Irina Donaldson’s history with photography began at a Russian bazaar in the San Francisco Bay area where as a child she won a camera. It was not a valuable one by the days standards, just a little plastic thing. Film was expensive at the time and even more expensive to process so her parents preferred to buy food rather than indulge her new hobby. Little by little she acquired processed packets of prints, a new roll of film and she was off photographing siblings, the sky, her dog and other subjects of interest to a 10 year old.
Donaldson’s high school offered a photography class, which she was able to convince the “Powers That Be” to consider it a science credit so she could graduate early. There was a high quality darkroom, with enlargers, tanks of processing fluid, along with infrared lighting. She was able to learn the entire process of developing film, dodging and burning to adjust exposure on the photographic paper and creating prints to submit in contests. There were countless hours spent developing, printing, mounting on mat board, which all were great teaching experiences.
On Donaldson’s 18th birthday, her parents showed their support of her hobby by gifting her an Olympus OM-1, which started an expensive era in her passion. She moved from black and white to color film which is far more costly to develop and purchase, but the dye was cast. Soon she had boxes of slides in her closet from local trips to the beach, to Yosemite National Park, always preferring subjects in nature to the other genre of photography. In her words, “The camera followed me on various trails. The strap leaving a red trace around my neck. I found my love of the outdoors complemented my desire to capture it.”
Time marches on, and the digital world emerged. Film processing morphed into computer software processing, all while sitting in a chair and your photos could be instantly viewed on camera eliminating a lot of waste. Donaldson’s husband gave her a camera that used floppies, which she used to photograph a trip to Europe. Soon a camera using the single SD card was available and she found it nothing less than magic. It held a mind boggling amount of images allowing trial and error shooting and improving ones images on the fly. This was a revolution of giant proportion.
Donaldson’s husband, who is also an amateur photographer, and herself started taking photographic field sessions, learning from a variety of professional photographers. They shared ideas with other students and subjected their best work to harsh critiques that improved their artwork.
Though she and her husband are still based in Colorado, a beautiful place to photograph, they are in Sun City during the winters. They have found the Camera Guild to be a good source of learning through classes, sharing with other members, the availability of the high tech computer lab, the professional large format printer and the challenge to show their work in the photo gallery during the First Fridays. They are excited to travel to new places to photograph with the new friends they have met.
View some of Donaldson’s work at suncityaz.org/recreation/clubs/camera-guild-of-sun-city.