Brenna Smark, Reporter
John Sanford is a computer network engineering student and the multimedia facilitator through the Student Technology Assistance Team at Pierce College Puyallup. Students may recognize Sanford working at the front desk of the Student Media Center in the Arts and Allied Health Building.
The SMC is a computer lab specific in software and additional features for web design, such as Adobe Photoshop. Working in the SMC opposed to all the other labs was optimal for him because of his background in photography and editing, Sanford said.
“Back in the day I used to be a certified Photoshop master,” Sanford said. “I used to work Photoshop about 30-50 hours a week for 15 years.”
Sanford became introduced to Photoshop through his career as a photographer.
“I used to freelance, and when my son was born I got offered a job at a department store in Portland called Meier and Frank,” Sanford said. “They owned about 16 stores and the way it used to work is the photographer would set up with the stylist and shoot, and they would retest their stuff and turn it in for layout, so that’s where I learned.”
Sanford enjoys working in the SMC and helping students learn how to use Photoshop because in the modern era, the original ways of doing edits with Photoshop have been diminishing.
“Nowadays you may do color balancing, and if you’re fast and sneaky, maybe do a little clean up,” Sanford said. “They have digital retouchers now and that’s all they do. So you shoot it up, put in a folder and something else does it for you now.”
The process of photo editing has become compartmentalized over the years for efficiency’s sake, but for someone such as Sanford who had to complete the whole process himself, it’s easy to see mistakes that are made in modern publications. The original process of editing is his personal preference because he has control over such mistakes, Sanford said.
“Most people don’t see the mistakes, but I’ve got that experienced eye and it’s just annoying,” Sanford said. “If it’s my stuff, I want it done right.”
Sanford holds a passion for photography, but it’s been his strongest passion since he was 10 years old.
“I had watched a movie called The Pleasure Seekers. It was a James Bondish kinda movie and there was a scene with a fashion photographer on this roof doing this big, cool fashion photoshoot,” Sanford said. “I was just amazed. My mother remembers me saying I wanna do that when I grow up, I wanna take pictures of beautiful girls. What a dork.”
Sanford had some bumps on his way to following photography as his passion.
“I tried to get into photo class in high school, but back then there was only six spots and I never got in the entire three years I tried. So, that kind of bummed me out,” Sanford said.
Sanford’s luck changed, however, when he went to college.
“I went to college, took a photo class, and I found out about a school called Brooks Institute of Photography. It was a world class place to go,” Sanford said. “I went to Brooks and my eyes were stretched wide open as to what photography really was.”
After attending Brooks, Sanford spent 27 years taking photos professionally. A lot of his work revolved around advertising photography, Sanford said.
“I enjoy doing photography for fun, artsy things to, but when your passion becomes your business you do a lot of work,” Sanford said. “For the first 12 years of my career my work days were 10 hours easy. So, you get home and it’s like you’ve done more than enough and you don’t really have the motivation or time to do fun stuff like shooting your cousin’s wedding.”
Using his passion for work and working 10 hour or more days, however, never hindered Sanford’s love for photography and Photoshop.
“I still love it. It’s like putting together a puzzle. When you’re doing it professionally you really have to know what you’re doing and know how to solve problems,” Sanford said. “People would get so bored with retouching and Photoshop stuff and I’d just be fascinated in how it works and how it changes things.”
Sanford embraced the challenges that his passion brought him face to face with.
“If you take two photos of the same thing and one’s really nicely retouched and done up and the other one’s not, people can clearly tell which one’s nicer. They may not be able to tell you why, but they can tell which one is nicer,” Sanford said. “That’s the goal. The goal is to not leave any footprints, so there’s always this challenge.”
Sanford has enjoyed and appreciated all the opportunities that photography has given him.
“I’ve hung out with Aerosmith. I’ve shot the drive shaft of a nuclear power plant, I’ve photographed Serena Williams, and I’ve been on the set with Green Day,” Sanford said.
After a long career with photography, Sanford said he’s done with it now.
“It’s kinda sad, but I was the senior photographer for the Home Shopping Network for the past eight years. I’ve shot all kinds of stuff and I’ve got ads all over the place in Vanity Fairs and Better Homes and Gardens and such, and after doing something professionally for that long it kinda dies down,” Sanford says. “We moved up here from Florida and after looking for a good job for two and a half years I couldn’t find one. So it’s good work if you can get it, but if you can’t get it, it doesn’t pay the bills.”
Photography is opinionated work, Sanford said. If a company doesn’t like a photographer’s stuff, they just won’t hire them.
Sanford doesn’t see himself as an advertiser for his work. He refers to himself as a doer. He said he’s good at what he does, but he doesn’t advertise it very well. That’s part of the problem with finding good work.
This is why Sanford started working at the SMC. Studying to become a computer network engineer and helping to teach others his passions is the next best thing, Sanford said.