My parents were both excellent photographers and had worked as professionals at different times before I came along. So, I was always surrounded by good work, even in the family snapshots that everyone takes. My eighth birthday present was a Kodak Instamatic 104. When my mother saw the first pictures she gave me one of those brook-no-opposition looks and bought me another roll of (cheaper, black and white) film and those twelve frames were given over to lessons in rigorous composition.
I got truly hooked in my very early teens when I picked up a coffee table book at the house of a family friend. It was the first edition of Peter Pollock's History of Photography, and I was thunderstruck, particularly by the chapters on Edward Weston and Ansell Adams. That's what I wanted to do. Not necessarily take pictures of Charis Wilson or Mount Williamson, but to make images with that kind of impact and clarity. I never really thought of it as a way to make a living, which was probably good, as that's a very hard road.
In college I studied political science and got my second wind as serious photographer in the classic mode of 35mm Kodak Tri-X, D-76, and Agfa Brovira paper. In spite of the mandarin education, I spent my twenties in the trades, happy to support myself as long as I had a little left over for film and paper. Towards thirty I hit something of a wall in both my artistic and day work, and took the Foreign Service Exam. At thirty-three I became an American diplomat, and have just retired after twenty-eight years of service to my country.
My third wind as a photographer started in the late '90s in Vietnam. I was shooting souvenir shots with an automatic pocket camera (with a good lens!) and some of the pictures were better than souvenirs. I kept shooting through unfortunate obsessions with large format equipment and Kodachrome, and ten years later in Haiti the work really began to gel. I was really lucky in Port-au-Prince in a job that took me to the field every week. Haiti is an incredibly rich environment for any kind of art, and I grew like a happy mushroom. By the end, I was completely digital, working on one level in the streets, and on another making stitched panoramas so I could get all of the hillside settlements into one shot. On my way to my next post I had a camera modified to shoot near-infrared, and a lot of my work since has been based on that invisible light.
I retired in Kathmandu and have recently moved to Washington DC, as my wife is a successful NGO manager, then in Nepal, and now in the U.S. I'm working on both land and city scapes, semi-abstract work, and am still shooting at the street level.