Carol was taking a test in my history class.
My Yashica TLR was sitting on the corner of my desk.
I reached over and quietly squeezed the shutter.
One question I’m frequently asked is “How do you get started in professional photography?”
My standard answer is that you get into photography the way you get into prostitution: You start out doing it for fun, then you do it for your friends, then you wind up doing it for money!
Actually, though, that's not how I started.
In the summer of 1968 my second son was born. We were living in Miami at the time, and the only camera I had was an old Kodak Brownie with a sticky shutter. Obviously, something better was needed to make pictures of the new baby. I found a magazine ad from a company offering to give me a brand new Kodak Instamatic camera and five film cartridges for free if I would send the film to their lab for processing.
Not long after that I bought a photo magazine — the August,1968 issue of Popular Photography. Then more magazines followed, and better cameras. I was hooked. (As for the influence of the magazines, I think it would be fair to say that I would not be a photographer today if it had not been for photo magazines.)
Also in August, 1968, I began a new job: teaching in a private school. The following year, I was asked to be the faculty advisor to the yearbook staff. By that time, I had acquired a Nikon F and two lenses -- a 35mm f2.8, and a 135mm f2.8, both Tamrons. The school also had a Yashica 24 twin-lens reflex donated by the yearbook company.
Senior Car Wash
Florida Christian School, Miami, Florida
Yashica 24 Twin-Lens Reflex, Plus-X (probably)
As it happened, I wound up making all the candid photos for the yearbook and doing the layout as well. I also photographed school activities and sports and sold prints to the students and their parents -- a practice that would probably be frowned upon these days, but it was a private, not a public, school, times were different then, and it was all perfectly acceptable. In the process, I realized that I liked photography better than teaching.
After that year, I moved my family back to the Chattanooga, Tennessee area, which I consider my home town even though I was not born there, and began looking for ways to get into photography full-time. I picked up a few small commercial jobs, but nowhere near enough to make a living, tried my hand at selling life insurance (a disaster), and worked a year at a newspaper doing page layout.
In the summer of 1972, I followed up a classified ad I found in my paper and applied for a job at Continental Film Productions, a small film and audio-visual production house. I was interviewed, but nothing happened until that fall, when I was called in for a second interview and hired as a trainee/general dogsbody. Over the next four or five years I worked my way up to producer/director/writer before leaving for a year as director of advertising at another organization. On January 1, 1978 I opened my own business in my basement, with the name Photomedia Productions and a $3000 deposit to create a catalog for an electronics company.
From there, it has been a long, sometimes adventurous, often difficult, always interesting, ride. Truly a life in photography.