I have a long history with photography. It seems to run in my family, actually. Nothing on the professional level but rather as a way to tell stories. You see, my great-grandfather used a Voigtlander Brilliant, my grandfather a Minolta SRT101, and my father both Canon and Minolta. It’s in my blood, so to speak.
So at age 23 or so, the photography gene in me started to come alive. I saved a few pennies went to the local camera store – Gene’s Camera – and bought myself a used Olympus OM-10. I had several cheap cameras growing up, but this was my first “real” camera. My father showed me how to use it, what depth of field was, and how to set the camera at the proper aperture and shutter speeds. I was overwhelmed. Naturally I forgot everything he told me. But I continued to practice and take photos, learning about composition, framing, light, the rule of thirds, sunny 16 rule, and lots more. In graduate school I took the camera with me everywhere. Here is where I set down my paparazzi roots.
In the late 1990s, while working for a local toy manufacturer, I switched to a Canon EOS Elan film camera given to me by a coworker. The LCD was busted but I didn’t care – it was free. My company saw my budding obsession with photography and asked me to do digital photography of new products for the website. I agreed. It was a crap-tastic Kodak camera that didn’t respond well to external lighting. But it was digital photography and I was dipping my toe into the future of the art form.
After saving more pennies, I upgraded to a second Canon film camera (which had a working LCD) and experimented more artistically with film, both color and black-and-white. I was tempted to go into digital on my own but the megapixels were still not to the point that could rival film. But then my wife at the time gave me a Christmas gift of a Canon Digital Rebel XT, the 8 megapixel entry-level DSLR that was rockin’ the camera world at the time. And it rocked my world too.
My digital years went from the XT to the XTi when I was shooting a wedding and the memory card accidentally bent the spokes and I couldn’t put in another one. What’s a photog to do? In between the wedding and reception, I went to Circuit City and bought a replacement camera body – that’s what. I decided I needed to upgrade to the XTi and I had that body up until 2011 when I bought the 7D. It was like going from a Yugo to a Ferrari.
And now I’m shooting with a Fuji X100S, the digital rangefinder that is giving the Leica M9 a run for its money. The camera has propelled me into my newest obsession – street photography.
I continue to challenge myself based upon some of the photographers that I admire, from Harry Callahan to Henri Cartier-Bresson, Annie Liebovitz to Jeremy Lock. I follow practitioners like Valerie Jardin and Brett Birdsong, using their images as inspiration to try new things or push my own understanding of the art. Currently I am beginning to experiment with studio lighting and have immersed myself in literature, sites, and experts. There will be bumps along the way, but that’s to be expected. As Henri Cartier-Bresson famously said: “Your first 10,000 photographs are your worst.”
With each photo I take, I strive to tell a story of something that happened, that is happening, or that will happen. Images are slices of life, whether it’s a flower, animal, car part, child, adult, landscape, or a bird. Within each setting I strive to display images that resonate with viewers in some way, engaging them in conversation so to speak.
Finally, I have to admit there’s an emotional rush to making a photograph. It’s about the thrill of the hunt for the perfect image, something that eludes anyone who gets excited by the sound made by a shutter opening and closing. I can’t wait to see what I made and push myself to improve on what I create.
What began as a hobby has turned into a self-described obsession. Family and friend photos became a starting point for what I now see as a record of my daily experiences. And it’s one of the few hobbies where I can merge photography with my love of all things rhetoric.