Bill Hendricks is looking back at a rich and satisfying 30-year career as Professor of Photography at Ventura College. And it was a career that almost didn’t come to fruition.
There was a time in his life when Hendricks was living the glamorous and lucrative life of a studio photographer, spending his days photographing vodka bottles and fax machines. On occasion, Hendricks would guest lecture at VC and host students at his studio.
There was a sudden opening in the VC photo department, when Professor Bob Fogata passed away. Despite receiving five to six calls asking him to apply for the job, Hendricks let the opportunity pass. The next semester, there were a few more calls, inviting Hendricks to once again, apply for the job. This time, he decided to give it a try. “I took this job because I thought I could do something worthwhile,” said Hendricks who took a pay cut of 80k to teach at VC.
Students who have been through this program would vouch that he has made a difference. Not only does he teach students the technical aspects of photography, he teaches them to use their brains. “What makes an interesting photo is esthetics and intellectual connection, he says. He likens a great photo to a good date: Your date should be both beautiful and intellectually compelling.
It’s clear that Hendricks values the connection with his students. He adores the spontaneity that happens when creative people get together to "ignite the creative process," and push "something more compelling."
He says he’s glad he took the chance to teach at VC. For the reasons above and also, because he met his wife Cindy in a Spanish class at VC. And when you hear this next story, I’ll bet you want to meet her. Once in passing Hendricks told his wife he would like to meet the Dali Llama. She responded, “If you were cool, you’d make that happen.” Not to be undone, Hendricks did, in fact, make it happen.
But even Hendricks has one of those unfinished goals. He promised himself he’d become fluent in Spanish 15 years ago. His face shows the chagrin of missing that mark. But now he has some motivation to improve his Spanish since he plans to give a speech in Spanish at his daughter Madison’s wedding in Cuba in February.
It’s not surprising that his daughter is getting married in Cuba. The little island of Cuba has been a deep theme in Hendrick’s life. Even after more than 90 trips to the island, he continues to be drawn back. He says that every time he goes, he thinks, "This is it. I’m done, but a rope drags me back." Cuba had three things that Hendricks needs: mystery, ambiguity and contradiction. His photography runs deep with images from Cuba. He speaks about the music, the food, and the surprises with a sense of awe.
When I asked Hendricks about the changes, he’s seen over the past 30 years, I thought he might talk about technology changes. However, it’s telling that he talked about changes in people. "Attention spans aren’t as long. Technology isolates people. Putting them together is the challenge," says Hendricks.
Despite preparing for retirement this year, this serial creative has no plans of waning into inactivity. For his next act, Hendricks plans to reinvent himself as a filmmaker. Well, Bill, if you are cool, you’ll make it happen…
About Bill Hendricks:
- Mayor's Arts Educator of the Year (2013)
- National Arts Recognition Award (Ventura County Arts Council)
- BA and MA in Fine Arts from Brooks Institute