…and so it begins

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As stated earlier, my father planted the seed of inspiration for my passion of photography. He and my mother were separated, so I was not able to get to know him as well as I would have liked growing up. He was more of a memory rather than what most people call their father, but it was akin to one of those fond memories that you wish could repeat. When my family went on vacations, I was always the one taking the better vacation photos, and as I look back, I can say that all of that was simply practice work for what was to come. I had other career options in mind, as I joined the US Marines as soon as I got out of school. During this time, I did get to know my father better as he would come and get me to bring me back home instead of making me ride the bus. The conversations we had were priceless, and I am forever grateful that I had the chance to have them.

On some occasions, I would go with him into his darkroom and watch him work. I was fascinated by it all, but at the time I was more interested in catching up on a lifetime of missed conversations. As with anyone, life still moves on. I got married, and my wife became pregnant with our first child. Three months later, my father passed away – at least he was aware that he had a grandchild on the way.

Before this point, I had never considered photography as a real career. I had never even considered myself all that interested in the arts. I loved taking photos, and had purchased my first modern SLR a year or so before – but used it primarily for taking higher quality vacation photos. At the time, I wanted to be something cool, like a pilot – which I was actually part-way through obtaining my private pilot’s license. Once my father passed away, something inside made me realize what knowledge I had actually missed from him, and how much I truly did enjoy photography, and no longer had that person to share those conversations with. It was at this point that I realized that was what I wanted to do. In a way, my father passing away spring-boarded me to become a professional photographer. He had left me his gear, two Mamiya M645 medium format cameras and a couple of enlargers, as well as some other various gear. I dedicated myself to learning how to use it, and knew the only real way to know it was to actually give it a field test.

Photo from my first model shoot, May 2001

Three months after my father passed away, I had my very first photo shoot. I had a volunteer model, Danielle Hristov. We met and made a few decent images from that session, and I consider this one the winner. I loved the feeling of doing a photo shoot with a model, as there was something about making everything work together and when the film came back, getting that reward of “YES!” Looking back now, I still love this image, but it may be more from nostalgia than the actual quality of the work. Is it perfect, no – but it would be the baseline of all my future work. I was entirely new at this, and had to have some point in which I could grow, and this was that point.