A Visit With Mr. Colson

While I’ve mostly been self-motivated in life, there are a handful of people who’ve assisted and cajoled along the way.    Take, J.B. Colson, the gentleman in this photo.    Sometime in 1971, I was at University of Houston, studying journalism.   Although the goal was to become a writer, or word journalist if you prefer, I’d been enamored with the notion of photography since my childhood best friend, Anson Godfrey, introduced me to the craft at his home via his Life Library of Photography collection.  A few months into my time in Houston, I began to feel the tug of photojournalism, but my school had no major in that.   Less than three hours west, however, University of Texas at Austin had a full offering of photo classes.   I made a drive there and met Mr. Colson.   Although there were courses, he said, the full major didn’t exist, but he assured me it would.   “Take these classes.   By the time you’re ready to graduate, there will be an actual degree in photojournalism.”   So I transferred to the University.  After graduation in Spring 1974, newspapers took me east, first to Tyler, Texas, then Shreveport, finally to Atlanta, where I remained for many more years than I care to think about.   Along the way, Colson guided  students through the rigorous program.  Unfortunately, I didn’t stay in touch too well.   This happens.   After a long absence, we finally reconnected after moving home.    Although he’s fully-retired from UT now and living in Northern California, he returns here to visit family.   This photo was taken last week as we chatted at his daughter’s North Austin home.  I’m glad to say he’s still giving guidance.    Back in the day, he scared the devil out of me, with his stern ways.   Today, he’s much different, a study in serenity.  Nevertheless, while other former students call him “JB” now, my 60-something self still thinks of him as Mr. Colson.   In the final analysis, he’s a mentor, a teacher, but also a friend. 

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