by Stephanie Derkowski, photo by Trace Thomas
Once a child living on a cattle ranch in Paradise, Texas, now an internationally published author and photographer, Jerod Foster is an inspiration to us all that pursuing your dreams can become a reality.
Foster’s book “Storytellers” was just a far thought in his mind two years ago, but thanks to social media, Foster came into contact with Ed Wait, an acquisitions editor for the publishing company Peachpit, who wanted to give Foster the opportunity of a lifetime.
Foster said at the time he always had thought about publishing a book of his own, seeing much of the book industry from co-owning a publishing house with Wyman Meinzer, the state photographer of Texas. Foster accepted Wait’s offer and began the journey of creating a book.
A Ph.D. student and graduate part-time photography instructor in the College of Mass Communications, Foster related his ideas for the book to teaching his students.
“What I try to do in my classroom is not only teach students how to push buttons, but also, to inform them about why we push a button a certain way, why we frame up pictures a certain way,” Foster said. “The why behind a lot of this stuff is photography, and that’s the idea behind ‘Storytellers.’”
Foster said in the photography book industry, publishers have concentrated on the how-to and the vision areas of photography. Foster hopes to generate a new aspect and create a buzzword in the industry, and he calls the concept storytelling.
In the summer of 2011, Foster traveled to Spain to teach Texas Tech students a travel photography course. There, he took shots for his book, and at the beginning of June went directly from Spain to Scotland where Foster began writing his book.
Foster’s brother, Seth, met up with him in Scotland, and together they traveled throughout the beautiful land for 15 days.
“I’d wake up in the morning, go shoot, come back, do a little writing, go out and shoot, visit with people,” Foster said. “I wanted to fulfill that romantic kind of being an author, so I went somewhere.”
Beginning in June and finishing in October, Foster completed the writing for “Storytellers,” and the book was published in December 2011.
Nearly 175 of Foster’s photographs were published in his book, and they are a collection of photos he has taken throughout his career as a photographer.
From the portrait of a cowboy in a field, to a 70-year-old triathlete on a dock, and many others, Foster said most of the images in his book are from assignments he has done working as a freelance editorial photographer and owning a photography business.
Professional eyes all over the world see “Storytellers,” from across Europe to China, and Foster said the first review of his book came from London.
Professors from across the nation have asked him if the book can be adopted into the classroom. Foster said the book is not specifically for the classroom but can be used on an academic level. Foster plans to incorporate his book into the visual storytelling course he teaches at Texas Tech.
Foster teaches many photography classes, but the class he said he is most enthusiastic to teach is the same class he said changed his life.
As an undergraduate agricultural communications major at Texas Tech, Foster said after graduation he planned on going to law school, until he enrolled in the photography course in Junction, Texas, taught by Meinzer. Foster said the summer after the class, he decided to earn his master’s degree, instead of going to law school, to be able to further his education, while having more time to pursue his photography interest.
Now Foster teaches the Junction photography class to Texas Tech students during the summers. Foster said he has assisted Meinzer in teaching the course for the past few years, and now he teaches the course on his own.
Foster said his accomplishments and relationships in photography all began with his friend, Meinzer, and the Junction photography class.
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“We prided ourselves on giving the students a chance to photograph right alongside somebody that’s doing it all the time,” Foster said.
Foster has many achievements to be proud of in his life so far, but the one he said stands out to him most is the birth of a daughter.
In October of 2011, Foster and his wife were introduced to the newest member of their family, Eva Korynn.
Foster said in his book he stresses the importance of the family photographer, and said family photographs are the most important photos any photographer will ever take, whether they are a hobbyist or professional.
“I try to take a lot of candid shots of Eva, and I’m able to do it in a different way than say a lot of people are, because I can bring a lot of other photographic experiences into the mix,” Foster said. “So I’m able to, hopefully, tell her story a little bit more compellingly.”
From his daughter to his many life experiences, Foster not only writes about how to tell stories in a photographic way, but also, he applies the messages he writes about in “Storytellers” into his daily life. mc
Stephanie Derkowski is a senior public relations major from Longview, Texas.
Trace Thomas is a senior public relations major from Levelland, Texas.