Why I am a portrait artist? Here's a little of my story...
My very first camera was a Brownie Box camera purchased in 1968. I started by taking black and white nature photographs. This was the beginning of my photographic love story. In high school, I also took some photographs for the school paper and yearbook; I thought "this is cool", but never imagined doing it as a career. When Helen and I got married we were very disappointed in our wedding pictures; we made the mistake of choosing quantity over quality. Could a seed have been planted then?
It wasn't until a friend of my sister asked me to do her wedding that I began to consider that maybe this could be a fun hobby/weekend job. I realized that if I was going to photograph people, I needed to invest in learning how to do it well. That was the perfectionist coming out in me.
First, I began by studying with the top wedding photographer out of Washington D.C.; an inspiring mentor that not only showed me how to take good photographs, he also showed me how to help people enjoy their very special wedding day. I then sought out the best children's photography and family portrait specialists from around the country and began working with them. By 1991, I decided to make this more than just a hobby and opened the studio. I was determined to become not just a photographer but a photographic artist. It didn't hurt that my wife Helen was behind me pushing, shoving, I mean encouraging me the whole time.
The following year we acquired our first child, Dumper the French Lop rabbit. Helen convinced me that she would be a great addition to our children's photographs for the first charity promotion we were doing with T.C. Thompson Children's Hospital and Children's Miracle Network. She made the case that once the promotion was over, we could find Dumper a new home. Like that would ever happen. We were often asked why the name Dumper, we thought it a funny variation on Thumper and the fact that even though she was litter trained sometimes she still left presents for us.
A short three years later we had to find a new space, so we began our search, culminating in our current location at 850 Vine Street. I had been on Vine Street for the first time in 1989 but never thought to own a home here. When I first made an offer on the four story house everyone around me thought I was crazy to consider it, having only been in business for three years, but I had big dreams. Taking a house in the historic Fort Wood neighborhood and making it home to the premier portrait studio I'd dreamed about, seemed like the right move. Over the years it has been wonderful to be part of this great neighborhood and be able to contribute to its revitalization.
In 1995, I was honored to receive my Master of Photography Degree from Professional Photographers of America and in '97 my Craftsman Degree. Through the years I feel honored to have won many awards and continue to enjoy the respect of my colleagues. Now, I have the privilege to give back to the profession by teaching and mentoring other photographers, giving seminars, and doing personal consulting.
Photography continues to evolve. Most everyone has a smart phone with a camera. Billions of images are captured on phones everyday with millions and millions shared via all the different forms of social media. Although these images are wonderful and we all enjoy them, they cannot replace well thought out photographic portraits that do so much more than just record a likeness. Photographic art, these timeless portraits reveal the very essence of their subject at that moment.
The answer to why am I a portrait artist?
Simple, I love to tell visual stories; stories about a family and their relationships. Hearing the pride in your voice as you talk about your kids. The sweet innocence of a newborn baby as you hold those cute little fingers and toes. The visual reminder of that toddler when you see their sneaky grin. Your high school senior is becoming an adult. They feel excited and a little sad when asked about their last year in high school. Celebrating the couple who have been married for 40 years and still adore each other.
I am inspired by taking what some see as ordinary, but I see as a meaningful story to tell. Together, let us discover how to tell your story for this and the next generation through portraits.