Lens on baseball: Mount Si teacher’s photos appear in Pitch Black: African-American Baseball in Washington

Three historic photos snapped years ago by Mount Si High School photography teacher Jim Gibowski are now getting attention in a Northwest multimedia show.

Youth baseball photos taken by now-Mount Si teacher Jim Gibowski are part of an exhibit this fall at the Northwest African-American Museum.

Three historic photos snapped years ago by Mount Si High School photography teacher Jim Gibowski are now getting attention in a Northwest multimedia show.

Gibowski snapped the photos two decades ago for his business, Sports Action Photography.

Now, they’re in “Pitch Black: African-American Baseball in Washington,” an exhibit at the Northwest African-American Museum in Seattle (www.naamnw.org). The show is on through Nov. 9.

For more than three years, from 1995 to 1997, Gibowski worked as a substitute teacher and freelance photographer.

“The more photos I sold, the less I would sub,” he said. “One year, I sold about $20,000 worth of photos.”

Back then, photography was all on film. Gibowski converted one of his bedrooms into a darkroom.

He covered middle school and high school sports, and a few school plays.

“I mainly hit sixth, seventh, eighth grade, because that’s where the parents showed up.” He shot a lot of Little League action on the Eastside, but shot other, “weird things,” like roller hockey.

Some of the young people he later taught, he originally captured on film as a freelancer.

Gibowski attended league tournaments. That worked out well, because he could plan what he was going to sell.

He would shoot on the first day of the tournament, develop on day two and return to the tournament on day three with proof sheets to take orders.

“I would shoot, develop, cut out anything that was out of focus,” then make proof sheets and show them to customers. By the end of freelance years, he had amassed thousands of photos, printing countless photos and calendars.

“Parents would buy them, grandmothers,” Gibowski said. “I printed everything myself,” then shipped them sandwiched between cardboard collected from the nearby supermarket for a dollar, cut with a utility knife. “It worked out great!”

He always marked each one with his name and the number of the frame.

His showing in the museum exhibit happened after a museum staffer noticed the sticker on one of his old photos, and rang him up.

Pitch Black looks at the historic significance and contributions of black baseball, both locally and nationally. “Catch My Drift,” the youth-created portion of the exhibit, includes Gibowski’s videos.

The museum’s youth curators needed a library of images to choose from, and Gibowski’s images were included in that set.

“In looking through old photos from my son’s Little League days, there were some of Jim’s images with him and teammates,” Stephanie Johnson-Toliver, with NAAMI’s Youth Curator program.

“I knew he took photos at many Little League games in Seattle’s Central Area where teams played with uniform/team reference to Negro League teams. Jim’s images would make a local connection to youth baseball. I gave Jim a prompt for images that might work for the installation… he graciously plowed through his photo library to provide a number of images for the (Youth Curator) review.

The teacher’s photos are from a youth baseball tournament in Seattle’s Judkins Park. He snapped photos of several teams, children of all races, playing the game.

“One in there that is my best shot,” Gibowsku said, “a cloud of dust at home plate.”

Gibowski’s dual career ended in 1998, when he started teaching full time at Mount Si. But he’s still a passionate photographer, shooting live sports occasionally.

You can learn more about the Pitch Black show at www.naamnw.org/youth-curator.

Photos from Mount Si High School teacher Jim Gibowski, appearing in  Northwest African-American Museum exhibit on baseball.


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