Let this be a cautionary tale: Never toss an old camera into a baby’s crib because if that kid is anything like me he’ll eventually ask for a roll of film. I was five, a few years out of the crib, and just looking through my mom’s Kodak 620 Holiday Brownie, snapping the self-cocking shutter was getting rather old. So I cajoled her into buying me a roll of film: 620 Verichome Pan, long thin yellow box, Kodak in bold red type across the side.
I loaded the spool of film into that little brown Bakelite camera and took it to a Friday night dirt track stock car race that a friend’s family had invited me to. July, summer of 1969, fading light, swarming mosquitos, and I shot all twelve of my exposures before the third lap of the first race. I can still remember my friend’s dad telling me to wait till the cars were standing still or they’d be blurry. Did I listen? No!
A week later I’m standing chin-high to the wooden counter of the local Rexall Drug, waiting for my mom to pay. Finally the druggist hands me the thick yellow envelope full of glossy black and white prints and mysterious strips of negatives. Wouldn’t you know it, nothing but ghost-like blurred cars and the faint dusk in the Western sky. Not a single decent picture in the whole lot. I’ll never forget that feeling and the burning questions: Why? What went wrong? What could I do next time?
I lifted my gaze out of the stack of disappointing pictures in my hands, looked up at my mom, and said, “Can I have another roll?” That’s how the whole thing got started and really it’s the spirit of learning, the constant growth, and the challenge to evolve aesthetically that’s kept me going to this day.
Along the way there’s been national magazines, Fortune 500 companies, and awards, sometimes hanging out of helicopters over the Pacific or hanging off of a rickshaw in Delhi. I’ve shot cars and boats, heart surgeries, buildings, CEOs and tenant farmers. I keep coming back to portraiture though. It’s an amazing job and a great privilege to get to know someone even if just well enough to turn their features and expression into a beautiful and timeless work of art. It’s my truest passion.