Gretchen liked to walk to university. She could jump on a bus for 10 minutes bus she’d rather walk and take in the city round her. Manchester wasn’t where she wanted to be, London was but she just obviously wasn’t good enough to get into a London university. She just loved to have her camera out and ready to take a quick photograph of something, to freeze a moment in time! It was the most exciting thing in the world to her. She knew she could never be the one infront of the camera because why would anyone want her to be? Her passion was photography. It was like her vocation was to become a photographer just because of all the exposure (no pun intended) she had to cameras in her early life without realising it. It was almost a calling. The memories a photograph could hold in a single snap shot and the feelings it could envoke were what drew her to the camera. Gretchen was not a stylish person and not picky when it came to clothing but her camera and her equipment had to be exactly how she wanted it. There was no negotiation. Her digital camera was white and she’d never seen anyone with a white camera before. Her camera strap cover was white zebra print with lime green ruffles and that was exactly how she wanted her camera to be forever. Gretchen stopped quickly and caught site of a woman in her twenties hugging and then kissing her boyfriend or husband goodbye as she got on a red bus. Gretchen held up her camera to her eye quickly and took six photos in quick succession as the woman left her man’s loving arms. He smiled and waved and then set off to wherever he was going. Gretchen smiled too in a silent thank you to the people for being her unwitting subjects. As she looked back, her sixth photo had captured the man’s beautiful loving smile. You could see he loved that lucky woman very much. It was an amazing photo. Just then Gretchen looked at her watch and realised it was 5 minutes untill class started so she got a move on. As the university came into site Gretchen sighed. It was a constant reminder she wasn’t good enough for London and the fact she hated it didn’t help. It was full of so called ‘artistic’ preppy wannabes who just wanted to go into fashion photography.
When she got to the main building, Gretchen showed her student I.D card to the chain smoking security gaurd, Mick and said,
“Morning kid!" he replied, lighting a cigarette. “Don’t have too much fun will ya?"
“Ha! I should be so lucky," she told him, heading for the arts corridoor as she tucked away her I.D. She smirked to herself, pretty proud of her new The Clash lanyard that she’d found on the internet a week ago. The corridoor lead to the studio where Gretchen’s first lesson of the day was. She hated Mondays and vowed one day she would spend the hours 9am to 5pm doing something she loved. Hopefully photography where knowone could tell her what to do or curb her artistic temprement.
“Right you lot!” she heard her lecturer, Mr. John Roash, call. The lesson must have only just been begining.... phew. “Gretchen, nice to see you join us,” the lovely lecturer said. He always noticed Gretchen wich she liked but she assumed he was probably making a fuss out of her because she was withdrawn and different. He was doing it to be nice but it came across as trying too hard. “Come and stand at the front so you can see.” Everyone loved Mr. Roash. He was a gorgeous and devilishly handsome man in his late 30‘s. The girls wanted him, the guys wanted to be him. He was a high power business man and knew everyone all the way up to the Prime Minister at the top of government and the secretary of education. Teaching was a sideline and the pay to him was peanuts. The porche in the carpark outside was his baby. That and his Hasselblad H4D-60. John Roash was a member of the elite Hasselblad Owners Club and other than all this the most amazing teacher ever. Gretchen went to the front of the semi circle 13 students had made as Mr.Roash began to set up some equipment with help from a boy and girl from the class. Again, the boy and girl who Mr. Roash had chosen to help him were two people who were picked on a lot. They lad Danny was gay and Bree was a big girl. Both were teased a lot and Mr. Roash was very kind to them the same as he was to Gretchen.
Just then four girls arived in class and pushed past the other students. These four girls were like something out of a bad American teen movie. All they needed was the ‘like totally dah’ blond American accents and they could have auditioned for Mean Girls.... except there was no queen bee blond. The ring leader was Samantha, a jet black haired, super thin student who to top it all off was a grade A bitch. She pushed past Gretchen, sneering,
“Out of the way Scarface....” and the four girls stood infront of her. Gretchen smiled to herself. Scarface may of been the most unorigional digs she had ever heard but it did remind her of the quote from the film of the same name;
“Why don’t you try sticking your head up your ass? See if it fits?” Gretchen said it in her head to Samantha everytime the bitch called her the awefull nickname. One day she might say it outloud. Gretchen decided to go to the back of the class. She didn’t particularly fancy standing behind Samantha and her three tag alongs with their tight jeans and thongs half way up their bums.
“So, notebooks out guys!” begins Mr. Roash. Everyone stood, pens and pencils poised read to take notes. “I’m often asked, is photography art? We are clearly artistic in our work and when you look at-” Man, he was gorgeous. John was amazing. Perfect skin, perfect hair, emaculate suit and the most dazzeling smile. His lectures were so interesting and well planned and he did the job so well. The time of the lectures and lesson breifs flew by and it was time for the practical lesson to begin. “Now get yourelves into groups of 5 and could you all take it in turns to be models. You all need to practice your butterfly lighting and those lighting techniques you all learn at college and then let slide once you’re at university.” Gretchen’s heart sank. She knew too well how this went. Knowone wanted her to be in their group because it was akward because Gretchen didn’t like photos been taken of her. Then ofcourse knowone wanted to be in Samantha’s group because they wanted to be models all the time. You see where this is going.
“Hey Gretchen!” said Sasha, one of Samantha’s ‘friends’. “You should be in our group again and take our photos.” Gretchen nods and walks over to them.
“That’s a good idea,” says Samantha. “Some of us are just meant to be infront of the camera. Others should always be behind it.” That was about the only thing Samantha and Gretchen agreed on.
Highschool, college, university.... it was all one big popularity contest. Gretchen was going to quit. Why bother? She’d just take her student loan and go. Get a job somewhere, get a flat and a dog and just live how she wanted with knowone to judge her. She was going to tell Mr. Roash at the end of the day. Yeah Hretchen loved cameras. The problem was they didn’t love her back. Gretchen didn’t put much effort in this day because why should she when she was going to leave? It kind of sucked as the day drew to a close that she has to go and see Mr. Roash and tell him she was quitting. He didn’t share with the other art staff and insisted he had his own office wich as a result was down the arts corridoor right at the bottom and it seemed like a long walk to get to his door for Gretchen. The door was an awful dark turquoise colour wich was quite suprising knowing Mr. Roash’s taste. Gretchen knocked tentitivly and waited for an answer.
“Yep?” she heard Mr.Roash say and she opened the door, looking round it. He looked up from some papers her was grading. “Gretchen! Hello sweetie, what a nice suprise.”
“Hi John,” she said. “Do you mind if I come in?”
“Not at all my dear.” He smiled chamingly and gestured to the seat oposite him and Gretchen smiled going to sit down. “Now, what can I help you with?”
“Um....” She wasn‘t too sure what to say.
“Actually I’m glad you came to see me because I’ve been a bit worried about your performance over the past couple of weeks. You seem to be not throwing yourself into the work as you usually do and as a result I think your work is slipping. Now is there a reason that might be happening that I can help you with? Something I don‘t know?” Gretchen didn‘t think there was much point in going into how isolated she felt or how insecure she felt with cameras around. She figured that would sound stupid and that would beg the question why choose photography? She might as well just get straight to the point of why she’d come down to see .
“I’m thinking of quiting the course. Well, quitting uni alltogether.” Mr. Roash raised his eyebrows.
“No,” he said simply.
“No?” repeated Gretchen. ”It’s not really your desision is it?”
“No it’s not but I think I deserve a say.” Gretchen crossed her arms.
“I’m not going to change my mind.” Mr.Roash sighed and his facial expression took a serious turn. He looked at his watch.
“You fancy a coffee?” he then asked.
“The canteen’ll be closed by now.”
“No I mean at a coffee shop where grown ups go for a coffee. I’m feeling Starbucks.”
“Because we need to have an adult convosation about your future, let’s do it like adults.” Gretchen smiled brightly.
“Yeah! You maybe a teen but you’re a hell of a lot more mature than some of the silly girls in your class. So what d’you say?” Gretchen looked into his kind face and she smiles softly.
“Yeah ok. Let’s go.”
“Great! I’ll just have to close up the studio, how about I meet you in the car park?" Gretchen stood up.
“Sure, see ya there!” She exited Mr.Roash’s office and headed up the corridoor, beaming like a 14 year old with a crush. Mr. Roash shook his head and smiled, putting on his blazer. He looked in his mirror and ajusted his tie.
“This is getting too easy,” he said to his reflection before picking up his bag and locking his office door behind him.