Local photographer, teacher on a mission to help future generation of creatives

Posted at 5:00 AM, Jan 24, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-24 20:17:38-05

CLEVELAND — Cleveland’s community of creative community will come together this weekend to hone and improve their skills while also helping the next generation at the same time.

In conjunction with Avon Lake-based The Pixel Connection, local organizations Cleveland Creates and Creatively Speaking, a series of seminars and workshops will be held on Sunday afternoon that will ultimately help raise money for Michael Thornburg’s photography class at Cleveland School of the Arts. Thornburg, a full-time teacher and photographer, has been trying to raise money to purchase additional cameras and other equipment for his students.

“The biggest thing I always tell my students is like the best way to become a better photographer is to take photos,” Thornburg said. “Everyone today has a camera but not everyone is a photographer. I’m trying to create more photographers. That’s the goal of the fundraiser and my class in general.”

Thornburg developed his love for photography – especially portrait photography -- while studying abroad several years ago. Ever since, whether it be a digital or film, the camera has been an extension of who he is.

“For me, it’s just a great way to connect with other people and tell stories through photos,” Thornburg said. “Even my photos that aren’t of people, I try to have a very human element to them. It makes life awesome and amazing. For me, I recognize how incredible life is and people are through photography.”

His passion for still photography is matched only by the love he has for his students.

“I love teaching. My students sometimes ask me, ‘why do you do this? Why do you want to come and deal with us every day?’” Thornburg said. “I tell them, ‘if I didn’t want to do it, I wouldn’t be here.’ The kids are why I show up to work every day.”

Last fall, Thornburg began a crowd-sourcing campaign to try to raise money to purchase additional cameras and equipment for his high school photography classes. Most of the students in his class are unable to afford their own cameras and Thornburg doesn’t require his students to purchase their own. Instead, the class relies on a handful of cameras split amongst more than two dozen students. While the supply of available cameras has never left students unable to use one, Thornburg said an additional 10 to 15 cameras would allow the students greater freedom and flexibility.

“It’s just a way to express yourself and a skill that the students can use for the rest of their lives,” Thornburg said.

On Sunday, the Make a Difference Fundraiser will host a series of workshops covering topics like community building, photography and modeling. Tickets are $25 and all proceeds will go toward the purchase of equipment for Thornburg’s class. Donations are also being accepted.