When I was 12, I got my first camera — a Polaroid OneStep. I toted it everywhere, pretending I was an “artist,” and saving my allowance to buy film. Those early days with a camera helped me shape my place in the world. I didn’t just see pictures around me, I felt them. And now I could capture those feelings on film. The images felt true and real. It was thrilling.
It wasn’t until I was in college, studying sociology, that I took an intro to photography class. That class re-affirmed what I had long felt — photography was my medium. I learned as much as I could about it. I talked to photographers, read photo books, took workshops, and explored museums. This was what I wanted to do. Again, photography helped me shape my place in the world.
After college, I studied with some of the great photographers of our time: Larry Fink, Debbie Fleming-Caffrey and photo critic John Szarkowski. As Larry Fink’s printer and studio manager, I become a master printer. It took years, and many muddy prints, to reach that point. The darkroom was my sanctuary—a place to print, listen to music and think.
Now instead of standing in a darkroom, I sit at a computer. Like most working photographers, I’ve added digital cameras and Photoshop to my resume. But while I miss the darkroom, I love the versatility of digital photography. It has opened up my work, allowed me to be even more spontaneous, and to include more color.
Although the technology has changed, my approach to shooting is still the same, whether I’m using my Canon Mark II 5D, my Hasselblad or my iPhone. I feel a pang in my gut and my heart races when an image catches me. It’s still thrilling. Like those first days with the Polaroid, I find something true and real in those images, and they help me to shape my place in the world.