As I sat down to write a little about myself – an act which makes me more than just a little uncomfortable – it occurred to me that I really can’t remember a time when I wasn’t creating something; my mom used to say I could draw before I could write. I’ve found a few remnants of those early drawings in the form of triangle-shaped cars and stick figure soldiers. One of my early masterpieces, a Christmas-themed sketch, even featured our pet parakeet, Snoopy. I drew all the time (cartoon characters mostly) and until junior high thought I wanted to be an animator at Disney. But as I started to read more science fiction, sketches of Mickey and Pluto gave way to Frazetta-inspired barbarians and scantily clad warrior-damsels locked in battle with demons, dragons and demigods.
In high school, I was fortunate to have three teachers who changed my trajectory, or at least had a profound influence on it: Mr. Andrew, who taught art and introduced me to not only mixed media, but also a world of classical art that was previously unknown to me; Mr. Kenison, who taught me how to appreciate literature and the power of well-written narrative; and Mr. McCormick, who taught photography and provided my first experience watching an image fade up in a tray of developer. After high school (and a brief delusion that I wanted to be a Marine Biologist), I joined the Theatre Arts department at Cal State Long Beach, where I majored in Technical Theatre, specifically scenery and costume design. Just like high school before it, the stage opened me up to a whole new world of storytelling, from Shakespeare and Sam Shepard to John Conklin and Josef Svoboda. I also took classes in graphic design and discovered brilliant work from minimalists and modernists alike and learned how color, line and shape can tell a story without words.
In 1997, I got my first New Media job, writing HTML for a small internet startup. Prior to that, my focus had been shifting from analog art and design to computers and digital media. Photoshop had all but replaced my paints and brushes and a new crop of 3D applications were allowing me to build worlds I never could have imagined on stage. The Web seemed to be the new land of opportunity and I was ready to dive in. Over the next few years, I continued to work in New Media until a phone call from a headhunter opened a door I never even knew was there. I was teaching Photoshop® and HTML at a computer school in southern California when I got a call from an agency, telling me that Universal Studios was looking for Flash developers to join their Online division. Two interviews and a few weeks later, I was in the tower at Universal Plaza, working as an independent contractor on the Flash team building the new site for Universal Theme Parks. When we were nearly finished with that project, a full-time staff position opened up, which I pushed for and ultimately got. I was promoted to Art Director, given an office, and over the next few years worked for one of the largest entertainment companies in the world, designing content for all of Universal’s major business units. The Online division was ultimately disbanded, one of many casualties of a corporate merger, though I continued doing contract work for Universal Pictures and freelance design work for companies in entertainment and elsewhere.
By 2008, what had begun in high school had come full circle; I picked up both a camera and a brush and created new and original work for the first time in more than fifteen years. The work was much different this time around, influenced by artists like Robert Rauschenberg, Dorothy Simpson Krause and even Shepard Fairey. I was also exploring different creative processes such as mixed media, image transfer and collage in an attempt to find my own creative voice. Several of these new pieces were shown in local galleries (one of the curators called the pieces in my Casualties of War series “little jewels”) and a few of them were purchased.
I was taking on less and less design work and started teaching Photoshop classes at a local photography school. One of the things I began to notice was how little many of the students knew about photographers. I would do informal surveys or just ask random questions during my classes and was surprised at how few students knew the work of even the more iconic photographers like Richard Avedon and Irving Penn. There were plenty of websites talking about photography (maybe too many), but not very many talking about photographers, at least not in the way that I thought they should be. I loved teaching, but started to realize that the why of photography was becoming more interesting to me than the how. Most of the techniques you could ever want to know were just a YouTube click away, but learning a photographer’s inspiration behind a particular project or some of their influences was another story.
On Scott Kelby’s 2009 Worldwide Photo Walk, a group of us from the photo school were shooting in and around Chinatown. We were having a great time, but when the “official” end time for the walk came, nobody wanted to stop. “Let’s just keep going,” several of them said. So we did – walking and shooting for nearly nine hours all over Downtown Los Angeles. When it started getting late (and people started getting tired), several of them asked when we were doing it again. They didn’t want to wait until the next official walk, so one of the other instructors and I said we would try to put something together for the following month. Faded & Blurred began simply as a way to promote the photo walks we did (for nearly 18 months), but since then has evolved into – in my opinion at least – one of the best sites on the web for creative inspiration, incorporating editorials, features and our in-depth Spotlights. One of the early features on Faded & Blurred was our podcast called Q&A@F&B, which was a series of one-on-one interviews with photographers whose work I admired and wanted to know more about. The show was short-lived, but it allowed me to have fantastic conversations with photographers like David duChemin, John Keatley and Karl Taylor. It also introduced me to Bill Wadman, who nearly a year after I interviewed him, approached me about a new podcast he wanted to do about the art and science of making images. He had auditioned a few people looking for a co-host and asked me if I would be interested. My “audition” ended up being the first episode of a weekly podcast, called On Taking Pictures. Now more than 140 episodes later, I’m developing a new show that takes me back to the interview format. Process Driven centers around having conversations about creativity and how the creative process manifests itself across a wide variety of genres and disciplines. I will be sitting down with artists, writers, filmmakers and yes, photographers – anyone who has an interesting story to tell and an hour or so to share it.
Stories are what connect us to one another and sometimes the best stories are the ones you never saw coming. John Lennon said, “Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans.” The best parts of my life so far have been written in the margins, the unexpected happy accidents that surprised or challenged me, and I’m looking forward to seeing how the next chapters unfold.