Photo finish for talented artist


PICTURE PERFECT — Born in South Korea, John Pickelle found his passion for photography when he stumbled into his co-worker’s son-in-law’s darkroom. Pickelle, assistant professor of photography, is a digital specialist. Photo by Omar Villalpando

When one door closes, another opens. John Pickelle walked through.

After losing his job at a gourmet import warehouse, the company’s secretary found him a job working in a darkroom with her son-in-law. Pickelle realized he enjoyed photography and teaching, so he decided to pursue a Master’s of Fine Arts at San Jose State University.

During a trip to Legoland, Pickelle and his family were impressed by San Diego County. “My family liked the San Diego community,” said Pickelle. “I wanted a new start and sought a position at Southwestern College. This opportunity opened up and I wanted to stay in California.”

Mission accomplished. Pickelle landed a tenure-track position at SWC and is now an assistant professor of photography in the new state-of-the-art photo lab.

Pickelle said his teaching job is very rewarding. His students, he said, are creative, motivated and driven to succeed.

“My photography potential was utilized in communicating since English is my second language and words did not come so easily to me,” he said. Students said they really enjoyed taking his classes.

“John Pickelle is an excellent photography teacher,” said Ivette Perez, 21, undecided major. “He is really good in explaining how to use certain camera functions. I have learned so much from him with Bridge and Photoshop, digital photography programs. He is really helpful and makes sure his students get it.”

Pickelle said he likes photography with its visual language imagery. His goals are to have his students become aware of technical and hands-on aspects of photography and develop their zeal.

Carlos Richardson, instructional photography lab technician, has worked with Pickelle since he arrived.

“Pickelle is a very enthusiastic instructor who wants his students to learn and develop their competencies,” said Richardson.

Born in South Korea, Pickelle came to the United States at the age of 10. He spent his growing up years in Granada Hills, California. He said learning English was hard and that partly led him to begin communicating through photographic images.

He earned his Bachelor’s of Fine Arts in 2001 from the Academy of Art University in San Francisco concentrating in commercial photography.

“It was not easy finding clientele,” Pickelle said.

He had to subsidize his income, but after a few years he had more clients and was earning a steady income. Pickelle became successful doing editorial work taking fashion shots with accompanying feature articles for ELLE and Black Book.

Other clients were Travel Savvy magazine, Practice Builder magazine, business materials, postcards, marketing materials and brochures for health agencies. His photography led to specialized layout in graphic design.

In 2004 the director of the San Francisco Academy of Art University invited Pickelle to teach photography classes, mainly fashion and beauty courses. He also worked for dot-com start-up companies specializing in the cosmetic and beauty industry.

Pickelle, a combat veteran of the Desert Storm conflict in 1991, used his G.I. Bill to complete his junior college education at Pierce Junior College in Woodland Hills.

He plays soccer, hikes and snowboards. He is also a pottery and ceramic artist, and has fun doing lathe work products making wooden bowls. He encourages his students to enter their photo images in student art expositions because, you never know, a door may open.


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