Smith Kiker 0
Smith Kiker, Jr., a Paris native, takes his photography seriously By Peter Tepp Special to The Paris News "Come on in," the man said, un-locking un-locking door with one hand and clutching a cup of coffee in the other. He flicked on the light, sat behind his uncluttered desk and said, "Sit down. Make yourself comfortable." For Smith Kiker Jr., 63-year- old professor of journalism at the University of North Texas, photography photography is his life's work, and a quick, glance around his office makes that fact obvious. There are photos tacked on a bulletin board on one wall. Some show him going about his business, business, shooting ball games and such, There's a picture of him in his Texas Army National Guard uniform, puffing on a cigarette, in a mock heroic stance. That's my Patton pose," he explained. There's even a picture of him and the professional wrestler Andre the Giantj and it looks like Andre is going to pick him up by his head with only one of his huge hands. Kiker is pure Texan. He was born and raised in Paris. He attended attended East Texas State University University in nearby Commerce where he obtained.his bachelor's degree in journalism in 1959 and his master's master's degree in education in 1960. He has an unmistakable Texas accent. accent. But then, accents are relative, relative, aren't they? Kiker kind of backed into photography photography as a result of a football injury injury sustained while attending Paris High School. To pass the time while recuperating he built a model airplane. "Since it had taken taken me a lot of time constructing it, I wanted to make a picture of it," he said, leaning back in his chair and clasping his hands behind.his head. He had a Kodak Brownie camera, camera, a popular item during the 1950s. He shot the eight exposures on the roll and sent it off to be processed. processed. When his snapshots came back, they were all out of focus. "I became very interested then in reading the instructions," he said with a smidgen of sarcasm. "They said that if I needed to get that close to something I needed a close-up lens." So he went to Will Campbell's drugstore, bought a close-up lens, reshot the plane with his Brownie and lo, "This time when they came back they were all really nice," he said, remembering remembering his first encounter with photographic technique. "I started thinking about what made it work. It couldn't really be magic." His curiosity aroused, Kiker started reading about photography. photography. The more he read, the more interested he became. He recalled how he began hanging hanging around the office of "The ,Owl," Paris High's yearbook, trying to glean as much as he could.about his new calling. In 1955 Miss Martha Hankins, the faculty sponsor sponsor of the yearbook, made him the photographer for. "The Owl." "As with any learning process, you learn more by doing," he said. If doing is learning; Kiker learned quite a bit. Everywhere he Need a Doctor? Call McCuistion's STAT-CARE PHYSICIAN APPOINTMENT AND REFERRAL SERVICE 737-1100 Whether you are new to the community or not, STAT-CARE Physician Referral Service can help you find a physician to assist you with your healthcare needs. This free service can link went he pursued his vocation. The Paris News, Joe Denne/s photography photography studio, Paris Junior College, College, East Texas State, even the National Guard became his opportunities opportunities to expand his knowledge and improve his technique. Kiker may seem laid back but his easygoing manner is deceptive. deceptive. When it comes to photography, photography, he's all business. When the editor of the North Texas Daily popped into Kikert office to call his attention to sloppy work by one of the staff photographers, Kiker instructed him, "You're the editoi . Do what's necessary." THe unmistakable unmistakable impression was that that photographer was through working working for The Daily. This is Baker's 31st year teaching teaching photography at the University of North Texas. "I've seen a. lot of change," he said. "For instance, the abbreviated attire that the female female students wear nowadays would not have been permitted in the '60s. They couldn't even wear slacks; they had to wear dresses." He's seen a lot of changes in photography and photographic techniques. "Technically it's not nearly as complicated as it used to be," he said as he fidgeted with a pen on his desk. "It's really nothing nothing more than persistence and undying dedication to the profession." Kiker sneezed, excused himself and explained he had a slight cold. And to make matters worse, earlier earlier he had reached into his desk to grab his nasal spray, but grabbed a small , plastic bottle of lens cleaner instead. The error did not come to his attention until it was too late. As he put his handkerchief away he continued, "Teaching is probably much the same at every level. The most discouraging thing is seeing the many young people sent to college by their parents and they blow it. They miss the opportunity. opportunity. For an educator, thafs probably the biggest disappointment." , To make his next point, Kiker leaned forward in his chair. "The most satisfying part of teaching," he said, "is when a student figures out what's being taught. It's pretty satisfying; it makes you feel pretty "' - - in his, chair, a faraway look in his eye; "You know," he continued after at time, "the last thing I thought Td be was a college professor." Will Campbell probably had no idea what he'd started when yoimg Smith Kiker Jr., rushed into his store in the early 1950s to buy a close-up lens. . ;Or did he?