James Chandler

I had never heard of The Rocky Mountain School of Photography until two and a half months before arriving for Summer Intensive. I received a photo of the school’s lobby from a friend and a message asking if I had ever heard of the place. For years I have loved photography and had always thought about pursuing it more formally, but all of the programs I researched did not seem to fit me quite right. From the moment I began looking at RMSP I had a special feeling about the place. By chance, RMSP was to be hosting their annual open house that coming weekend and decided I needed to be there. I drove up to Missoula from where I was working in Idaho and immediately fell in love with the school.

Since beginning SI, I have learned an immense amount and have been challenged greatly. I love how no matter your ability coming into the program; everyone is challenged and learns new skills. For me, the biggest challenge so far has been an internal one. For years I have loved to make images of landscapes, but it was not until SI that I began to realize that maybe, ultimately, I was not meant to be landscape photographer. This scared me. A lot. I began to feel like there was more to photography than capturing beautiful mountain scenes, that there was another message I was supposed to find. After much internal discussion, I finally worked up the courage to voice my feelings to one of my instructors and consequently I have begun to adopt a more humanitarian and documentary style of photography. I started spending time with the homeless and transient people in Missoula, learning about their lives, hearing their stories, and making photos of them. I have always loved interacting with different people and hearing their voices, but when it came to the idea of photographing them, I would seize up and avoid the interaction altogether. Overcoming the fear of photographing strangers has been, and will continue to be a great challenge, but I would not have been able to make the first steps toward this new realm of photography without the help of RMSP and the incredible friends I have made during my time here.

What makes RMSP so incredible is the family and community that develops and grows through the summer. The personal connections you make help foster an environment rich with creativity, and one that encourages you to step beyond your comfort zone to explore entirely new realms of your world through photography. Without the support of our unique community I would not have had the support I needed to jump into a whole new world of photography.