Photography course

Veterans Create Art in USF Photography Class

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University of South Florida Museum of Contemporary Art runs a five-week photography program that has a unique group of students.

The class, called “Break down barriers,” is small with only 15 participants, but they all have one thing in common: every student is a veteran.

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

Busby joined the Navy in 1978 and was educated as a photographer before taking a long hiatus.

“After I left the Navy, 10 years later, I put my camera down and went out to find a real job,” Busby said. “I didn’t want to do the starving artist thing, so I finally became a ranger and I’ve been a ranger for about 24 years.”

Now that he is about to retire, Busby has decided to start taking pictures again. But the last time he took pictures, he was using a darkroom to develop the film.

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

A self-portrait of Larry Busby taken during class.

“About two years ago I chose [photography] 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 anything about it, so I had to learn.

Teacher Jim Reiman taught students how to use Adobe Lightroom. Reiman is also the principal photographer of The Tampa Art Institute.

“This is a photography workshop where we introduce students to ways to do portraits,” Reiman said. “Each week we talk a 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 shots. This class gives him the opportunity to improve his photos.

“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 seeks a career in photography, for her schoolmate Jayme Williams, art is a hobby. She served in the Navy for six years before graduating from USF Sarasota-Manatee in 2017.

“I love photographing 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 good, bad. or bad photo. It’s you.”

Part of the class is devoted to self-portraiture, which Busby uses as a way to tell his own story.

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

“I’m obscuring my face in all these images that tell the story of my jobs,” Busby said. “These are nameless and faceless jobs. No one knows who did it, but someone did and it was me.

USF CAM will select two photographs of each of the 15 students at the end of the course. These photos will be exhibited on December 12 and 13.

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