Interview with Ysarex!

terri

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Welcome to another TPF Member Spotlight!

This forum is designed, quite simply, to showcase our members. It’s not meant to be a pretentious show, or make anyone feel self-conscious about their work style or artistic preferences. These interviews are casual chats just to get to know each other better - a celebration of our wide, diverse group of photographers who, despite coming from a variety of backgrounds, all come to TPF because of a shared love for photography.

TPF is a wonderful community and it’s worthwhile to shine the spotlight on our members. This means YOU, reading this – don’t be surprised if you hear from us asking for an interview!

Remember, each interview segment will be left open like a regular thread, so you can ask your own questions or comment on things you may have learned. This is our new way to highlight the skill sets and display the unique styles of our wonderful community.

Enjoy!

Now, onto our interview – member Ysarex!


Tell us about your photographic journey. What got you interested in photography?

Bought a used Pentax Spotmatic for $25.00 from an acquaintance who had dropped the lens and the rear element cracked in half -- still took pictures. Around 1970?

Moved to Saint Louis for grad school. I needed a job and the local camera store was hiring. There I met Jim Herren, staff photographer for the Saint Louis Baseball Cardinals. I learned photography from Jim and between working at the shop and following Jim around I moved in the direction of photography as a career. By the time I was ready to leave the camera store I had started doing odd jobs for hire.

My best story from that time was when I managed the greatest sale ever. I was responsible for buying and selling used equipment so when someone came in with a camera to sell the staff got me. A young man came into the store with a classic Polaroid SX70 (brown leather original) and wanted to sell it. He was in the front of the store. The store was pretty long front to back. We settled on a price and I took the camera and asked him to please wait while I went to the office to get him a check.

To get to the office I walked to the back of the store (cash register there) and as I was turning toward the office a customer saw the camera in my hand and asked if it was for sale. I told him yes, handed him the camera and gave him a price. I then told him I had to run to the office, check out the camera and see what you think.

Back from the office I asked the customer if he wanted the camera. He said yes. I rang it up, put the camera and his receipt in a bag and he headed for the front door. At the front of the store I handed the young man his check and thanked him. As he left the store the fellow who had just bought his camera held the door for him -- they left together both unaware of what I had just done.




Ysarex-photo-01.jpg

“Shortly after I started working at the camera store I moved into a homeless shelter on the city's north side (ghetto). I lived there for between 6 and 7 years and stayed involved with the effort for over 25 years. Whenever I got a chance I hit the streets with a camera and walked the neighborhood. I photographed the people and the place.”


While working at the camera store, I also met the various faculty at the local colleges and universities. I thought I'd like to try teaching. I started dropping hints. That didn't work and I realized that only the proper credentials would open that door, so I enrolled in a Masters program in photography. I chose a university in Saint Louis as I was committed to staying there -- soon to be married. When one of those faculty I had dropped hints with came in the store, I announced what I had done and I was soon offered a job to teach the following semester.




Ysarex-photo-02.jpg

“[Another] from that series, basically dating from the first half of the 1980s.”


I landed a full-time teaching job at one of the other local colleges as soon as I graduated and, in 1985, started what would be my primary career. I retired in 2009 after 26 years teaching and continued to teach part-time until the recent pandemic struck. It's likely now I won't work again. For one I feel responsible to not take a job that a younger person needs. This is tangential to that but worth saying publicly given any opportunity. What's going on across this country in higher ed is shameful. The past 30 + years have seen most of the institutions trimming their full-time faculty to the bone and then abusing a large pool of part-time teachers. I taught a class part-time a decade ago at a campus with 11 full-time faculty and 120 part-time faculty. That's abusive of everyone involved, the part-time faculty, the full-time faculty and the students.



Ysarex-photo-03.jpg

“[A third] from that series...basically dating from the first half of the 1980s. This one because it's soon Father's day.”


Do you have a favorite kit or setup that is your usual go-to?


My go-to camera is my Canon G7xmkII. I take it with me everywhere I go and use it almost daily. I have always wanted a camera with me at all times. I tried during the film era and didn't do too well I think because you had to wait to process the film. With the conversion to digital I started carrying those little shirt pocket compacts but they were too frustrating as JPEG only cameras. Far too often I'd be stymied by the camera's inability to save a raw file. My compromise is a camera like the G7, not quite shirt pocket but it saves a CR2 file.

To the G7's credit the cameras that don't get to go out the door with me every day include a Nikon Z7 and my Fuji X cameras. I'm partial to the Fuji X-T2.



You’ve mentioned being a photographic instructor at a local college. What did you find the most challenging about that job?

Money grubbing bureaucrats. They have no concern for the institution's goal to educate students. They count beans and everything for them exists in terms of how many beans. They can destroy anything.

The most rewarding?

I'll answer that with a short story: I was in the park a couple weeks ago. Posted this thread and photo: Saturday in the Park While I was walking past the lake I heard someone shouting, "Joe, hey Joe, Joe!" I turned and saw one of my students from at least 15 years ago. She was there taking graduation photos. If not for the pandemic I would have gotten a big hug. She very proudly held up her camera and said, "See! I'm still taking pictures!"



What would be, from start to finish, your perfect day?
Twice – first, when he was 13, and then again the summer between his Junior/Senior years in high school - my son and I canoed down the upper Mississippi. In the collection of photos supplied #5 is the desktop image on my computer. We had stopped for a rest just north of Dubuque Iowa -- a perfect day.

Ysarex-photo-04.jpg
“Photos #4 and #5 are from time on the river. Sunrise and moonset near Clarksville MO and my son and our canoe just above Dubuque IA stopping for a rest. The two river photos are 2005 and 2006 and represent my earliest digital cameras.”




Do you have a favorite photograph – from any photographer, of any period? One that perhaps inspired you to take up photography, or informs your own style?

Nope. I have too many favorites and I'm not going to single out one or even 20 and then not list the rest and I would never try to rank them.


Ysarex-photo-05.jpg

“[Another ]from time on the river. Sunrise and moonset near Clarksville MO and my son and our canoe just above Dubuque IA stopping for a rest.”




Do you have a favorite photographic subject?

I'm an opportunist. I find subjects from whatever I'm doing at the time. I do tend to find something and then stick with it for awhile. For example, when I chose the Mississippi river as a vehicle to help raise my son, it likewise became the focus of my photography at that time.

When I retired, I started to go for long walks around the neighborhood and photograph what I saw. This led to some themes because I saw a lot of repetitive things. Right now most of my time is devoted to helping my wife in the garden -- lots of flower photos.


Ysarex-photo-07.jpg

“[This] photo represents my life long involvement with plants. I married a botanist and very serious gardener. The peaches we grew from a peach seed. Tomorrow in fact I have to go mow one of our new mini orchard lots where my wife and I are planting more fruit trees.





How do you view the current state of photography, in general?
Never been better. More photography in more forms from more participants is all good.



Ysarex-photo-06.jpg

“I live in St. Louis which is a very Catholic city and my neighborhood is ethnic Italian – Catholic ground zero. In Italian Catholicism Mary is revered above all other deities and all good Italian Catholics have shrines to Mary in their yards. I’ve photographed hundreds of Mary shrines in yards around the neighborhood on my walks. [This] is one of my favorites (Fatima).”



If money were no object, is there a special fun *thing* you’d like to buy? It doesn’t have to be anything related to photography.

Nope. I have everything I need and there’s nothing I want.




Ysarex-photo-08.jpg

“A sweet potato vine. I love the photo just a little more than I love digging sweet potatoes with my bare hands.”




Where would you like to travel, if you could go anywhere for any amount of time? Why this place?


Everywhere. And now fully retired and financially secure I have the means if I wanted to travel. I do, but I won't. I'm part of the generation that has brought our planet to the brink of apocalypse. No silver bullet is going to save us and if we want to avoid our grandchildren living through some Mad Max nightmare, if they survive at all, we have to stop and stop now. I'm not going to live a lot longer. But I now think I may live to see the collapse of the global food production system. We starve to death right now more than 10 million a year. What happens when that figure increases ten fold and then 10 fold again? I refuse to get on an airplane. I have stopped that. We must stop our unsustainable behavior, now.


Ysarex-photo-09.jpg

“A snapshot I grabbed just driving around along the river. The arts in general lack humor. I'm always on the lookout for a funny photo. Zuddie must have been quite a guy.”




Thanks so much for agreeing to do this interview!


This concludes the main interview. As always, the interview stays open for any comments and more questions from our TPF readers.

Take it away!
 

CherylL

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Enjoyed your interview and the photos. Loved the Clarksville, MO photo with the mist. Jim Herren was our wedding photographer. Very nice guy! He joked that he could do the wedding because there wasn't a Cardinals game.
 

Ysarex

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Enjoyed your interview and the photos. Loved the Clarksville, MO photo with the mist. Jim Herren was our wedding photographer. Very nice guy! He joked that he could do the wedding because there wasn't a Cardinals game.
Oh wow! Jim photographed your wedding-- small world. Jim was one of the most important people in my life. Everything I know about photography traces back to Jim. I bought my first medium format camera from Jim and then started to follow him around. He taught me what I know -- my great fortune. Here's a link from 2015 you might enjoy: Cardinals reflect on Jim Herren and 44 years of team photography
 
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terri

terri

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Enjoyed your interview and the photos. Loved the Clarksville, MO photo with the mist. Jim Herren was our wedding photographer. Very nice guy! He joked that he could do the wedding because there wasn't a Cardinals game.
Small world, indeed! That is too funny, Cheryl. You must have felt very lucky to snag him!
 

webestang64

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Nice read.
I think just about every photographer in St. Louis knew Jim Herren. I met Jim H. while working at Steve's Clayton Camera in the 90's. He and Steve would drink coffee and just talk. Miss that about old school camera stores.

You must live on the The Hill. My Italian grandparents went to a Italian evangelical church there and a few of my Italian relatives lived there.
 

Ysarex

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Nice read.
I think just about every photographer in St. Louis knew Jim Herren. I met Jim H. while working at Steve's Clayton Camera in the 90's. He and Steve would drink coffee and just talk. Miss that about old school camera stores.

You must live on the The Hill.
Just about -- technically I'm a block south, but we did buy the house from a little old Italian couple and our neighbor's last name was Favazza.
My Italian grandparents went to a Italian evangelical church there and a few of my Italian relatives lived there.
 

ntz

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you're awesome and so inspiring .. especially your answer on last question ...
 

Ysarex

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you're awesome and so inspiring .. especially your answer on last question ...
Thank you, I appreciate that.
 

CherylL

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Oh wow! Jim photographed your wedding-- small world. Jim was one of the most important people in my life. Everything I know about photography traces back to Jim. I bought my first medium format camera from Jim and then started to follow him around. He taught me what I know -- my great fortune. Here's a link from 2015 you might enjoy: Cardinals reflect on Jim Herren and 44 years of team photography
We had a very small afternoon wedding at a church out in the country. He came back with us to my parent's farm house to take a few photos, which we were not expecting him to. Very nice!

22 years later he took our oldest daughter's HS photos. This was in 2000-01

Lauren_HerrenPhotography.jpg
 

CherylL

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Did you know the photographer Ralph Haury? He had a studio in Collinsville too. He took my senior photos.
 

Ysarex

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Did you know the photographer Ralph Haury? He had a studio in Collinsville too. He took my senior photos.
No I didn't know Ralph -- not too many folks from across the river.
 

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