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Veterans Create Art In USF Photography Course

Aug 22, 2018

The University of South Florida’s Contemporary Art Museum is piloting a five-week photography program that has a unique group of students.

The class, called "Breaking Barriers," is small with just 15 participants, but they all have something in common - each student is a veteran.

Donned in a blue Hawaiian shirt and a slightly crooked hat, student Larry Busby pulls a lime-green Dum-Dum lollipop from what seems to be an endless supply in his backpack. 

Busby joined the Navy in 1978 and went through school as a photographer before taking a lengthy break.

“After I got out of the Navy, 10 years later, I set my camera down and went out to get a real job,” Busby said. “I didn’t want to do the starving artist thing, so I became a park ranger eventually and I’ve been a park ranger for about 24 years.”

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

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

A self-portrait of Larry Busby taken during the class.
Credit Larry Busby

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

Professor Jim Reiman taught the students to use Adobe Lightroom. Reiman is also the lead photographer at The Art Institute Tampa.

“This is a photography workshop where we introduce the students to means of making portraits,” Reiman said. “Every week we talk a little bit about a concept, 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 finding great photos. This class is giving him the ability to make his pictures better.

“It’s like giving a painter more brushes,” 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 technology, the more creative I can be.”

While Busby is looking to make a career out of photography, for fellow classmate Jayme Williams, the 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 like to do is express myself, so photography is one of those things where no matter what you do, people can’t tell you if it’s a good, bad or wrong photo. It’s you.”

A part of the class is self-portraiture, which Busby is using as a way to tell his own story.

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

“I obscure my face in all these pictures that tell my story of my jobs,” Busby said. “They’re nameless, faceless jobs. Nobody knows who did it, but someone did and that was me.”

USF’s CAM will select two photographs from each of the 15 students at the end of the class. Those pictures will be put on display December 12 and 13.