In California, I had my first experience with art competition. An abstract printer's ink painting won first prize at the California State Fair. At this time I was drafted into the U.S. Army and served in the 52nd Army Band at Fort Ord as a drummer. Later I was assigned to Ft. Jackson, South Carolina and , military service (bandsman, jeep driver, mail clerk, company clerk, I was called to be the L.D.S. Servicemen's Coordinator for that location -- I also served as a Stake Missionary. At the end of my 2 year military obligation, I was called as a full-time Missionary to New Zealand. During my mission I served as a Supervising Elder and a Traveling Elder. When I returned home from my mission, I was ordained a Seventy in the Temple View Stake. I worked again for Jack Anderson at Jack's Drum Shop in Sugarhouse, and managed the store for him for several years, and resumed my drumming activities. I attended the University of Utah majoring in Anthropology, still playing the drums -- often with a band 6 nights a week. I would take classes at the University in the mornings, manage Jack's Drum Shop in the afternoons, play in a Jazz Combo nights from 9:00 PM to 1:00 AM, then try to study in between. In the middle of all this, I managed to travel to Europe. This was the beginning of a new direction for me. I was fascinated by the Old World charm and I photographed what I saw in Europe. Later, I entered some of the European photos in newspaper contests, and I began winning prizes, one of which was a national award. I decided to pursue photography and enrolled in several University of Utah photo classes.
The spirit moved me to transfer to Brigham Young University and with the help of the G.I. Bill, I was able to work only once or twice a week as a musician. However, while there, I began a lifelong photographic career which started in earnest when I was asked to be the Photo Editor for the BYU yearbook. I had my first solo art exhibit at the Harris Fine Arts building at BYU and photographed assignments for the university's art director. After I graduated from BYU, I played in a Classic Rock band on the road in the Western States during one summer. My photographic career took off as I became a commercial photographer with assignments for a travel agent in Israel, the LDS Church, and various businesses. I was featured in the International photo magazines, Camera 35 and Modern Photography. I also became a writer for articles, audio-visual presentations, and books -- My book, "A Guide to Available Light Photography", was published in New York and sold over 11,000 copies, and is still available on-line.
While working as a "stringer" photographer for the LDS Church, I traveled to Israel for the Church Magazines. I also photographed in Israel for Daniel Rona and Israel Revealed, a travel agency. I was in Israel so often (eight trips) that all the Church members knew me by sight. Once I was on a tour bus with an LDS group, and the tour leader announced, "We are privileged to be traveling today with the Church photographer. Don Thorpe please stand and be recognized." Coincidentally, the actual Church photographer was sitting next to me. So I stood and introduced him. For many years, my Holy Land photographs were featured in Church publications.
Back before digital cameras took over photography, I worked with the LDS Church staff photographers for ten years photographing General Conferences for the Ensign magazine. It was a special time because both me and Catherine were part of those occasions -- she translated Conference sessions and I photographed them. I would photograph all day long both inside and outside the Tabernacle, and Catherine and I would meet each other in between sessions, then go back to work in separate activities.
Because in those days the photography was with film, I would go to the Church Office Building at night, develop the film, make proof sheets, and deliver them the next day to the Ensign Magazine staff. At first all the photographs were Black & White, then gradually we transitioned to color, then when the Conferences were moved to the big Conference Center, digital cameras replaced the film cameras. Also some other drastic measures changed the way photographers worked. No longer were they able to mix with General Authorities, but they had to keep a distance from them. There were many reasons for this -- security being the main reason, but also the nature of the building and growth of the Church. However, some of my fondest memories were because of the close contact I used to have with the Brethren. They knew the photographers by name, and would often stop and talk to us.
I continued with assignment photography and exhibiting photo art. I have had more than a dozen solo photo exhibits in galleries such as The Springville Museum of Art, The Finch Lane Art Gallery, The Eccles Art Center, The Harris Fine Arts Center, The Utah Council of Arts Gallery, the Nauvoo Visitors Center, Park City Arts Festival, The University of Utah Libby Gardner Hall, and others.
Along the way I submitted photographs that were accepted in various juried art exhibits, such as the LDS International Art Exhibit, Mormon Festival of Art, The New York Coliseum, and Salt Lake Community College President's Art Show. One of my photos won an award at one of the Mormon Festivals of Art and was introduced by famed LDS artist, James Christensen, "Here we have this beautiful art piece by Don Thorpe." It was the only photograph accepted in that juried exhibit and James didn't call it as such. Another famous person, Robert Redford, personally gave me a first place award at the Sundance Resort photo contest.
A pivotal photo exhibit during this period was at Gallery 268, which was run by two of Gordon B, Hinckley's daughters, an association that later lead to my photo illustrating four of their children's books, and living in Gordon B. Hinckley's home for five months while he moved into another house.
During my eclectic career as an artist photographer, I branched out in several similar endeavors. I taught photography at Highland High School, I was a Website designer and producer, and . I have even photographed hundreds of weddings. My wife and I traveled in the U.S. and Europe writing and photographing articles about young LDS people for Church magazines.
However, my main source of income came from my involvement with Multi-Image production. These were special audio-visual presentations that were very popular for many years. They typically were presented by using multiple still slide projectors -- sometimes as many as nine projectors all at once controlled by a dedicated computer. These "shows" were often used in special situations, such as political conventions, stage plays, high level product or location promotions. Some of my Multi-Image shows were for President Ronald Reagan, Governor Bangerter, Governor Leavitt, John Denver, Museum of the Yellowstone, Gold Spike Museum, LDS Transportation Services, Utah Motor Association, Trolley Square opening, Saturday's Warrior musical, Lex de Azevedo's musical, 'It's My Life' performed in Symphony Hall, Promised Valley, and the highlight, 'Zion' which was a nine projector presentation that was part of the LDS Church sesquicentennial commemoration performed in the Salt Lake Tabernacle.
Mixed in with all that I have also worked at various short term or part time jobs, such as fork lift operator, construction work, and some other odd jobs. But probably the most important job of all is being the office manager, website designer and accountant for Vive La France School with my wife.
In the Church, I served as a full time missionary in New Zealand, was a Supervising Elder and a Traveling Elder. I served for 9 years as one of the 7 presidents of Seventy in the Bonneville Stake, was ordained a High Priest and served as HP instructor and counselor to the HP group leader. During this time I also serve two Stake Missions and served twice as the Sunday School President, and later served as the Executive Secretary to Bishop Tyler of the Garden Park Ward. Of course, I have taught Sunday School, Priesthood classes, and once was even a substitute teacher for my wife in Relief Society. Catherine and I served an Inner-City Mission for six and a half years which was an attitude changing and spiritual experience.