Saturday, January 22, 2011

Dear Barb,

This is the story of my favorite teacher.
It started with a handshake. The year is 2007 and my boyfriend-of-the-moment and I have made a deal, a bet of sorts. Boyfriend and I would take a class in the other’s art form, thus gaining some sort of understanding of each other’s perspective on life, passion, blah blah blah- other eccentric couple type blather. Hands were shook, the trash talk began, and while he pandered about, wondering how taking a modern dance class would affect his masculinity, I immediately enrolled in my first photography class. This bet, deal, and handshake, as silly as it was, not only was the inception of one of my now favorite hobbies, but led me to one of the best teachers I have had the pleasure of learning from.
From the moment I walked into Barbara Frazier’s beginning photography classroom, I knew I had walked through that proverbial rabbit hole. This was a new world, a world of imagery and wonder that I had only marginally known through extensive myspace/facebook photo shoots with my friends. This new world, this photographic world, was daunting. At first, taking pictures seemed to be quite opposite of my first love, dancing. Being a dancer I was used to the sprung floors and open, well-lit space of the dance studio, and the deep cavern that is the dark room intimidated me. I was well-versed in my own body and the movement, life, and in-the-moment artistic expression that performance art, but the life in still imagery was barely part of my artistic vocabulary. Barbara Frazier, or ‘Barb’ as her students and friends fondly call her, was fascinating and well versed in the knowledge of her art form. Not only did she make the technical aspects of photography clear and legible to a scrambled mind like mine, but she also tightened the seemingly vast canyon between photography and movement for a dancer like me. She was showing me the life and excitement inside of still imagery, giving me a passion for understanding moments and the story of shapes.
Barb had (and has) the knack of being a very intimate person. She teaches from the heart, drawing from her own life and personal experiences to explain a principle of art. There were times in class in which I wanted to run and trip up the aisle and give the women a hug, as tears would well up in her eyes and words came slowly and tripped out with trepidation. But she never held herself back from her emotions. This intimacy endears her to her students, who, in their own turn, strive to lay bare their souls for examination in their own turn, as if the rule is one soul for one soul. One forever longs to top oneself in the level of meaning and clarification that their art might bring forth. This venerability made for a good dig into the art, and I saw my class progress rapidly and almost unbelievably.
The most phenomenal thing began to happen in my beginning photography class. My relationship with Barb began to change from authority figure and student to chums and confidantes. If I had to pin point the moment in which Barb turned from being a just another teacher in my circle of university classes and became a good friend, it would be a moment in class when she started talking to me about ME. My then-boyfriend had prepped her with my background as an artist and a dancer, as well as our deal about dabbling in one another’s art forms. Maybe it was that her interest was piqued, having worked with dancers before, or maybe it was (and is) that she is one of the best conversationalists I have ever met, but when we would talk, I felt that she was completely interested in what I was saying. It was if my words held great meaning and experience, almost as if she believed I was someone great and that she could learn something from me. I usually hate talking about myself, but with her, someone who I felt really and truly wanted to get to know me, my words seemed to come faster and faster. Learning from someone I considered a friend was a very rewarding experience. It was if the critiques she offered me held greater power, and I was inspired to work harder to keep the standard she set for the class and me. One of my greatest goals is to be an artist the way that Barb is an artist; one who can see possibility inside of everything- in every moment and in every movement.
Barbara Frazier has remained a confident and friend, the kind of friend who will remain pure and sweet despite weeks and months without talking, and has continued to support me outside of that initial classroom setting by attending my dance concerts, sending me inspiring texts and messages, prodding me to take more photography classes (which I have leapt at the chance to do... especially if she teaches), and occasionally letting me grace her photos as her muse (the most flattering). Barb was able to help me through some very trying moments in my personal life, pushing me to use my art forms to clarify and better understand my own inner dealings and dwellings. Every conversation, I feel that she is grounded and present inside every word exchanged. She simply absorbs everything that is said and then presents you with something and anything and everything that holds wisdom and great beauty. She believed in me and cared for me, and this, in turn, gave me the inspiration to believe and care for myself. Her esteem and confidence for my talent as a photographer, a dancer, and an artist has helped further my art forms by leaps and bounds. She spreads life, beauty and light, teaching those to reach for the heavens and not to be wary of rolling around in the dirt. You have to live your life, fully, with eyes open, in order to make your art and live in beauty. This is a friendship that I want to hold fast, but if I were to never see Madame Frazier again, I would go into this world and hope for the very best: that I could keep being the kind of person that could be friends with a lady like Barb.

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