Why Photography?

Growing up just outside Cleveland, Ohio, I came from a large Irish Catholic family of 8 kids. It doesn't get any more Midwest than that. My father was an inventor and needless to say had some eccentric hobbies. He once owned an old 1940's fire engine that he would crank up every 4th of July. Kids would come running from blocks away to hop on and ride around the neighborhood. He also owned an old 87 foot diesel ketch-sail boat he purchased at a shipyard in Ashtabula, Ohio. After a wealth of repairs and remodeling it was ready for sailing. Mom even made bed linens with the top and bottom sheets sewn together to keep us tucked in.

As a family of kids that ranged from toddler to high school, we crewed this boat out of the Great Lakes up through Nova Scotia, Canada and down along the east coast of the Atlantic Ocean for most summers in the 1970's through the 80's. I can remember pulling into port at Bar Harbor, Maine. The local newspaper reporter showing up to write about the family that sailed in the Atlantic on a unique boat. The look on her face was priceless when she realized we were mostly young children that were the crew. During the winter months, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute on Cape Cod chartered the boat to take research scientists out to study whales and other sea life. I saw wonderful places from that boat, and tried to photograph them all. I can still smell the salt air and visualize the rocky coastline, the incredible sea life of whales, sea turtles, seals and dolphin. Even as a kid I knew I wanted to be a Photographer, an Oceanographer, or Astronomer.

I decided after much encouragement by my parents to follow the dream of being a photographer. I remember starting college at the end of one summer where I had to leave my family by getting onto a smaller shuttle boat in the ocean that took me ashore, took a cab to the bus station, rode the bus 2.5 hours to the airport. I flew 3 hours to Cleveland, took a cab home, picked up a car, and drove 4 hours to college. I did everything but ride a mule. I feel my childhood experiences have helped to mold me into the photographer I am today. Though I live in the middle of Texas far from sea, I try to visit the ocean every year and nourish my soul.

I started my formal education at the Ohio Institute of Photography, majoring in medical photography where I photographed surgies/autopsies and minored in commercial photography. In the early 80's I worked at an industrial-commercial studio in Cleveland, Ohio. While there I photographed steel mills and industrial plants for equipment catalogs. I also worked for "Northern Ohio Live" magazine as the society column photographer. I photographed many opening night celebrations, benefits and society parties. The last couple of years Iv'e been a freelance photographer for Austin City Limits Music Festival and Mark Daughn glamour magazine as a photographer/location manager and model wrangler in amazing locations like Belize, Hawaii and Grenadine Islands.

In 1986 I accepted a position in the Photographic Technology Department of Austin Community College, http://www.austincc.edu/photo/ With over thirty faculty and five hundred students in the department, the ACC program is considered to be one of the best professional photography schools in the country and have company sponsors like Canon, Epson, Bronica, Mamiya. As well as manage the department I teach classes such as Fundamentals, Intermediate, Color Photography II, Advanced Color Darkroom and currently teaching the graduating students last course called Portfolio Development.

My current endeavors include experimenting with several old processes such as Platinum/Palladium and the more recent Argyrotype. I am also testing digital negatives with these techniques. These studies have proven to be a new challenge but well worth the results. I still enjoy using 4x5 and 8x10 cameras and the traditional techniques of photography and chemistry lab as well as the new technology of digital negatives and Photoshop. But I find the more advanced and technical the world becomes, the more I look back and research old world techniques from the early 1800's. I feel more than ever there is a dividing line between art and technology. While we can digitally capture, scan, manipulate and output images faster I feel it's important not to forget where we as photographers come from and learn from the artists of the past.