Originally, I’m from central California. Born in a town called Modesto, which was at that time a farming community in the central San Joaquin Valley, just south of Sacramento. I made a career as an air traffic controller, first in the military, then at Oakland Air Route Traffic Control Center in Fremont, California.
I have been an avid photographer since I was in the fourth grade. I vividly remember one summer morning when I was on summer vacation between the fourth and fifth grade. I was bored beyond tears with absolutely nothing to do. Never mind that we lived along the Tuolumne River east of town, and I had the whole San Joaquin Valley and Sierra Nevada Mountains as my playground. I was bored, and I wanted my Mother to fix it! Recognizing my problem, my Mother took me back to a closet where she had some old photographs that she and my Father had taken and developed themselves.
After understanding the impact of what my parents had done by processing the film and making simple contact prints with their own hands, I was immediately hooked. We went to the local camera store and bought a roll of film for an old Kodak Browny – I think it was 620 Plus-X PAN roll film at the time – and that afternoon I had a processing lab running that consisted of a blackened bathroom and three small Tuperware bowls. Later, I invested my life’s savings of $25.00 and bought an old enlarger from a friend that was manufactured by the Federal Stamping Company, which came with a processing tank, safe light, and other odds and ends.
I saved my money until I could afford a new camera. My father took me down to The Camera Center – a camera store that’s still on J Street in downtown Modesto – and announced that I was going to buy a camera, and I had $5.00 for the purchase. The salesman, looking at me like he didn’t quite know what to do, finally must have decided I was serious. He turned to his display of used cameras, and brought down an old Italian made Ciro 35mm range finder. The fabric on the back was tearing loose, so my Dad and I glued it back.
As a photographer, I concentrate my efforts on perfecting the craft. I take care of the technical issues related to making a good photograph that can be enjoyed for many years, and let nature take care of the art. All I have to do is interpret what I see.
Since I’ve made the change to digital, I’ve come to fully embrace all the tools that are available, to make the best images I can. I started off with a set of rules I thought were ethical and true to the craft, but finally realized that when I worked in my chemical darkroom, I had no rules. My goal was to make the absolute best image I could without constraints. Why should I have rules simply because I changed mediums? It didn’t make sense to place limits on interpretation and creativity. Sure, there are some thing I usually don’t do with an image, but it’s more because I don’t interpret a scene in that way, not because of an arbitrary rule I set for myself.
In the end, I still remember the smell of a new roll of film as I placed it in my camera, and the harshness of the fixer in the darkroom. It’s not that I like those smells by themselves, but that they represent to me what was about to happen; that I was about to preserve something for all time; capturing something that maybe others did not see, and show them the world where they live, in case they don’t have the time to look for themselves.