Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Focusing on Your Passion - ReServe at Work at LaGuardia Community College

ReServist Paul Katz (pictured) has a hard time keeping his seat. He’s on his feet in his office at LaGuardia Community College, exclaiming, “I’ve seen the future!”

ReServist Paul Katz has a hard time keeping his seat. He’s on his feet in his office at La Guardia Community College, exclaiming, “I’ve seen the future!”

Paul sidles over to his desk and perches on the edge of his chair. He illustrates almost everything he says by pulling up a photo on his computer.

He’s excited about a small black digital camera.

“I’ve been shooting pictures for almost 60 years. I’ve shot combat, portraits, still life, stock photos. But this is the best camera I’ve ever had.”

Paul confounds stereotypes of retirees. His laughter booms across the room as he refers to himself as a “geezer.” He has no reticence in giving his age—he’s 72.

“I was an Army officer for 14 years. Infantry, some armor. And then as my photo skills improved, I asked for and received a branch transfer to the signal corps and became a photo officer. Best-kept secret in the Army! Took me to both Poles, North and South.

“I went on to support the White House Photo Office. I was supernuminary to the White House photo officer during the Kennedy and Johnson eras.

“By ’78 I had my own commercial studio here in the City. I shot a lot of book covers, magazine illustrations. A whole series of photos on Puerto Rican rum.

“And strange as it sounds, I also took per diem jobs with the U.S. Marshall’s Service all the way through the 90’s, running down the street—‘Get that guy! Get that guy!’ It wasn’t until I was 65, still wrestling someone down to the ground that I ever thought, ‘I’m getting too old for this!’ about anything.”

But Paul says he’ll never put his camera down.

“I’m an artist. And artists don’t retire. You do it! If I didn’t get paid for photography, would I still do it? Yes! This is my passion.” And passion brought him to ReServe.

“There’s a certain point where you don’t want to just sit at home in front of the television. I saw this little ad about ReServe in The Wire, which is a newspaper on Roosevelt Island where I live. I came in for the interview and they said, ‘La Guardia Community College needs a photographer.’ And here I am.

“Basically, I can shoot anything they need – pictures of students, photography classes. We did a series of big posters for bus shelters that I shot with this camera. They were recruiting posters for students. In fact there’s a smaller version right here . . .”

And just like that, Paul’s off his chair again, rustling through a pile of colorful prints across the room.

Katz’s post at LaGuardia is made possible by a commitment from CUNY Chancellor Matt Goldstein to engage 50 ReServists in positions across the CUNY campuses. The project began in October and ReServe is over halfway there in matching talented ReServists with CUNY’s needs.

A sample of Paul Katz's photographs can be viewed at our flickr site

You can jump directly to Paul's gallery by clicking here.

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