‘My passion is the camera’

‘My passion is the camera’

Off the main hallway at the Radio and Television Communications department that also houses KSDS Jazz 88, Senior Tutor Arthur Cervantes is giving a camera tutorial to film and television students.

You might mistake Cervantes for a radio DJ or jazz musician with his fingerless gloves and a single braid hanging from his hair cropped short on top.
Cervantes gives two-hour tutorials to prepare the students to pass a quick camera check, and he is not the kind pass a student lightly.

“My passion is the camera,” said Cervantes, who has been a tutor at City for nine years.  “My purpose in life is to teach students how to program these camcorders so they can be successful in life, to be comfortable and to conquer their dreams.”

Cervantes was an electrician for twelve years until a workplace injury made it impossible for him to do manual labor.

“I had a herniated disk,” said Cervantes.  “It came to the point where I couldn’t walk and was on crutches.  The doctor put me on disability and I was disabled-handicapped at the age of 27.”

“Years went by and I wasn’t doing anything with my life.   I thought to myself, ‘What are you going to do with yourself when you’re 30, 40, 50?  What are you going to do?’  And, I didn’t know.  I came back to school.”

Cervantes had a background in reel-to-reel audio recording, a hobby of his father’s since Cervantes had been a child.  He had gone to San Diego High School his junior year and had spent time at City’s cafeteria (back then, it was located where City’s bookstore is now).  His decision to attend City as an adult was an easy one.

Cervantes constantly refers to a photo he had once seen of a TV news camera operator inside a TV studio.   This and a technical background with electronics led to a fascination with video cameras.

“Throughout the years, I wanted to know, ‘How does a camera function inside?’  That’s why I took video and film,” said Cervantes, who also filmed his daughter’s birthday parties and school ceremonies.

Cervantes moved from being unemployed and disabled to graduating and eventually becoming an employee of City College with the help of two key people — the late Hope Shaw, who was department chair of RTVC until her death in 2005 and John Hildebrand, professor and department chair after Shaw passed.

“Hildebrand taught me everything I know about cameras,” said Cervantes about his mentor who first employed him as a tutor at City.

While he gives Shaw, Hildebrand and current RTVC director Laura Castaneda a lot of credit for supporting him in his endeavors at City, he said he still owes his father more credit than anybody for giving him the foundation he needed to succeed in his current occupation.

“I’m really grateful just for the little technical things my father taught me.  Because if he didn’t, I don’t think I’d be sitting here in this chair today.”

His technical background and education is only part of the equation.   There’s also passion.

“When I come to work here, I don’t drag,” Cervantes said, “I love what I do.”

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‘My passion is the camera’