How I Became a Photographer

an early photo

"Lone Pine"

My Story...

I have been around photography since a baby. By the time I was in elementary school I had my own simple box camera, I was experimenting with pinhole cardboard boxes and blueprint paper exposed to the sun; added to the adventure was a darkroom in the cellar. With my parents' interest in the arts and crafts, it wasn’t long before I was exposed to creative artists and artistic crafts. As a child I would sit for hours poring over my parent’s photography and arts & crafts magazines. Because of his own interest in photography my dad introduced me to the work some of the great photographers of the day, some I even had the fortune to meet. Dad saw to it that I learned the basics of photography. I always had a camera although my interest waned when I discovered girls and cars, and later college studies took priority. With marriage, life, and an opportunity to travel, my interest again picked up and I became enamoured with 127 film slides. Took thousands of them, just ask my kids. And that’s how I became a photographer, but that’s not the end of the story.

It wasn’t until the 90s that I began to become aware of the difference between “taking a picture” and “telling a story,” the difference between beautiful photos and photos that enabled inSight into the entirety of the world: people, places and things.

My becoming aware is an ever-evolving process that is constantly being honed. My goal is not so much to take photos that are technically correct as it is to take photos that tell stories, and sometimes breaking a rule tells a better story. That is not to say that I have no interest in photographic technological efficiency.

Photography knows no boundaries. It speaks all languages, yet speaks no language. You can get lost in a photo, you can create your own worlds within a photo. This is as true of the viewer as it is of the photographer. Photography as story telling speaks a liberative language, one that releases the inherent stories, one that moves you away from expectations into creative inSight. Insight is that penetrating mental vision, the ability of seeing into inner character, the underlying stories.

As a photographer, the things that are most exciting to me are found in the periphery, along the edge of casual observation, along the edge of what normally catches our eye. In my photography I seek the edge of the observed world to see what goes unseen. I am still learning to see, really See. To see beyond what my eyes observe, to see with inSight.

What I hope with each image is to both communicate and create stories – real and imagined – in the mind of the viewer. To stir up memories of life and life lived. To surprise both myself and the viewer with how the inherent liberated story unfolds.

While teaching cultural studies I began to explore the “psychology of culture.” What is it that makes a culture – any culture – psychologically unique? What is it that gives a culture both utopic and dystopic qualities? What intrigued me most was that unobserved “space between the line (singular)” where independent cultures melded into one, yet retained the characteristic of each. Working at that time in the urban setting it was only natural that I began to look at the “space between the line” were neighbourhood cultures met, and then, the “space between the line” in physicality and urban scenes, particularly buildings and infrastructure. What stories went unheard in this space, what stories were waiting to be liberated? In the process I began to realize how photography could be an important tool in puncturing the line in a way that freed the embedded unheard stories, allowing them heard.

In a Nutshell…

As a writer and photographer I strive to a gleaner, seeking to glean from what often goes unobserved, seeking to make sense of the paradoxes and conundrums of daily living, and to present through image and word my vision of what I observe. My atelier is not in the studio, it is in the world, where the daily is lived.

A Bit More About My Philosophy...

I tell stories. I chase ideas. I color outside the lines. I make my own rules. I want my photos to say, “Enter.”

I once read that a good photo is one that communicates viscerally, emotionally, and intellectually—in that order. My goal as a photographer is create images that do just this. And in so doing, allow each viewer to imagine the story in their own mind. I want my photos to talk to me, tell me why I should I care, to recall memories past, present moments, and future possibilities, to create a dream of what was and what can be. I want them to touch my soul. If they won’t speak to me, they won’t speak to the viewer. If the image speaks, it is only because I’ve somehow captured the essence of the subject in the image, that I have in some way brought you into my vision, into what I am seeing and feeling, even if you see and feel what I see and feel differently. When I create an image, I am constantly thinking about the way people will experience the work. There is really no such thing as just printing a photograph.

The image used here is one of my first photographs as a child.