into walls and old people escaping nursing homes. And if it werent for Dave i would not have even known about the kernel. so really, i would not be reading this blog, or leaving this comment. I would most likely end up like those poor other career suicide journalism majors with no real world experience. I totally feel your alternate future thing.

  2. I love how you’ve told the story of meeting Grandpa Mac! I’m really inspired by what you guys are doing out west. Keep the pics and the blog entries coming!!!!

  3. You are a good writer, Brad. I’m better, but you are good.

  4. Just so you know this part of your entry “It’s his will to keep learning. If a 93-year-old man can sit knowing he’ll never use this technology and want to hear about it just so he can have an idea of what his student(s) are doing now, then I feel like I can learn anything and have the time to do it all.”

    In 60 years, I hope this is me still listening to you!! I love this!! You are awesome…

  5. Shannon M. Says:

    Brad–I was bored and thought I’d get up to date on your blog. Little did I know you’d almost bring me to tears with the second entry I’ve read today. Bravo. :) Hope you guys are having fun, but we can’t wait to get you all back here in Lex.

  6. […] to play guitar. In high school I learned that I love to write. My interest in photography came my freshman year in college. Throughout my life I’ve fallen in love with art through its many medias. The most likely […]

  7. […] I’ve already written my farewell to Dave LaBelle. I wrote it in California, a place I have only ever seen because Dave loved me enough to invite me […]

  8. […] journalism, the real journalism, for three years now. I took multiple applications to the Kernel, talked about in this blog,  and after a semester at the Kernel I was assistant photo editor. Looking back that had more to do […]

  9. […] the future It pains me to tell you that Grandpa Mac died Sept. 7. He was […]

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