It was a black and white photograph. The image had become yellow from age. The edges were damaged. However, it captivated my attention the first time I laid eyes on it. As I looked at the photograph, my mind traveled through time, to the Vietnam War. At the muddy riverside, a helicopter had crashed into pieces. Flames and thick black smoke were escaping from the cockpit. The moment before the explosion appeared to be so intense. I felt like I was there at the scene. I took a step back from the photograph and felt like I wanted to run. The photographer is of an unforgettable person. He is my friend, Jason William Weber.

After receiving my Photoshop certificate at the School of Visual Arts, my teacher told me that he had an elderly and talented student who was looking for a tutor. Even though I had no tutoring experience, I decided to help him after hearing his story. Jason William Weber was 81 years old at that time. He looked like Santa Claus but without the white beard, and he had the mind of a young man.

During our first meeting, Jason showed me the photograph of the burning helicopter in Vietnam. He told me that he was on that helicopter. When it crashed, the pilot and the troops were able to jump to safety. His first instinct was to turn around and reach for his camera. However, he emphasized that before he started taking photographs of the helicopter crash, he made sure that his fellow troops were okay and not too traumatized.

Jason loved to experience new things and fully embraced new technology. That is the reason why he could learn to use digital cameras and study the Photoshop program at the age of 81. He once said, “As long as you are green, you continue to grow. But as soon as you become ripe, you start to get rotten. The only way to keep growing is to keep learning.” When I reach my eighties, I hope that I will be “young” and fearless like Jason.

During our lesson, I learned fascinating stories about Jason. He was a military photographer in the Vietnam War. The photograph of the burning helicopter was one of his masterpieces. He used his camera to reveal to the world the hazards and cruelty of war. After Jason retired from the military, he specialized as a global disaster photographer.

In 1976, there was a 7.5 magnitude earthquake that struck China. It killed approximately 100,000 people and left many thousands injured and homeless. Jason went there with a rescue team and reported first-hand information to the world through his photographs. Humility had become one of his qualities by virtue of his life experiences.

As Jason’s tutor, I felt his sincerity and respect for me and I was honored. He always listened to me with patience and practiced all Photoshop skills again and again. As his friend, I can say he is one of the wisest men I have ever met.

I will always remember Jason. Not only was he my first student, but I also learned invaluable life lessons from him. The key to his success was to keep learning. He used to say that knowing your true passion in life, and being motivated, is the answer to reaching your personal goals, being happy and staying young at heart. The more he cared about photography, the more he wanted to learn about new equipment and technology. He wanted to use his talent as a photographer to change our world to a better place. In the future, no matter what I do, Jason will always be someone whom I look up to.

Winifred Jeng is a Computer Arts major set to graduate in 2022. Winifred says: “I believe that art is a strong power that can change the world.”