Our Miss Brooks
No, it's not what your are thinking — this has nothing to do with me. Just a coincidence of names. Instead, I have an odd observation about old time radio.
If you ever find yourself tiring (as I have been of late) of the incessant sex, violence, and profanity in today's typical Hollywood productions, there is always old time radio and the early days of TV. I've been listening to a radio show (and later a television comedy) from the 1950s called Our Miss Brooks starring Eve Arden (available from www.archive.org). Some of you might remember it, but if you don't, just think of Lucille Ball in I Love Lucy and you will be pretty close. In fact, the television version of Our Miss Brooks ran concurrently with I Love Lucy and was also produced by Desilu — surely not a coincidence. For my money, Our Miss Brooks was every bit as funny and entertaining as I Love Lucy. I'm enjoying the innocence and naiveté of these shows — in spite of their somewhat predictable plots, over-the-top sight gags, and corny puns. The reason it pertains to this commentary on still photography will become apparent in a moment.
In Our Miss Brooks, one of the main characters is played by a young "Dick Crenna," — later known as Richard Crenna. He went on in his career to larger fame as a regular on the television show The Real McCoys and also on the big screen as both an actor and director. You may remember him from the Rambo films or playing opposite Audrey Hepburn in Wait Until Dark. He also directed a number of episodes of The Andy Griffith Show in 1963-64 when he was in his late 30s. His is an impressive and long-term success in Hollywood spanning 40 years. He died in 2003.
What struck me about him and Our Miss Brooks that pertains to us photographers is the training ground that Our Miss Brooks and similar shows provided for young actors. Similarly, in watching episodes of The Twilight Zone, it's fun to see so many actors that we recognize for their later, more famous roles — William Shatner (Star Trek), Inger Stevens (The Farmer's Daughter), Jack Klugman (The Odd Couple/ Quincy MD), Dick York (Bewitched), Donna Douglas (The Beverly Hillbillies), etc . These early radio and television shows prepared Crenna and so many other actors for their later success. What is the learning equivalent for still photographers?
Sure, we can post our photographs in the local restaurant or community college gallery, but such local exposure hardly compares. There are some magazines that might be the functional equivalent — perhaps even LensWork itself. But, I can't help but think that we need more of these types of opportunities for young photographers to learn, practice, grow, and develop their craft. The primary gallery scene in photography is for accomplished masters — especially in the better, more established galleries, certainly in all the major museums. Book publishers are somewhat narrowly focused on the accomplished masters, too. Perhaps it is the Internet that provides the best training ground for developing photographers; perhaps Blurb; perhaps the ubiquitous photo contests. Somehow, none of these examples seems to rise to the level of training I see in these early television and radio broadcasts — perhaps because they garnered an nationwide audience where a local photography exhibit in the corner sandwich shop is, well, not nationwide.
And one other observation, if I may. Because the venues and audience for budding photographers is so limited and often amongst their photographic peers, there is the risk of becoming inbred by training. The young actors of early radio and television had the general public as their audience — an inoculation against the becoming self-absorbed and a self-limiting clique. We photographers far too often produce photographs for an audience of other photographers. We are a bit of a closed circle. Perhaps that, too, could be overcome with a better training ground for emerging photographers.
I wish I had an answer how to accomplish this, but I don't — other than the magazine we produce that emphasizes emerging photographers with every issue. My biggest regret so far in our publishing career is that LensWork is still read primarily by the photographic community rather than the public at large. Perhaps there simply isn't an answer for this, but as a community, we could desperately use one.
Brooks' books on photography and the creative process are available in print from Lulu.com, and as eBooks for Kindle or EPUB readers. As one of the membership benefits, these eBooks are available in their entirety to members of LensWork Online via download.