Photography hobby stokes alum’s passion

Bill Smyth (BFA ’49) has been a real estate professional for more than 30 years. But he’s been a photographer longer.

“I became hooked in 1937,” Smyth says.

In the eighth grade, Smyth’s friend took a photo of a union member picketing his father’s non-union meat market. Smyth, who had a booklet describing how to develop photographs, tried the technique out on his friend’s photo using the coal bin in his parents’ basement.

Soon he was taking photographs, too. The hobby developed into a passion over the years, and by high school, Smyth was president of the photo club and part of the Englewood High School annual staff.

At 19, he took his first photo from an airplane during his first airplane ride — on a B-17 bomber flying over Pikes Peak. He was an Air Force photographer during World War II.

Later at DU on the GI Bill, he continued to refine his art, studying oil painting while working as a Clarion photographer and on the DU yearbook, the Kynewisbok.

After graduating, he had photography studios in Englewood, Colo., and was often called on to photograph DU theatrical productions. He also took portraits at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo.

“President Kennedy was here for the Falcons’ commencement address. I took his picture in June just months before his assassination,” Smyth recalls.

Over the years, Smyth kept at it, garnering awards and even becoming a Master of Photography. And when the photography world went digital? Smyth says he “hopped on.”

He enjoys experimenting with effects in PhotoShop, rendering an ordinary flower into what appears to be a watercolor or stained glass.  But he says it’s in the field where great photos are created.

“The main thing you must have is a satisfying composition,” Smyth says. “I do it mostly in the viewfinder when I’m shooting.”

He says he learned classical composition during his art training at DU. At a June show in his Littleton, Colo., Keller Williams office, Smyth was surrounded by his work — photographs of birds, flowers and landscapes from the 1940s to today.

“I do attribute this,” he says gesturing to the photograph-filled room “to my training at DU under all those great teachers.”

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