Standing neatly on edge on two long shelves in our garage are more than 200 Woodstock-era record albums that have managed to maintain their alphabetized dignity through four decades of boxing, un-boxing and re-shelving. As a teenager, I spent many long afternoons flipping through record store bins on the hunt for cool album covers (sometimes followed by long evenings re-learning that cool album covers don’t necessarily mean cool music). At the time, I thought of this habit as a slightly embarrassing quirk. In retrospect, I see it in chorus with other inclinations – cinematography over narrative, a childhood love of drawing, compass-and-rule geometry proofs – as evidence of my affinity for visual thinking.
Growing up in Denver, Colorado, my only experience with photography was in front of the camera, dutifully lined up with my brothers and my sister, trying in vain to master the art of the spontaneous smile for the hundreds of orange-casted Kodak Instamatic snapshots that filled our family photo albums. It wasn’t until my freshman year at the University of Colorado, when I purchased a 35mm camera to use for my architecture school class assignments, that I first looked through a viewfinder.
I eventually left my architecture studies for mathematics, but during those years as an architecture student, as I was teaching myself the rudiments of photography, I became conscious of the place of art and aesthetics in my life. After college, I put my camera on the closet shelf where it remained for twenty-five years as I busied myself with one career (swim coaching), then graduate school (business), and then a second career (software development) before I picked it up again to feed a newfound desire to fill photo albums with vacation, pet, and family snapshots. Filling them with a vengeance, I created a photographic diary of my family’s life for eight years.
In 2003 I bought my first digital camera, and during the first year of shooting with my pocket point-and-shoot, photography felt a little like magic -- the instant visual gratification of each shot as it appeared on the camera LCD, the easy photo correction and manipulation, the on-demand prints from a tiny $100 printer sitting on a corner of my desk, and of course, real-time worldwide distribution via the internet. I didn't realize it at the time, but some of the magic I felt was embodied in the implicit idea that I could now record every passing moment if I wanted to -- a powerful feeling, as if I could make my life richer with patient and expert documentation.
Over the ensuing six years, as I worked my way through a series of bigger and better cameras and lenses, I studied photography technique and became passably adept with Photoshop. And I took thousands of photographs. Predictably, managing the flood of these incoming images gradually overwhelmed the magic, and ultimately, the process felt empty, a realization that triggered a re-thinking of the motivation for my picture-taking hobby. I knew that I had a "good eye" and I knew that I had a solid grasp of the technical aspects of photography, but that wasn't enough to power my continued time, effort, and money. I felt like I had taken my picture-taking as far as it would go, so I put my camera gear back on the closet shelf.
I was weary of documenting my life and travels, but like the proverbial director sizing up a scene, I couldn't stop visualizing things in a virtual frame. In an effort to understand how photographs work and how they are able to engage and even move us, I pored over the images of great photographers, on the web and in my growing collection of photography books. I studied photographs from every genre, posing the twin questions of if and why a particular photograph might or might not be considered "art". All of this helped me to see a different way to use a camera, and after an eighteen-month break, I started photographing again, determined to learn a re-defined craft.
Photography is the process of making a “seen scene” into a permanent artifact that can simultaneously encapsulate varying elements of design, information, and emotion. There is magic in photography, but it isn't in the technology; the magic is in the curious and often enigmatic power of a two-dimensional image sliced out of our three-dimensional world to create an experience outside of its frame. My goal is to practice photography as a servant to the possibility of this magic and to apply a conscious approach to making photographs, instead of taking them.
I make my home in Seattle, Washington with my wife, Pamela, and our queen-in-residence, Maggie.
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