Guy Malone in 1974. Photo: Guy Malone

Image: Guy Malone/Kansas City Star

Guy Malone in 1974.

Guy Malone is everything you’d expect from a man named “Guy” who has taught for 44 years in a public high school. He is gruff, but affable, and at least in my day he always had a filing cabinet full of pretzels that he was (somewhat) willing to share.

All three of the Lafferty kids (and one cousin) had the pleasure of taking Photography I, Photography II and Photography Independent Study from “Malone”, as he is known to all who set foot in his classroom, during our years attending Shawnee Mission South. His classes were always some of my favorites and the skills I learned continue to serve me to this day, much more so than the calculus I was learning down the hall. In a world of point-and-shoot still photography and videography, the knowledge of f-stops, apertures and white balancing separates the artists from the point-and-shoot riffraff.

Just last week I had a serious Malone flashback. I was visiting Bret Gustafson, photographer extraordinaire at JCCC, at the all-digital JCCC photography studio. When I walked in the room, it smelled of fixer. Anyone that has actually partaken of the art of photography knows the smell. It stays on you for days after developing film. If you spend too much time with it, you grow incredibly sick of the scent. But it had been years since it singed my nostrils; it was the scent of my youth returning to me. I mentioned the aroma to Bret who was shocked, saying, “I don’t smell anything. We haven’t used fixer in years!”

Poor Bret has gone nose-deaf to the odor.

That is the power of fixer, the essence of the art of photography. Even years later, entire studios continue to reek of the stuff. But Guy Malone still requires his students to use fixer. As the great Kansas City Star profile of Malone points out,

The kids need to understand how film works and the process, the printing. You can take a kid and a $5 or $6 roll of film and a $15 package of paper and be very creative for three or four weeks in a darkroom. They need that background before they go to digital.Guy Malone
Photography teacher, Shawnee Mission South High School

I couldn’t agree more. The lessons I learned in that darkroom, about photography and life, are irreplaceable.

The Star also quotes Malone’s former student, Irina Yakhnis, who, as my good narrative luck would have it, is also my former student from my days teaching journalism at The University of Kansas.

He was very nice, but not the kind who would just give compliments for everything you did. [Once when she handed in a photograph, he looked at it and said], “Yakhnis — good.” Just that one word meant everything.Irina Yakhnis
Shawnee Mission South class of 2005

Guy Malone is retiring this semester after 44 years of teaching. Photo: Kansas City Star

Image: Kansas City Star

Guy Malone is retiring this semester after 44 years of teaching.

Just like Ms. Yakhnis, I still remember the occasions when Malone said “good” to me. I can only imagine how rewarding it must be to have generations of students who look back fondly on a single word that you said to them.

Do I fall back to the easy path that is point-and-shoot photography? Yes, I do. Are my darkroom skills a bit rusty? Absolutely. I haven’t had access to a darkroom in many years.

But in a dark corner of my brain lurks the knowledge of how to mix up a batch of fixer, how to burn and dodge and how to manipulate layers without the use of Photoshop. I have Guy Malone to thank for that wisdom. That says nothing of the teaching style that I inevitably gleaned from him as well. Without the influence of Guy Malone, I wouldn’t be the multimedia journalist or interactive media professor that I am today.

Thanks for everything, Malone!

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