Thursday, November 7, 2019

Shaping Memories Through 3 Lenses

Frank Boles

Thursday, September 26 the Clarke Library opened its current exhibit, “Shaping Memories through 3 Lenses”. The show features photographs from Peggy Brisbane, Robert Barclay, and Steve Jessmore, who from 1980 through 2018 served as CMU’s campus photographers, and who collectively have contributed over one million images to the CMU University Archives.

At the exhibit opening each of the photographers was asked to select and describe a few of their favorite images. The images, and the stories each photographer shared, made for a fascinating evening.

Peggy Brisbane told one story of one of CMU’s most iconic photos: the toilet paper toss that once was a part of every CMU home basketball game. For reasons that were never quite clear, in 1986 students began to toss rolls of toilet paper into the air when a member of the CMU basketball team made the team’s first basket. Thousands of rolls of toilet paper would go flying – so many that local stores had toilet paper sales on the day of home basketball games. Janitors also noticed that bathrooms in the residence halls and other CMU buildings were emptied of toilet paper in the hours before the game.

Sports Illustrated picked up Peggy’s picture of the toilet paper toss and ran it in a small corner of the magazine. Without telling Peggy, a student submitted an article about the toilet paper toss to People Magazine. People’s editor loved the story, but also wanted a picture. Peggy filled out a standard PR request from the magazine for the image with little thought. She was shocked when the picture ran across two pages in the magazine.

The student who submitted the article received a small stipend from People, and sheepishly asked Peggy if he should share it with her. Peggy responded that taking the picture was her job – and she was quite happy with settling for “merely” a by-line in a national magazine. The “tradition” came to an end in 1987 when frustrated basketball officials decided that the 10-15 minutes needed to clean up the mess on the court constituted a “delay of game,” and began to assess CMU a technical foul for the behavior of its fans.

Robert Barclay shared a story about a photo he had taken of the late Dick Enberg. Robert had just been hired in 1980, and was excited to learn he would be photographing Dick Enberg at the spring commencement ceremony. Enberg was a CMU alumni and one of the country’s leading sports announcers. He was also a veritable legend to Robert. 

Robert was there when a student passing by Enberg shouted out, “I’m from Armada.” Armada, Michigan, with a population of about 1,700, was also Enberg’s home town. When Enberg heard the student he smiled broadly and gave him a big thumbs up, an image Robert caught. Enberg liked the photo, and asked for a dozen or so for his personal use.

In 2012, a bust of Enberg was donated to the university’s Kulhavi Events Center. Enberg was invited to campus for the unveiling of the art work. Enberg reminisced that the bust was based on one of his favorite photos, a picture taken by a photographer here at CMU when he spoke at the 1980 commencement. In a private moment with Enberg, Robert told him, “that’s my photo,” to which Enberg replied, “you’re still here?” 

Steve Jessmore spoke of how serendipity and patience could play an important role in his work. He displayed an image of a young man, wearing a gold hoodie, walking in front of Warriner Hall, framed by maroon and gold. Steve started by noting that he always tried to take a different route to and from his appointments on campus, looking for pictures. As he walked by Warriner Hall that day, he realized the autumn leaves and chrysanthemums would frame a perfect shot of a student walking by Warriner. There were two slight problems – the student needed to be wearing school colors for the picture to work, and to get the angle he wanted he had to push his way into the bushes. He felt like a stalker, waiting to leap out at a passerby dressed in maroon and gold. Forty-five minutes later however, his ability to envision a picture and his patience in waiting for just the right moment had created a photo that would appear on the cover of the CMU Bulletin.

To enjoy the full presentation please click this link: The exhibit, curated by Janet Danek and Peggy Brisbane, will remain open until February.