Ferris photographer Bill Bitzinger owns more than 140 cameras, and with them he’s captured the past 27 years of Ferris history.
Bitzinger, who is the manager of photographic services at Ferris, began at Ferris shooting black and white film in 1992, and celebrated his 27th year at Ferris Monday, April 1. A lot has changed technologically since then, but his goal of capturing campus life has remained the same.
“It’s always been storytelling, and as much as I hate mission statements, my goal has always been to put kind of a human face on this college experience. Not only the students, but also faculty, staff and alumni, and showing what it’s like going to school here. The trick is, I get older and everyone else stays 20 years old,” Bitzinger said.
In the beginning, Bitzinger’s time was spent taking photos by day, and spending hours the next morning developing film in a dark room before going back out to repeat the process. In 2000, Bitzinger and Ferris made the change to digital photography with a camera less powerful than that of modern cellphones.
“I can make photos now that I couldn’t make even ten years ago because of technology changes, and certainly not when I started here,” Bitzinger said. “I still have the original camera sitting over there on the shelf. A blistering 1.3 megapixels and it cost — with accessories — $15,000. A new car or a camera, what’s your choice?”
Holding onto that first digital camera isn’t just a memento; it’s part of an amassment of more than 140 unique cameras in Bitzinger’s collection. His office is filled with a variety of cameras spanning several decades, and toy cameras surround his desk, line the top of his shelves and even hang from the ceiling.
“You go to my house, I have a room 12 by 30 feet, they’re stacked up high. I have from very old early 1900s bellows cameras, a shelf full of Nikons, a camera that looks like a Budweiser beer can that was given to me. A wacky collection of stuff. I’ve run out of room and I don’t know what to do with the last couple that I’ve got,” Bitzinger said.
His favorite of all is a Kodak, given to him when he was about 10 years old by the man who introduced him to photography: his grandfather.
From a child developing lm under his grandfather’s stairs to someone holding a 27-year career as a university photographer, Bitzinger has taken a lot of photos in his life. Hundreds can be found online. His photos — ranging from mural sizes of campus life, to framed black and white photos of a farm — line the walls of the Prakken Building.
As for how long before photography becomes just a hobby again instead of a profession, Bitzinger doesn’t have any plans set in stone, but said next year might be his last of capturing Ferris’ memories before he retires.
“Over the years, this has been really fun stuff to do. If you look at what I’ve got hanging up on the walls, I’m really proud of that,” Bitzinger said.