Ricky Stilley is currently with the Times Georgian as both a Photographer and Technical Support. He has been working in the field of Photography for over 30 years.
1: What have you learned from traveling as a part of your career?
Fortunately, I’ve had the opportunity to travel in my work, and I’ve learned what a nice experience it is to meet people I’ve not met before. In addition, there’s a certain excitement involved in going to a location, and meeting the expectations that people have, in solving their computer problems. I recently went to Hammond, Louisiana, to work at a newspaper there for a few days, and upon arrival I was presented a “wish list” of problems they wished to have solved. Fortunately, I was able to get everything accomplished that they wanted, and then some things they weren’t expecting. They were very appreciative and complimentary, and said they hoped I could return again soon to provide additional support.
2: How valuable is an education?
I think an education is very important. When I was trying to get started as a photographer, I attended photography school to learn how to turn something that was a burning desire into a career. School was very helpful in developing skills necessary to win a job and keep it, but then I found out how much more I could learn by working, that I didn’t learn at school. Practical experience is complementary to education. Later I transitioned into computer tech support, and I consider myself “self-taught,” as I didn’t receive any formal education for it. That being said, I think if I had gone to school for computer science, I could probably earn more money. But in my current job my main responsibility is tech support, but I still get to do photography as part of my job.
3: What hurdles did you overcome to be so successful?
I wouldn’t say I’m “so successful”, but I do consider myself moderately successful, in that I have a job that I like and enjoy. It’s been said that when you have a job doing something you like, you never really work. In a sense, that’s true. I think the only hurdle I had to overcome was to convince a news editor that I was a good photographer, and that he should take a chance on me. Beyond that, I don’t think I’ve had hurdles. After 14 years I got burned out and decided to leave the newspaper, and I applied for a job at a print shop. I went to work there, and then two years later, I was offered the job I have now. I didn’t even have to apply or interview for it, so I’ve not really had hurdles to overcome, not like some people have had. I consider myself incredibly lucky. Nevertheless, I’ve always strived to do the best job I possibly could, and I think that’s help keep me gainfully employed continuously for 35 years.
4: Did you always know what you wanted to pursue as a career?
When I was young, I think I was like every other kid who wanted to be either a doctor or an astronaut. It was the 60s, and we were trying to get to the moon. The space race was one of the most important things going on during that time. We didn’t have the internet, so we had these things called encyclopedias. They were full of pictures of historic occurrences. There was something fascinating of the capturing of these “moments in time” to make them immortal. I wondered what it would be like to do that. I was also interested in the “magic” of photography - how this stuff you put in the back of a camera could be exposed to light, put in chemicals and then you get an almost perfect rendering of what the camera saw. So by age 14 I did know what I wanted to do. I wanted to be a photographer. I traded a $2 watchband to my brother-in-law for a camera. I bought film and took photos. I read books. I went to camera stores. I looked at pictures - a LOT of pictures. I learned how to develop film and make prints in my mom’s kitchen, after turning it into a make-shift darkroom when night came. About a year and a half after I graduated from high school I discovered a community college about 30 miles away had one of the best photography programs in the southeast. (Not surprising I didn’t find out sooner - this was definitely pre-internet. We didn’t even have computers.) So I applied to the college to attend the program and worked hard to get there.