As artists we strive to do our best work. We get very absorbed in a project, working away in a vacuum, with no feedback. Personally, I set up projects that challenge me. Once I shoot five or so images, I pretty much have it down, and the challenge lessens because I have worked out the bugs. That’s when my confidence level takes a dive. I begin to think “why did I think this project was worth my time”? or “Is this series really saying something”? I push forward on the faith of my initial excitement. Something like a long marriage when lust turns into real love.
Jerry Burchfield was an incredible photographer and teacher. He, along with a group of fellow photographers created the largest pinhole photograph in the world. His generosity as a teacher at Cypress College is legendary. Jerry directed the gallery at Cypress, and I approached him about having an exhibit there. I had never met him before, and didn’t know what to expect. I brought two very different series of work, unsure of either one because I hadn’t shown them to anyone before, let alone such an established pro like Jerry. He looked at them thoughtfully for a long time. He made very insightful comments, then gave me a huge surprise. Looking me straight in the eyes, with a nod of approval, he said “I’ll show this work”. I was waiting for him to tell me which series he liked. He saw the question on my face, and said “both. Both series are strong, and even though they are visually different, they have a relationship to each other, so I want to show them both”.
Jerry gave me a much needed boost of confidence that day. It was a gift I will never forget. His students have experienced it, his friends have experienced it, and I hope those of us who were lucky enough to meet him, pass on his creativity, knowledge, and generosity to other photographers as well as he did.
Thank you forever, Jerry.
Below is Jerry’s obituary from the Orange County Register.