John Bressie picked up a camera as a kid at Analy High in Sebastopol in the 1950s and never set it down.
For the past three decades, the professional photographer worked as a precise and respected adjunct member of the Art Department faculty at Santa Rosa Junior College. Before that, Bressie sold cameras and taught classes at the former Unruh's camera store.
He died Wednesday in Santa Rosa following a battle with cancer. He was 76.
Sean Bressie, also of Santa Rosa, said his father enriched the lives of the thousands of people he introduced to photography or helped to produce better shots.
“I think that's one of the largest impacts he's had — all the photographers he's inspired and taught,” said the younger Bressie.
Among his father's adventures in life was the cross-country bicycle ride he took with friend and fellow photography student Thaine Manske — both of them pedaling three-speed Raleighs — in 1957.
“We had 21 flat tires and crossed seven major mountain ranges,” Manske said Thursday from his home in Houston. “It was great. He was a good guy.”
In 1962, Bressie landed a gig as an extra on the set of Alfred Hitchcock's “The Birds.” He captured memorable behind-the-scenes shots in Bodega and Bodega Bay; some adorn popular greeting cards at Bodega's Landmark Gallery.
Among Bressie's former students at SRJC are professional photographers who credit him with helping them to comprehend and master the technical aspects of the art.
Photo-calendar creator Robert Janover said he'd already published a national landscape calendar when he enrolled in Bressie's creative portraiture class in the late 1980s.
“I knew natural light,” said Janover, who just published his 20th Sonoma County picture and events calendar. “I didn't know anything about people pictures.
“What I got from him was the understanding of how to create the light for portraits.”