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February 20, 1997


University photographer Herb Ferguson retired Feb. 1 after 33 years at Pitt. One of his higher priority projects, he said, will be sorting through the approximately 300,000 photos and slides he has taken over the years.

Many of those shots have appeared in Pitt recruiting brochures, academic bulletins, sports publications, Pitt Magazine, the University telephone directory, on the official University Christmas card — even in the University Times. His Pitt assignments have taken Ferguson to 36 foreign countries, beginning with a three-week visit to Costa Rica and El Salvador in 1967 to document the Pitt medical center's involvement in a children's immunization campaign. He also was staff photographer for the Pitt-sponsored Semester at Sea program in spring 1984, led a Pitt Informal Program photo safari to Africa in 1990, and traveled 4,000 miles during two months in Poland in 1979 working on "The Polish Phoenix," an award-winning, multi-screen slide show produced by Pitt's Eastern European Studies Program.

Ferguson's work also has appeared in such free-lance projects as the coffee-table book, "Pittsburgh: Fulfilling Its Destiny," and the annual Pittsburgh Pleasures events calendar.

It's an impressive portfolio for a guy who majored in zoology and entomology as an undergraduate.

As a grade school student, Ferguson began shooting black and white photos and processing them in the basement darkroom of his family's Squirrel Hill home. He continued snapping away throughout his undergraduate days at Penn State and later in the U.S. Army.

"One day," Ferguson recalled, "one of my Army buddies asked me why I didn't go back to school, get a degree in photography and become a full-time photographer. I said, 'I didn't know you could get a degree in photography.'" Nor had Fer-guson heard of the place his buddy recommended: the Rochester Institute of Technology in New York, one of the world's elite photography schools. Ferguson ended up earning bachelor's and master's degrees in applied photography at Rochester, then returned to Pittsburgh as an industrial photographer for Alcoa. Four years later, Ferguson landed a photography job at Children's Hospital. A year after that, in 1963, he began his Pitt career as head of the medical photography department, a job he held for 15 years until the University's various photography units were merged under the University Center for Instructional Resources, which is now part of the Center for Instructional Development and Distance Education.

Now that he is officially retired — a seriously misleading status for someone with so many projects in the works — Ferguson, 65, plans to expand his free-lance career, especially in the lucrative field of architectural photography for developers and contractors.

Will he continue shooting for Pitt? Ferguson's white mustache spread across his face in a grin. "I've had several departments ask, 'Will you still do stuff for us?' And I've said, 'Oh yeah. But my price will be a little higher now." Ferguson selected some of his favorite photos for this issue of the University Times.

–Bruce Steele

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