Interviewed by Heidi Benedict, University Archivist on Monday, April 20, 2015
Megan Lessard joined the library staff as the Digital Imaging Technologist in April, 2014. When the Visual Resources Center was absorbed into the University Library, Megan moved from the Architecture Library, and in March, 2015 was promoted to Web and Digital Services Specialist. In her new position, Megan supports both the Archives and Web and Digital Services with photography, digitization, metadata, and a variety of associated responsibilities.
Tell us about the first time you used a camera (or the first photo you ever took).
I grew up around cameras. My grandfather used to be a professional photographer and my dad would shoot for him too. I remember taking a photograph of my cat with my dad’s Pentax K1000 manual SLR. I had a roll of black and white film and was just shooting things around my house.
I started doing a lot of camera work in high school, and once I got going you couldn’t pry the camera away from me. I even got a darkroom for my 14th birthday! I shot for the yearbook and was editor in chief in my senior year.
What drew you to RWU?
It’s hard to find a position that you’re both excited about and that you think you can do all that they ask, but that was the case when I read the job announcement for this position.
What are some of the unique aspects of your job?
I get to work with a wide range of material, from documents to books to slides. I’ve scanned over 1,000 slides of commencement ceremonies from 1988 to 1999. It feels good that we can preserve the memories and history of such an honored tradition at the University.
I work on a lot of different special projects, such as helping to design the Birss website and the library blog, Connections.
You do lots of scanning and photography for the University, what is your favorite thing that you digitized for the University since coming here?
The Archivist, Heidi Benedict, asked me to digitize a 150-year-old letter. Unfortunately someone along the way had used tape to repair it. Using Photoshop and a Wacom tablet, I cleaned-up the digital copy for a library exhibition about local history that complimented the national traveling Lincoln exhibit.
What do you think the future holds for photographers, amateurs and professionals?
The art and craft of photography is becoming diminished with the popularization of iPhone/android photography. There’s no such thing as a bad photo anymore. Before digital cameras, photography was a very expensive hobby, between purchasing the film and printing the photos. Now everyone has an iPhone/android camera app or digital SLR. Now no one’s printing; photos live on Facebook, Instagram, etc. It’s a transitional time and it’s exciting to see where photography will go from here.
Who is your favorite photographer?
Jerry Uelsmann made me think about photography as a career. He did a lot with manipulating his photographs in the darkroom, cutting out… Today we do similar things, and with greater speed and ease, using Photoshop.
I saw an exhibit of his work at a local coffee shop in my hometown while I was in high school. He also went to the college that I eventually ended up attending for photography. Mr Uelsmann got his B.F.A. degree from the Rochester Institute of Technology in 1957; I received my B.F.A in 2004.
What are you reading right now?
I’m reading a work about the theft of 13 art pieces from the Isabella Stuart Gardner Museum in 1990, The Gardner Heist: The True Story of the World’s Largest Unsolved Art Theft by Ulrich Boser. I had an opportunity to visit the museum a few months ago and the theft of the artwork has captivated my attention. I’m also reading a piece of fiction, The Discovery of Witches, by Deborah Harkness.
Aside from photography, do you have any hobbies or special interests?
Outside work, I enjoy kickboxing. I go to classes 3 times a week in Cranston. It’s a super fun workout that I really enjoy.
I have a collection of over 100 succulents. My favorite is the fan aloe. Right now mine is still small and it hasn’t flowered yet.
Here is a photo of some of my collection – The Fan Aloe is pictured on the table.
I also have a “collection” of animals – I have a nine-year-old Corgi named Sky and also six turtles that I found when they had just hatched out of the ground at my brother’s house. I’ve always owned exotic pets, when I was younger I had a leopard gecko named Chester and an African pygmy hedgehog named Zeus.