Dave LaBelle, Photo 1, Classmates and Teachers

It was 19 years ago when I walked in a Photo 1 classroom at Western Kentucky University for a class taught by Dave LaBelle. I was freshman who had big newspaper dreams. One of my classmates was transfer student from the University of Pennsylvania named Francis Gardler. He was one of the students who seemed to have it together, was level headed and organized. Other classmates included Craig Fritz and Patrick Witty. These three people were the ones who motivated me. One of the biggest lessons I learned in that class was desire to work. If I rested, one of my classmates of would out hustle me. I learned as much from them as I did from my teachers. There are times when I wish I stayed at Western, but I went west to Kansas after a while. Dave, who worked there for a period of time, told me of all the great photographers who came from Kansas. He encouraged me along my own path.

For as much as I claim Kansas University and the University of North Texas as my alma maters, Dave’s Photo 1 class put me on the track to become the photographer I am today. Dave taught the class with enthusiasm and passion. Looking back on it now, as someone who has a taught a Photo 1 class, my attitude as a student was not the best, but I learned. I can easily spot those students in my classes now who have my old mindset, stubborn. Part of the reason why enjoy teaching is the teachers that have had, not only Dave, but Rich ClarksonBill Snead, Mike WilliamsBrent Phelps, Dornith Doherty, Susan kae Grant and Denise Baxter. All of these people have a common thread, they are passionate about teaching. Each time I walk into the classroom, I hope that I have that same enthusiasm that they all had shown me. If Dave had not shown a slideshow about Brian Lanker, I do not think I would have been able to approach Rich Clarkson to show him my work. That slideshow has stuck with me for a long time too. He had a photo of a high school football player after a game in a locker room that knocked my socks off. That photograph helped point me in the direction I was to go on.

Francis recently completed a documentary about Dave for his MA Thesis at the Ohio University School of Visual Communication. See it for yourself. Make up your own mind about it.

Dave LaBelle | The Lesson from Francis Gardler on Vimeo.