For those that been with me from the beginning on my photography journey I want to say thank you for helping me get to where I am today. Hope you enjoy your cameos from high school, college and beyond as I take a walk down memory lane!
Following high school graduation, I knew I wanted to continue to expand my skillset. I enrolled in a summer school photography course a few days a week leading into my freshman year at Purdue. I spent countless hours in the photo lab at Moraine Valley continuing to learn the techniques of film, a bit more about my manual camera and developing and processing black & white film.
During this time, my little brother and sister were very involved in both baseball and gymnastics, the perfect opportunity for me to capture these moments and work on refining my skills.
For my final project around my 18th birthday, I took a quick independent trip to the city - a challenge in and of itself. I spent a day at the taste of Chicago capturing all that I could to build my portfolio. While most didn't turn out great, I was really drawn to this one in particular - the beginning of my love for aperture and depth of field experimenting.
With a major in advertising and an minor in photography, I continued to expand my skill set behind the camera and inside the dark room during my 4 years at Purdue University.
Looking back on everything, I was so lucky for the support of all my college friends who became the subjects of my coursework. One of my favorites involved traveling from West Lafayette, Indiana to the south side of Chicago to find the perfect setting for photos allowing a narrative of a teenage runaway. I can't believe the places we found and the risks we took from abandoned buildings, construction sights, an expressway bridges...nothing was off limits to get the perfect shot. In reading the storyline, it brought back so many memories of my vision. The process was quite complex, Abbi, my runaway teen subject illustrated the text on tracing paper over each image. From there I brought the tracing paper to a printing company and copied to transparent paper which allowed me to overlay on the image and reproduce the exposure again in the darkroom for the text to appear. A significant amount of trial and error, and while I definitely have improved over the years, it was fun to see how I started to create a lifestyle technique with families, dance movement and portraits.
I loved everything about the process from start to finish. Each project had a theme, another favorite of mine was storytelling. I wanted to do something that meant a great deal to me and thought of my grandfather who fought in WWII. With so many stories, and incredible pictures, I was able to reproduce several using his negatives (which I'm both so impressed and glad he kept). To help me complete, my grandfather sent me letters, we spoke on the phone and I came back home a few weekends to learn as much as I could. I was able to use his knowledge, history and experience to produce a project that I will always cherish. This is so personal to me and my family and I can't wait to share with my children one day.
In my spare time, I also loved photographing my friends on the side for testing exposure, development and dark room adjustments. In looking at some of the images I still have....I must have gone through a very serious phase, no smiles allowed.
This is also the time when I completed my first lifestyle family shoot ever for my college friend Rachel. Fun to see all of the test images and notes with adjustments needed in the dark room. Amazing how digitally focused everything is now. Thanks to social media we are still connected and crazy to see her little boy in this picture is just beginning his Junior year in college!
Amazon would have been amazing in college, many weekends I would take a trip to Indianapolis to visit the closest photo supply store to stock up on film, paper, lenses, etc. During my senior year I learned color processing and I could not get enough. For fun I would take my DSLR out to the bars and events to capture our fun nights! My entire college scrapbook is filled with 11 x 14 images that I developed in the lab - it was so crazy to pull out and see! The best part was that it only cost a few dollars to make....perfect on a college student budget.
One of my most challenging and exciting photography courses was studio lighting as it addressed both of my majors, Advertising & Photography. I will never forget the projects and the hours I spent in the studio. For one of them, we had to find an advertisement and recreate the set perfectly. Unfortunatley, I was only one in my class that selected a food product, a Kellogg's Nature Valley bar to be exact. The advertisement had the bar opened showing the fruit center. I learned a very important lesson here, food in advertisements in not actually real food and I struggled to get it to match perfectly along with package wrinkling issues. The output was in between not good/not terrible, but definitely not my best that I didn't save this one (although I wish I did for a keepsake).
Another part of this class was to market our own product. I created a vitamin product called Herbal Essentials, some of the benefits included glowing skin. As you can see from my model below, your skin glows so much it produces glitter! I definitely came a long way in the advertising world, but very proud of these pictures and for dabbling with my first ever advertising campaign. Assuming this would be a bit hit today if I marketed, ha!
Post college I started my first job in the advertising industry at Starcom. After a few years I decided to go back to school and expand my advertising and photography skills with a Graphic Design degree from the Illinois Institute of Art. Throughout the process I continued to keep photography embedded in all of my projects. Coming back full circle, my dancer sister agreed to pose again for a brochure I decided to create for the Joffrey Ballet. It was quite a bit of time since we took dance pictures together, little did I know at this point I would have a daughter and niece in dance that I would be photographing now alongside their team.
While working in advertising media (on the Kellogg's business ironically) at Starcom, I kept photography a side focus. I began photographing couples for engagements and bringing my camera to weddings to gift the couple with a photo journalistic style - perfect for the lifestage in our mid-20's.
During that time I met my husband, started a new job (where I still am today in the advertising industry) and expanded my design and photography offering which is where Jaime Byrdak Designs began. I fell in love with my first DSLR digital camera and currently on my 3rd upgrade eyeing my 4th....and while I do miss the process of developing film....I love the immediacy of it in addition to post production in the Adobe Creative Suite.
I'm lucky that my husband has an eye for photography and is a wiz on the equipment and is always there to lend a helping hand when anything techy comes up.
I continue to spend my weekend time helping clients capture special memories that has evolved from couples, to babies to families and several special projects! Including a few 'timer' images of my family so we are all able to get in the frame together!
Hope you enjoy this time capsule, circa 1995 and on....