Kismet Kechijian, a photographer, missionary, and entrepreneur, has been a photographer since 1960/1961, using an old folding bellows pocket camera. When asked what led him to his current career path, Kismet replied, “My first roll of black and white film and an amateur film processing kit I was mesmerized by the process and still am today. I chose photography going into the U.S. Army and was trained and even began teaching others who shared this love for image making, photography.”
Kismet commented on his career, “I have retired numerous times and keep returning to photography which has always been a hobby since the 1960’s. Having had the opportunity to use hundreds of different cameras over the years, I am convinced that anyone with thirty to forty hours of photography education leaning to the art form can produce magazine quality images, but it takes endless practice. Today cameras are more available, more automatic and most people have one, even if only a cell phone camera, but few have any instruction. Photography education is my new retired hobby/career path and I love sharing what I know to help new cameras owners’ transition from film to digital image making. Simply owning a camera does not make a photographer any more than owning a football makes one a NFL linebacker.”
Kismet discussed the best thing about his career, “The best thing about this path is people who share a common love of creation with a camera. Being a photographer; either professionally or casually offers individuals an opportunity to capture nature, people, and everything created but to do so from an individual’s perspective. A photographer sees an image opportunity and begins to determine how to reduce and remove all distractions until the frame is filled only with a specific visual message they have decided to capture and share. This requires focus, sometimes extreme concentration, determination, awareness, and artistic disciplines. All that to say the rest of the world gets forced out and the visual message is all of the focus, nothing else matters for however long it takes to capture the final image. Photographers get to travel with and for their work if they choose to; that’s a bonus. I love to travel and discover new images and messages. Almost from the beginning I have loved sharing tips, techniques, perspectives and technology with people. I have retired with this career/hobby that is fun, sharing is fun, image making is fun, and travel to do either teaching or shooting is all fun. How much fun can a guy have these days?”
Kismet led a hard childhood, “I was orphaned before I was 18 months old and began life in orphanages and abusive foster homes for a dozen years so I was very introverted, withdrawn, and feeling threatened by the world around me. I had no family connection, and not much hope for a productive future but from that early deprivation, came an individualized strength to survive in spite of the situations life offered. I am sure no one ever thought I would survive my youth or become productive, much less successful. Indeed, many others I met in similar life styles are: long term alcoholics and/or are mental wrecks that never could hold a job let alone start a career. Some are long since deceased. Photography gave me an escape, a creative escape, one that proved productive and caused me to become upward mobile, ever seeking new opportunities to use my skills and cameras.”
Kismet was born to immigrant parents who died trying to create life and opportunity in the states. Kismet was born in Boston, Massachusetts at the end of World War 2, during a bleak economy. Kismet commented: “Foster family life was constant relocation so I lived all over south east Massachusetts, all rural and farm communities for my first dozen years.”
When asked to describe himself in three words, Kismet replied, “I guess people who know me would say “passion: for life and passion for creation which is my preferred imaging focus.” I’m “driven”: it is very hard for me to give up or quit something I have chosen to pursue and that often includes helping individuals. “Multi-talented”: I have always been curious, inquisitive, and driven to discover new things. As a result, I read constantly, my eyes absorb and retain huge image libraries of whatever is around me. I have difficulty recognizing myself as a visual person/personality, but must admit I must be a visual learner.”
Kismet discussed his background; both career and academically, “I have never been much of an academic in the traditional sense. I had two or three really great teachers, coaches who helped me get through high school successfully.
From high school, I took a year and traveled across the country to California and back, then signed up for the U.S. Army where I received formal and specialized education in Air Reconnaissance Photography, Imagery Interpretation and Intelligence Analyst disciplines, but was quickly sent to Texas and trained to become an Army Field Medic (EMT).
The Vietnam War was rapidly closing, so I was re-assigned to Germany and became an ambulance driver, hospital and clinic medic. I travelled to various sites around Germany; always with a camera as it gave me greater imaging opportunities and more contact with other photographers. Many photographers I helped teach better imaging skills. I realized that developing my skills was more about doing photography and it was all self-taught except the Army Air Reconnaissance.
After the Army, I ended up in Arizona and found a job as a clerk in a camera store where I was asked to join a job placement program for veterans which involved a formal training program that was yet to be developed. I guess I was a local star for the program start up and once they figured out how much photography and teaching experience I had already developed I was asked to train as a manager and six months later became the general manager of a group of stores in the Phoenix metro area.
I wanted formal training with shooting cameras, so I applied for a college class thinking it would help in our retail store operations. By my second class, I was asked to teach the pre-lab sessions to free up the college professor to focus on Dark room lab work. One semester later, I walked away with an A in the class…so much for formal education.
In a rushed attempt to use my VA benefits, I tried taking classes at night in community colleges while working multiple jobs seven days a week. That whole night college scene is still one of my worst educational experiences in my life time. Finding little practical education after two years, I quit and was hired as an underwater photographer and moved to Seattle with my family. I free-lanced filming live entertainers in night clubs, bars and private venues, but my love of the outdoors and nature keeps me occupied to this day.
Photography is more about doing it, that’s where the real education is, it is for a lifetime. For an orphan, with no real roots or family background, you could expect very little success to result, but I discovered my photography talents could lead me in newer application. I then went to work for a California Publishing company selling advertising and quickly saw my potential as a publisher who had strong photography skills. I took on a number of publishing jobs before starting my own publishing company; first in a news tabloid format, quickly moving up to a magazine for economic development. I wrote, photographed, and trained staff and began helping small and medium sized business expand in the use of marketing and advertising.
Selling that magazine company some years later, I returned to Seattle and created a small team as a marketing and advertising agency. That is a 24/7 world, one I do not recommend but our billing six months into its start was projected to become a million dollar gross income by first year end.
Life often gets in our way and that business died from internal problems, but left me with a perspective that passion and determination can still take an orphan kid from the streets, from an antique camera, and no formal education to the heights of success; but only in the USA. I reluctantly came back into photography and teaching by the insistence of some past students and the state of our economy. I place as much time and effort into helping others locally and internationally. Due to our world-wide economic mess, I find funds have nearly dried up, and international travel is more expensive and people’s needs are greatly increased so here I am back into the work force, focused on helping others achieve the “American Dream”.”
For more information about Kismet’s photography business, he just doesn’t take pictures, he also teaches photography classes, please visit: www.alphaimages.org.
Kismet leaves us with something to think about, “It takes a whole lot more than formal education, in my opinion to succeed today. Along the way, I have received a lot of awards, recognitions, and certifications; including two diplomas in Christian Theology and Christian Ministries, but they do not mean more to me than practical experiences and personal relationships.”
By: Carly Calabrese, staff for Tacoma.com