Alumni Highlight: Victor Zuidema

Victor Zuidema

December 2013 Student Graduation Speech: By Victor Zuidema, Pro Photo

Hello . . . and welcome. Thank you all for coming to support your graduates on this glorious day. We, sitting here before you today, have accomplished a wondrous feat. We are graduating from Brooks Institute: a school that is known around the world for its top-notch faculty and staff, its ability to teach the technical side of film, visual journalism, graphic design and professional photography, and to graduate some of the most creative and amazing minds in the art world today.

It has not been an easy road the last few years. From the very first day it was “go, go, go.” Shape, Line, Texture turned into Grey Box, which turned into Flash at sunset. In those early days at Brooks, we met new people, wondered who our new friends were going to be, and how many more reshoots we were going to get. It was those undiscovered friends who have turned into lifelong companions, who have spent the last few years going though the same trials and tribulations and sharing in all sorts of new adventures.

It was in my black glass group of our Lighting studio class that the necessity for these friendships was hammered home in my life. We sat, or stood, for hours (literally over one hundred hours in the end) working on getting a blue racquetball and a small, mirrored cube to look perfect on a sheet of black glass. I know every one of my peers sitting before me, have experienced these same things, and now here we sit, all for the better.

It wasn’t just our new friends who pushed us, but our instructors as well. Robert Frost once said that there are two kinds of teachers: “the kind that fill you with so much quail shot that you can’t move, and the kind that just give you a little prod behind and you jump to the skies.”

The latter describes our instructors here, and I consider myself blessed to have been able to learn under the instructors that I have had. They have helped us make connections and find opportunities outside of Brooks. They have written letters of recommendation and put in a good word so that we might just have that extra edge to get that job we are striving for.

They’ve trained us in skills we know we will need in our creative work, but also in those more general skills that we’ll need throughout our lives, like critical thinking and respect for authority. Our instructors do much more than that, though: they inspire. They stay after class and listen to our woes. Many of them extend themselves outside of the classroom by giving out cell phone numbers and telling us to call them anytime we had a question or problem, day or night. I must have called Rich a hundred times between my second and third terms. I figure he probably regretted giving his number out for our class. But I’m thankful he did.

Admittedly, I wasn’t always thankful at the time. Sometimes, the feedback wasn’t exactly what I wanted to hear. When I would turn in an assignment that I was particularly proud of, sometimes it would be hard to hear Nino say, “Well, this is good . . . but, I think you could have done something more.” But being asked to do “something more,” which might have made me crazy at the time, was always right.

Thanks to our instructors, I’ve been pushed, and pushed hard to not ever settle for something that is good, but rather something that is truly amazing, not only in photography, but in writing, arithmetic, and business.

And it was those classes that we sometimes dread, like math, accounting, or English, that have led to some of the most amazing life discoveries. Dawn, who was so patient with my (and many others) rebellious attitude towards math, was able to accomplish something that no previous math instructor had: she got me involved, and I passed.

Rodger taught me that accounting is important in our artistic futures . . . and that I’m going to need a really good accountant! Elizabeth reminded me that photography is not my only creative outlet in life. Reading and writing have helped to keep my mind fresh, and coaxed me along in times of creative blocks. Without our Liberal Arts instructors, we wouldn’t have learned these valuable lessons.

I’ve been taught the rules, so that now I can break them in all the RIGHT ways. I learned to firmly understand the meaning of a deadline, and the differences between receiving a failing grade on an assignment in school, and losing a client in our careers.

Our instructors have given us answers like “Well… It just really depends,” when we ask questions about an assignment, which at the time is the most frustrating thing to hear. But later, when you realize how much that answer actually helped you solve your problem by really making you think of all sorts of different solutions, you cannot help but smile and shake your head. It really did “all depend”.

I want to say thank you to Chris and Nino, who are the two instructors who take the study abroad group to Paris for the summer. Being able to go to Paris with the school was my single greatest semester at Brooks, and no doubt the peers that went with me feel the same. It was an experience like no other. We were not only able to go to the very place that photography was birthed, but we were able to live there, not like tourists, but like locals. Thank you so much Nino and Chris for taking on the task of learning a foreign city well enough so that you could help more than twenty eager students navigate their way around with confidence. Your support, dedication, charisma, knowledge, and trust made it an amazing time.

And let us not forget our families; our moms, dads, brothers, sisters, husbands, wives, partners, our loved ones. Those that stood strong behind us through these years. The “ones” who added their own encouragement when we were feeling down. Those that told us our photos were so beautiful, even though we knew that they had monster lighting! Their unconditional love and support helped build the foundation that undergirds our expanding artistic lives. Parents, you have been the light in the dark, ever vigilant. We love you. Mom and Dad, I love you. Thank you for your support.

To my peers: as we venture out to the frontier of our careers, I ask of you, let us never stop encouraging one another. Let us always be there to support and push one another as we grow. We might not know what tomorrow has in store, but we are here today and we all have the ability to accomplish our dreams. So, let’s go forth and document life’s great events; let’s create exciting cinema, design beautiful graphic art, and capture breathtaking imagery. May you all “live long and prosper.”

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