I have always been a photographer, but it has never been my vocation.
As a young boy I was first introduced to photography by my father who got me a Kodak Instamatic camera. I used it to record field trips in elementary school, pictures of my first dog Scammon, and creations I built out of blocks.
When I got into junior high school I moved up to my first 35mm camera, a Fujica STX-1. Money was tight so I would often compose and shoot scenes with no film in the camera. It was a time before the internet and smart phones, when watching a spider weave a web or a drop of water roll down a leaf was enough to sustain my attention on a summer afternoon.
In high school I got more serious about picture taking and took a job at a local camera store that also processed film in an hour. In short time I was behind the controls learning to read negatives, print photos, and do color corrections. Because I got discounts on film I shot more, took classes from a local pro named Bryan Peterson, and fell in love with the work of wilderness photographer Galen Rowell. I left Fuji and began shooting with a Nikon FM that would be my final film camera.
While my peers were off shooting for the school yearbook, because of my connections at the camera store, I was photographing local NBA basketball games, Formula One race cars at Portland International Raceway, and getting my first photo credit in Runner’s World Magazine. I also became interested in fashion and offered free photo shoots to local wannabe models.
As high school came to a close, two choices were in front of me. Apply to Art Center College of Design and pursue photography, or head to the University of Oregon for a more general business degree. While the choice in hindsight seemed obvious, the decision to drop photography ultimately led to the life I needed to experience.
Fast forward a couple of decades. I now have degrees in marketing, counseling psychology and systems science, and work at alleviating suffering in those struggling with addiction. For the most part, my camera equipment is gathering dust.
When my son is born in 2004, I venture for the first time into digital photography with a Pentax Optio 555. It’s not long before I see the coming revolution. No film, no processing expense, no smelly chemicals or time in darkrooms. For the first time in years, I begin seeing the world through the lens of a camera.
In 2006 we begin taking quarterly cross-country trips from Portland, Oregon to New York City to visit a doctor for my son. The trips are hard, always incorporating night flights, and revolving around medical stuff. We do our best to incorporate shows, good food, and sight-seeing, and eventually come to make lemonade out of lemons on most trips.
After a number of visits, the photographer in me awakens. I trade up to a Pentax K10D and start shooting more seriously. I invest time in learning Adobe Photoshop Lightroom and upgrade again to the Pentax K-5 II for better low-light shooting. I spend countless hours walking the streets of Manhattan letting my camera guide me, mostly at night and in the early morning hours, as my family sleeps.
Today, after about 50 trips, I have one of the largest portfolios of NYC images ever created. I now shoot with the Sony Alpha a7 II and have fully reconnected with the photographer in me. We continue to make quarterly visits, and I continue to find new and creative ways to see and experience what E.B. White eloquently wrote about in his 1949 book Here is New York:
“The city is like poetry: it compresses all life, all races and breeds, into a small island and adds music and the accompaniment of internal engines. The island of Manhattan is without any doubt the greatest human concentrate on earth, the poem whose magic is comprehensible to millions of permanent residents but whose full meaning will always remain illusive.”
If you live in NYC and want to meet up for coffee and talk about life – or go shooting sometime – please drop me a line.