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How the Darkroom Experience Applies to the Digital “Lightroom”

Interviews with artists, photographers and writers living and working on the creative fulcrum between fine art and art for industry
by Geoff Bush

With fifty-plus years working with great creative minds in the ad industry in both management and creative capacities, I have always been fascinated with the choices and rationales offered by the best of the best for the application of their talents to the commercial world. The most experienced of these individuals also presents an opportunity to learn about changes – technical, social and personal, providing insight to what those planning to make a career in creativity. In this dialogue Roderick Bley, a deeply experience photographer, demonstrates the importance of singular focus on a craft to achieve personal creative goals.

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How the Darkroom Experience Applies to the Digital “Lightroom”

An interview with Roderick Bley, professional digital photographer.

Question #1 – How did you get started in photography?

You could say that I was literally born into the industry.  When I was a teenager my parents owned a photo lab where I am sure I was as much a hindrance as a help, but it’s where I caught the bug. Even before the photo lab my public school librarian knew that I was interested in photography and would loan me the school camera, a Russian Zenith E. This continued throughout high school where I joined the camera club and the yearbook club. If you were looking for me, the school darkroom is where you would find me. Also did local wedding photography and learned a lot about personal photography.

Question #2 – Tell us about your formal education in photography.

I was fortunate to have been accepted into the photo technology program at Ryerson Polytechnical Institute in Toronto.  This was a four year program but I was well prepared because of my practical experience. So my professor advised me to head out into the real world after my second year. I took his advice and he was right because photographic education was just beginning.

Question #3 – Tell us a bit about your real first career in photography.

I had a number of paying jobs while in Toronto but my first “career” job was working for a small family run photo lab in Calgary, Alberta Canada. As with most young entrepreneurs the thought of owning my own business was always on my mind but the path to get there started on the night shift. The company was expanding its operations and I graduated to the day shift where I was quickly involved in assisting the business build a new location and move the operations. It was also during this time frame that I first met the Kodak rep, a great guy named Joe Davis, who was working with a world leader in the photographic industry with great products. There appeared to be some hope of becoming part of the business. The family had other thoughts so I decided it best to head out on my own and opened a small black and white photo lab. I kept taking landscape and scenic photographs and sent them to various stock agencies in the hopes of selling the rights. In the early days I was fortunate since the agencies were looking for fresh talent and new images. As the years went by they became more demanding and required a certain “quota” to retain their audience. I really enjoyed the photography but had a young family to care for and the chance for speculative income was trumped by a need for the steady work in the photo lab.

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