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April 28, 2011 7:39 am

Photographer combines love of light and teaching in legendary career

Written by Ilene Olson

Professional photographer Bobbi Lane (right) teaches area high school students some of the finer points of studio lighting techniques during a workshop at Northwest College on Friday, April 15. Lane shared insight with college and high school students Friday and gave a public presentation Friday night. She provided additional instruction for NWC photography students on Monday. Professional photographer Bobbi Lane (right) teaches area high school students some of the finer points of studio lighting techniques during a workshop at Northwest College on Friday, April 15. Lane shared insight with college and high school students Friday and gave a public presentation Friday night. She provided additional instruction for NWC photography students on Monday. Tribune photo by Carla Wensky

Bobbi Lane describes herself as a “lover of light.” Her use of light is the essence of her distinguished photography career.

“It’s what you sculpt with, how you set the mood, give the description to your subject,” she said during an interview at Northwest College earlier this month. “When I see certain kinds of light, when it all comes together, I go into another place. I suppose you would call it ‘the zone.’ It gets me very excited.”

When Lane started her photography career, she focused her cameras and aimed light on things: fashions, McDonald’s toys, items in a history museum — even the space station proposal for McDonald Douglas.

She’s photographed space shuttle landings and historic moments and things. Her photography has opened doors for her all around the country, and around the world.

“I’m a junkie for new experiences,” she said. “One of the reasons why I’m a photographer is, it’s always different. It’s never the same. I get to go places, and meet people, see stuff I wouldn’t ever get to do any other way ... Photography is my way to experience the world.”

Gradually, Lane found her photography interests changing, and she began focusing more on people.

“It happened kind of without me knowing,” she said. “I had a couple of companies that really liked my work, but didn’t want all studio stuff. I started shooting kids on location, and it kind of turned over that way.”

Since then, her work has included taking photos of movie stars and other famous and important people.

“I shoot a lot of executive portraits, and I don’t find it boring at all. Every one of these people are different. I learn something about them, and I get to make them feel comfortable about them having their pictures taken. They’re not afraid they’re going to look bad; they’re afraid they’re going to look stupid. I can convince them they’re not going to look stupid; they’re going to look great. I’m paying attention to details, making sure they look great.”

Lane also has taken spectacular photos of people who never knew a moment of fame.

One of her favorite photographic experiences occurred when she and another photographer/teacher traveled from Dubai to Sharjah, one of the United Arab Emirates, for a day of exploring with a friend.

“They have all these old boats ... We went down there and just started walking around. There’s all these fabulous faces ... There’s bags of coal. These guys have a crane, and they’re black — their hands are black, their faces are black, there at noon, the worst light in the world. But it was so graphic. There were kids loading flour, all covered in yellow dust. They were laughing, having fun ... They’re like anybody else; they laugh like anyone else, get silly like anybody else.

“I love to make people laugh ... I only speak English, but it doesn’t matter; the camera does the talking. I’m talking to them, directing them, getting them to understand me, and they laugh.

“We’re all human. I can go photograph these people, and come back and show it to other people in other places. Maybe there will be less prejudices ... We’re all on the planet together, at the same time, at the same place, and we’re all doing the same thing. We all just want to be happy, have a little bit of joy and some companionship.”

Later that day, as Lane and her companions were taking photos of camels on the road, they got word that a falconer did a demonstration at a resort on the outskirts of Dubai every evening at twilight.

“I’ve had a huge interest in birds all my life,” Lane said. “We immediately headed back and arrived just in time to see the show. The falconer’s name is Zia, and he was fully cooperative to have several photographers around during the flying demos, and also posing for us afterwards. It was one of those truly outstanding days.”

Lane’s career expanded in other ways as well. In 1976, she got a job teaching photography full time in California.

“That’s where my love of teaching came,” she said.

Lane said she first realized she had talent for teaching while she was attending the New England School of Photography.

For a while, her work consisted about 50 percent of teaching, and the other half was taking photographs. Now, she does more teaching. She teaches professional workshops for Santa Fe Workshops, Julia Dean in L.A. and the International Center for Photography. She has recorded instructional DVDs, she teaches in Dubai for Gulf Photo Plus, and she does her own workshops as well.

It was one of those workshops that brought her to Northwest College April 15-18.

Teaching “is almost like a calling for me,” Lane said. “It’s all about photo education. Photography is my profession, and teaching is my passion. I’m a pretty good photographer, but I’m a great teacher. It’s my gift. Your goal in life is to find out what your gift is, and give it back.”

Her greatest joy in teaching comes when “they’re this close; they want it. They’re not there, but they’re trying so hard. Then, when they can finally make that leap, to cross that barrier from not understanding to understanding, you can see  that their life has just opened up.

“That’s what it’s all about. I create a space so that people can open up and learn something they don’t know. If they’re comfortable and they feel safe and secure, people can let their barriers down. And that act of learning, in small ways and big ways, changes your life. The walls come down; it’s like you go from the dead of winter to a spring day.”

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