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Kevin Warnock photographed by Alice Marie Smith at Brooks Institute in Santa Barbara, California USA

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Kevin Warnock photographed by Alice Marie Smith in 1986 at Brooks Institute in Santa Barbara, California USA - picture 2

When I was 23 years old and a student at Brooks Institute, the scam for-profit photography college in Santa Barbara, California, USA where I spent three wasteful years, I had the incredible fortune to be photographed by one of the few students I thought was a good photographer.

Alice Marie Smith was not only the most attractive woman at Brooks, but her work stood out.

I had a crush on Smith, but I was too shy to do anything about it.

My how my life has changed over the years — my shyness has evaporated, and I can now approach even the most beautiful women wherever I encounter them, even at the grocery store or on the street or on public transportation.

I don’t recall how Smith asked me to model for her, but I do remember it was her idea — I did not ask her to photograph me. I was actually very surprised to be asked, since she was not in my class and we didn’t know each other well.

We did the shoot one evening in one of the deserted on campus school studios. That the studios were deserted in the early evening should tell you something about Brooks Institute and its students. A real educational institution would have been humming with activity well into the night like I routinely see at University of California Berkeley, where I volunteer.

Smith used a 35mm camera with infrared film, something I never tried, and something Brooks should have insisted every student try.

Kevin Warnock photographed by Alice Marie Smith in 1986 at Brooks Institute in Santa Barbara, California USA - picture3

Smith gave me three lovely signed 11 x 14″ fiber based gelatin silver prints. I have kept these prints safe all these years, and yesterday I scanned them to present to my readers. The images are in perfect condition. I scanned these prints at between 300 and 600 dots per inch. Click on the pictures to see them at full size. You can see the distinctive grain pattern produced by 35mm infrared film.

In the second picture above and the picture below, I am wearing a green wool army surplus trench coat. My head is nearly completely shaved, as I was going for the punk rock — but not skinhead — look at the time.

In the first picture above I am wearing a Burberry brand tweed trench coat. This coat was surely quite costly new, probably over USD $1,000 in today’s dollars, like this one sold by Bloomingdale’s department store. I bought my Burberry coat at a thrift store for pennies on the dollar.

While at Brooks I took a self portrait of just my legs and feet, with a wingtip shoe on one foot and a combat boot on the other. I still have my feet in two worlds as you can learn from my writings on this blog. See that self portrait at the bottom of this post. This is also a scan of a silver gelatin fiber paper print. I still have the original 4 x 5″ negative, but I don’t have a film scanner. I do plan to scan many of my negatives once I get a scanner — I have hundreds of publication ready shots from when I shot film, and since many of my best shots were taken with a large format view camera, I will be able to present some very high resolution images.

Keep in mind that infrared film produces a dramatic but inaccurate rendition of subjects. These pictures make me look severe, but in reality I was not. I was fresh faced and cute back then, which was a good thing or I wouldn’t be so youthful looking today.

If you are considering attending a private for-profit art school, I implore you to forget it!

If you are already a student at a for-profit art school, drop out today without giving them another penny, and consider your already paid tuition the cost of a valuable life lesson.

If you have no idea what art school is like, watch the movie Art School Confidential, written by Daniel Clowes, who went to Lab School a couple of years ahead of me. I didn’t know Clowes while we were both at Lab, but I have met him several times, since he’s married to the cousin of my friend Mariana Cartwright.

I dropped out of University of California Los Angeles to go to Brooks — perhaps the biggest mistake of my life. It was such a mistake I periodically consider resuming my education there. Since I withdrew following the rules, I can resume classes at any time by filling out a one page form, according to a University of California admissions employee I am friends with. What’s keeping me from going back is that I am busy starting a new Internet company, and I just don’t have the time to spare right now. Once I establish my new company and I can turn over management to employees, then I will probably go back. I hope that I go back. The energy I feel when I am on the UC Berkeley campus is infectious, and I am sure I would now appreciate UCLA far more than I did as a painfully shy 17 year old.

I did make some good friends at UCLA, including Jennifer Babineaux, who asked me to be her roommate our second year. I sure wish I had taken her up on that kind suggestion, for she probably would have talked me out of Brooks. Babineaux earned a 3.96 grade point average in high school, and is exceptionally smart. Babineaux got an MBA and later became Dr. Babineaux once she completed veterinary school at University of California Davis.

While I think of myself as a smart guy with a fair amount of wisdom, I know little compared to both my parents and my brother who got solid liberal arts educations and then went on to earn advanced degrees. My few years of education from a poorly regarded art school is laughable by comparison.

I believe I turned out shockingly well given my curtailed studies, and for this reason I can say conclusively that college or university is not a requirement for success.

Peter Thiel may be on to something — time will tell.

Kevin Warnock photographed by Alice Marie Smith in 1986 at Brooks Institute in Santa Barbara, California USA - picture-1

I have become a moderately good photographer, but that is not something Brooks may take credit for because my major was Color Technology, not portraiture or fashion. I taught myself how to photograph people well by taking tens of thousands of pictures after the per exposure cost of photography dropped to near zero with digital cameras. You can do the same. Taking good pictures of people is more a function of communicating with people, not technical details. Brooks spent almost no time emphasizing the interpersonal aspects of being a photographer. Frankly, their education was shameful, and I am glad they have had to pay millions in fines for their transgressions.

My neighbor Kevin Lee didn’t go to art school but he has established himself as a well paid and competent professional photographer, with an elite client list and a collection of camera equipment that is world class. He’s in his early 30s and has a long career ahead of him, without the crushing cost of an art school degree.

Self portrait by Kevin Warnock in 1986 at Brooks Institute in Santa Barbara, California USA

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November 27th, 2012 at 3:39 pm

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