Photography instructor Rick Murrai had an interesting start to the millennium. He went on a sabbatical to Turkey, Greece, Cambodia, Thailand and Russia. His purpose: to photograph other countries and learn more about digital photo processing beginning in June of 2001. He applied his newfound knowledge about digital photography in Asia and Eastern Europe from the summer of 2001 to spring 2002. Until November 30, Yuba-Sutter residents can experience a part of Murrai’s sabbatical in “Another Country,” an exhibition of digital photographs taken during his sabbatical.
Before Murrai could create the digital prints that make up his exhibit, he had to do some fine-tuning on his digital photography knowledge. Murrai took classes in digital photography and digital imaging at the University of Maryland in Salisbury, Maryland. He then took some photo classes at local colleges, and worked at the Calicolors photo lab in Sacramento. While working at Calicolors, he retouched photos, did color correction, and worked with ad agencies in the Sacramento area.”I learned a lot at Calicolors,” said Murrai. “It was a hands on experience. Working there enhanced what I was learning in class, and helped me apply it to a working situation. It wasn’t a very fun job, but it was very intense and educational.”
In preparation, Murrai also converted his darkroom into a digital photo lab, or lightroom. In the lab, he uses office and desktop-grade Epson printers with special software which had finer resolution and could use carbon pigment inks.
“After a lot of time, expense frustration and anger, I was able to put together a lightroom,” said Murrai. “It was difficult to put together, because unfortunately the computer industry is not the most perfect industry. There’s a lot of misrepresentation of product. Also, the archival permanence of digital photographs is still a concern, although the output quality has increased tremendously.”
Murrai began traveling, starting with Cambodia in Angkor Wat, an archeological site that is still used as a practicing religious site.”I’ve always wanted to go to Angkor Wat,” said Murrai. “It was built between the ninth and thirteenth centuries, and discovered in the early twentieth century. It’s basically covered by jungle. It’s a really fabulous place, sort of like the ruins in Egypt or Rome, except it’s a functioning, important religious site.”
Murrai found that the Cambodians were nice and very friendly, in spite of the Pol Pot Kahme Rouge, a massacre of 2 million people in Cambodia. While in Cambodia, he saw the Halo Trust, an organization endorsed by the late British Princess Diana, disarming mines all around the cities.
After spending twelve days in the extremely hot and humid weather of Cambodia, he went to Thailand. “I spent five days in Thailand, and it was extremely westernized compared to Cambodia,” said Murrai. “It’s only 125 miles away, and it’s a totally different world.”
Murrai then returned home for 10 days, then took off for Turkey and Greece. Being an Art Appreciation instructor as well as a photography instructor, he had a chance to augment his knowledge about the classical world historic sites. He spent 16 days in Turkey, traveling from the Anatolian Plain down to the southern and western coasts of Turkey. “The people of Turkey were very friendly and pro-American,” said Murrai. “Turkey is a politically neutral country, although they’re very concerned with the problems in Afghanistan and Iraq. Unfortunately, the people of Turkey feel they’ll have to take a stand on the issues soon.”
Murrai then traveled to Greece, visiting Athens, the Acropolis, and the island of Crete. “Greece doesn’t have a lot of funds to preserve their archeological sites,” said Murrai, “so a lot of the ruins are in a state of bad repair. I thought Turkey was more satisfying; Greece was too touristy.”
After Greece, Murrai headed back to America, ending his sabbatical. “It was a very intensive, diverse experience,” said Murrai. “It was extremely beneficial in respect to the direction the Photo Department is taking. It’s helped my evolution as an artist.”
“Many people think a sabbatical is a vacation, but it’s not,” said Murrai. “It can be far more difficult, intense and expensive than a regular year of teaching.”