From the Beginning, Part 1
Many photographers ask me how I got started in photography. It all began when I was seven years old and my father gave me my first camera. My Dad was an amateur but was good enough to earn some money on the side photographing weddings and parties.
He also owned some great photo books and subscribed to magazines—which proved to be very important to my future career. I remember lying on the floor in front of the fireplace looking through the pages of LIFE and National Geographic. It had the same effect on me as books I used to read about historical events (I loved the “You are There” series that some of you may remember): My mind drifted off and I imagined myself walking thru villages talking to people, experiencing and photographing the exotic cultures I discovered on those pages.
Seeing the iconic images of the Reverend Martin Luther King in LIFE shaped my thinking on how photography could change the world. Those pictures brought the issues facing our country into my home in Indiana. So when I was eight years old I decided I wanted to be a photographer for National Geographic Magazine.
My Dad and I built my first darkroom when I was 11. I started shooting for my middle school newspaper, and later for my high school newspaper and yearbook and got a job working at Sunny Schick Camera Store in Fort Wayne.
I was accepted to some of the best photojournalism schools, but was discouraged from following photography as a career. So I studied urban renewal at Indiana University—and left college after two years. I backpacked around the world with my camera, eventually landing in Seattle where I started an industrial advertising business with two high school friends. I was miserable.
I finally had the courage to follow my dream: I found an art/photography school that would transfer my credits, and moved to California to study at University of San Francisco. I was finally on my way.