In the 4-H photography program, Jason Tucker not only developed pictures, he also developed skills that translated into a college scholarship and an opportunity to overcome a learning disability.
Jason, 18, is a member of the Cottonwood 4-H Club, where he has dabbled in a variety of programs, including woodworking, foods, rocketry, and art. Eight years ago he discovered photography and found his niche.
"It's like an addiction for me," he said, adding he maintains a darkroom in the basement at home. "It's helped me to have more confidence in myself."
The photographs he entered in the Douglas County Free Fair this week took first and second place in the open class, champion in the black and white category for the advanced division, and overall reserve grand champion. His winning pictures showed translucent double and triple images of him on the porch of a house. He also received a $50 savings bond and a medal from the Lawrence Region of the Antique Automobile Club of America for his photograph of a 1959 Corvette convertible.
Jason said he most enjoys using his photography talents to shoot portraits, always attempting to illustrate a hidden facet of the model's personality. One of his favorite photos that he shot shows a female classmate standing by a mausoleum wall at Oak Hill Cemetery.
"I like to express different parts of a person that not everyone else can see," he said. "I feel like I did that here. She's usually so bubbly and always smiling. Here, she looks as if she's lost, almost as if she's in a different place."
He'll have many opportunities to photograph people in the next couple of years. Jason recently was awarded a photography scholarship to attend Fort Scott Community College, where he will work toward an associate's degree in graphic design with an emphasis on photography. From there, he hopes to study photography at Central Missouri State University before launching a career as a fashion photographer.
"I want to shoot the next Cindy Crawford, whoever she is," he said.
Jason, the son of James and Janice Tucker, graduated in May from Lawrence High School, but reads at only a fourth-grade level. Since the first grade, he has been diagnosed as learning disabled. At Fort Scott, he'll participate in the college's Maximized Individual Learning Laboratory, which provides targeted personal assistance to students who need it.
"They guaranteed that if I have the desire to learn how to read and I promise to work at it, they'll make sure I get better at it," he said.
In exchange for the scholarship, Jason will serve as the photographer for the women's volleyball and softball teams, shooting stills and videos of the games for the coaches to use in practice. He'll also enter a work-study agreement printing photographs for the journalism department.
Jason said he was influenced by a number of people as he explored photography over the years. He mentioned Bonnie Smith, his 4-H leader, as well as several teachers, but said Pat Nemchock, an art teacher at LHS, probably provided the most motivation.
"I really respected her and she was a really good friend to me," he said.