Photography & the Library

My first paying gig as a photographer took place in August of 1980. That’s when I started working as a stringer for a weekly newspaper in my hometown. I had just turned 15.

The newspaper’s editorial office was located directly across the street from my other job which was at the public library.

I worked five days per week shelving books at the minimum wage of $3.35 per hour. As far as teen jobs went, this one was a winner. No cooking, no shifting schedules, and no retail drama.

My working day started every afternoon a little after 2:00 p.m. right after I walked down the hill from my high school. The first stop was at the newspaper to beg, borrow or steal any assignment that I could get my hands on.

From there it was only about twenty paces across Belle Street from the newspaper’s door to the library entrance.

In a normal three hour shift, I only needed about an hour to re-shelve a big cart full of books according to the Dewey Decimal system. That left me two hours to do my school homework, read five daily newspapers and every photography magazine that I could get my hands on.

As I said, it was a perfect teen job.

My thoughts came back to that unusual combination of photography and library on a recent session in Glendale, California. My subject is one of 13 Princeton University alumni that I photographed in various cities in the US and Korea.

Our meeting place and starting point was in front of Glendale’s Downtown Central Library.

As I waited for my subject to arrive I was reminded of my unique history that combines libraries and photography. I wouldn’t be where I am today without that strange amalgam.

About the author: I am Stephen Kennedy, an experienced photographer specializing in creating environmental on-location portraits and corporate photo libraries for blue chip companies. 

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