This week’s Questions with an Educator features Gary Rittermeyer.
Gary is a Missouri based photographer, educator, and video camera operator who has taught at Benedictine College, the Kansas City Art Institute, and the Metropolitan Community College. Before diving into the photography industry and earning his Bachelor’s degree in Broadcasting and Film, Gary served in the Navy both aboard a submarine and as a Hospital Corpsman. Here, Gary explains where his passion for film originated, his advice for students just graduating college, and the ways in which his video production experience has influenced his photography.
We asked: When you joined the Navy, did you know that you wanted to obtain a Bachelor of Science degree in Broadcasting and Film after serving? What sparked your interest in film?
Gary said: I always had an appreciation and inclination for photography/video, but I did not know while serving in the Navy that I wanted to obtain a Bachelor of Science in Broadcasting and Film. I was a Hospital Corpsman while enlisted, and considered re-enlisting to become a medical photographer, but ultimately decided to return to civilian life.
My interest in photography began with my paternal grandfather, who shot with a 35mm Minolta film camera and a Polaroid SX-70. He and my grandmother gifted my first film camera to me when I was in the sixth grade. I photographed friends, family and landscapes. I also spent countless hours during my elementary and middle school years admiring images in my grandparent’s National Geographic magazine collection.
My interest in movies was initiated by my step-father, who was a cinephile. I say this jokingly, but there is a bit of truth to it. I wish he had not exposed me to “Jaws” when I was four-years-old, as it took me a few years before I felt comfortable leaving the steps of the swimming pool. But, it was my first introduction to Steven Spielberg, so I guess I shouldn’t complain.
We asked: What steps did you take to obtain your first position out of college? Do you have any advice for getting into the industry following graduation?
Gary said: I gained real-world work experience while attending college. I interned at KCPT-TV, the PBS affiliate in Kansas City, Mo. and also worked at KMOS-TV, the PBS station in Warrensburg, Mo. KMOS was an especially good experience because I got to work a wide variety of positions. I trained in master control, operated studio camera, and also directed. However, I gained the bulk of my experience as a student producer, where I got to create five-minute video journalism stories of various topics. I usually did all of the work including writing, lighting, shooting and editing.
My advice for getting into the industry is to intern and network before graduating. Students should get involved with organizations related to their field of study by volunteering, interning, etc. Get as much experience as possible while in school, and try to meet the right people to help give you sound advice and find employment.
Besides on-the-job experience, students and professionals should continue to learn and improve their craft by utilizing resources such as Lynda.com.
We asked: What career experience do you find to be most valuable to you in the classroom when teaching?
Gary said: The experience of building client rapport is a valuable asset, which translates well to interacting with students in the classroom.
We asked: What is the difference between photography students these days and your photography peers when you were in school?
Gary said: Many photographers in the film days were more deliberate while shooting. They did not just “spray and pray,” as many students do today.
We asked: How has your experience in video production influenced you as a photographer?
Gary said: My video production experience is much more limited than my photography and teaching experience. Besides operating video camera part time for the Kansas City Royals since 2015 at home games, it’s been about 15 years since I’ve had day-to-day video production experience. But one thing that comes to mind is to “work the shot” by capturing different points of view and shooting wide, medium and close-ups of a scene/subject.
Find more of Gary’s work on his website.