Originally Posted by Roger Hicks
Have you read many US news magazines? It's scary what gets past the copy editors and fact checkers, if any.
This is a great thread. It is amazing how many different paths people take to get them to their station. I’ve really been enjoying all the stories and feel like jumping in. Do I do the edited version? Or do I simply go with the Cliff’s Notes? Hmmm… Where to begin…
I had a Great Grandfather who owned one of the early portrait photography studios in Detroit. I’m not sure how early, but I have found a page in a city directory from the 1890’s with his studio address. Anyway, from this my Dad and his brothers had intense and varied interests in photography as well as all the gear to go with. Photography was just part of the family to me. One of my earlier memories was of this huge and fascinating contraption in my Uncle’s basement… a 4x5 enlarger. Needless to say it all stuck.
By age 12, I was mixing my own chemicals, processing my film and contact printing. (Still have the box). When finally in high school I was offered photography as an elective, I jumped at it. School paper and yearbook were next, then weekly newspapers when I got a driver’s license. I was like Les... there were literally thousands of little prints and tearsheets everywhere. (Unfortunately, I still have many of them as well!)
From there it was to college and the BFA, but not before dropping out for a stint in New York as an assistant. I had met a great photographer whom I had admired that had been brought to America from Ireland by none other than Richard Avedon in the early 60’s to assist. That was at a Fred Picker workshop in 1981. We hit it off and he invited me to come to NY and assist and print for him. I was gone in a second! New York offered a wonderful substitute for school and I learned more that year about photography and the business of it than any other period of my life. New York wasn’t for me though and I returned here to Michigan, finished school and built my own corporate/editorial business doing magazine and annual report work for the next 20 or so years. Oh yes… and A LOT of rock and roll work. How could I forget all that mess!
Like many of you, my personal work was what I was most interested in. I had been lucky enough in my high school years to have nearby one of the oldest photography galleries in the country… The Halsted Gallery. It gave me an appreciation of the greats and made me believe there was more to photography than the usual. I visited often and THAT is what I truly wanted to do. All the commercial work has been done with the idea it would fund my personal aspirations of being a “gallery” photographer. That was harder than I thought as it turns out. It is extremely hard to do both, but I kept the dream alive until finally getting the guts to take my work to Halsted. I was told they “didn’t handle local photographers” and that all my years as a commercial photographer meant nothing in the “fine art” world. I kept at it though and they finally took me on a temporary basis. Later that year, in New York, they sold the first print. It all got better from there and thankfully, has grown and expanded ever since. So far I have been very fortunate in being able to make the change to my more personal work, though I still do the occasional commercial job for old clients. Always hard to close the door on good money after struggling for so long! To this day it is hard for me to turn down a job.
Thanks for bearing with me if you made it this far! Sorry to be so long winded, but it was a good mind exercise to figure out just how I got here.
Keep up the stories!
...and live in a van down by the river.
Originally Posted by jovo
As Paul Harvey says here is "The rest of the story"
Also read;"These are terrible, horrible, no good, get them out of my sight!"
Time & tides wait for no one, especially photographers.
Helen, I worked underground at Lynemouth Colliery for 5 years. When will you next be in Wooler?
Originally Posted by Helen B
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My old man is a tech/camera/computer nerd, and always had cameras laying around the house, which I adopted over the years. Just messed around with.
I studied my first love, Literature, with plans of racing bicycles professionally after words.
My knees fell apart though.
Then photography sort of picked me.
I was a part of a small photo show, got some small odd gigs which sealed the deal. Then bumped into an incredible still life shooter I assisted for 2.5 years. Learned a lot there, and was able to do a lot of experimenting and make good money.
Moved to NYC to give the top a try, and that's were I'm at now. Shooting fashion and portraiture and the odd weddings. Actually just shot my first celebrity tear last week, which I was excited about.
I'm 26. For the most part I don't feel like I know anything. Having fun though.
Except I'm always broke and breaking gear.
Enjoying the stories - makes great reading.
Hmmm Bill. If I'd known you were that famous I would have swapped a print.
Originally Posted by billschwab
My comments about my career on the Dorothy Blum Cooper thread were about the conundrum one faces regarding doing commercial assignments versus doing only personal work. I've had two careers as a photographer, the first being 25 years as an advertising/editorial photographer and the second current career as an "art" photographer.
I had an interest in photography and sculpture during my high school years. In my last semester I enrolled in an internship program where I assisted 4 NYC advertising and editorial photographers who shared a studio. I continued to assist them and other photographers in the summer leading to my enrollment as a photography major at the School of Visual Arts in NYC, and while attending classes. I found that I was learning far more by assisting than by going to school. So in my second year at SVA I dropped out to assist (only to find myself back at SVA 6 years later as an instructor). I also continued to work on my personal photography and had my first NYC solo show at the now long gone Third Eye Gallery, I was 18. That would be he last solo show of my work for 25 years.
During this time I was also shooting assignments for the Village Voice, back when it was more of a real newspaper. I was continually assisting, mostly freelance which provided me with the broadest education having had the opportunity to work with many skilled, and some highly acclaimed photographers. I learned what it meant to be a professional from them. I was also bringing my portfolio to magazines and at 19 got my first magazine assignment, shooting B&W urban landscapes for NY Magazine. A few months later I shot my first national magazine cover, a color urban landscape for Saturday Review Magazine, followed 6 months later by a second cover for them.
I was getting more and more assignments to shoot and having less and less time available as an assistant so at age 20 I became a shooter full time. By age 21 I took a studio share on Fifth Ave. I didn't think much would come of it but it would be an opportunity to work on my portfolio. I didn't think I'd last six months and I was right because after 3 months, the guy who's studio it was felt the studio wasn't large enough for 2 photographers shooting so many jobs. I then got my own studio, 2000 square feet off of fifth ave on 24th street. (btw this is where I first met Bill Schwab) When I signed the lease I was terrified, I had never made such a large financial commitment in my life. My days of shooting my personal work were now over, I had a substantial monthly nut. My focus would be commercial work.
Fast forward 20 years, 2 more far larger studios, a few thousand assignments and my mid life re-examination. I turn 40 and realize that for the last 20 years I have not used a camera unless I was being paid. So in 1998 I decide to try my hand at some southwestern landscape and I make a few trips out west. In 2000 my wife suggests that I join a local co-op gallery and show my landscape work. I figure that it will at least give me a reason to print my work but I had little expectation when it came to sales or public reaction. My second solo show, with the 25 year pause in between, opens in april of 2001. (btw I met John "Jovo" Voss in person here) The reaction and sales shock me. People, total strangers are buying my work, a lot of it. Nearly selling out all the images, with some images selling 3-4 times, and at $500 a print and no expenses I'm making money that is hard to ignore. So while my show is on going and feeling emboldened I take my portfolio to some galleries in Manhattan. Two galleries express serious interest and want me to come back for additional meetings, the third gallery offers me representation on the spot. By the end of the week my work is on the walls of the Edward Carter Gallery, hanging contently between prints by Ansel Adams. This is the end of one career and the beginning of another. In late 2002 I officially close my NYC studio.
jovo gets a gold star for this thread
Note to self: Turn your negatives into positives.
Originally Posted by DBP
Oh, dear. I have to admit I haven't read many in years. I think I may have lost this argument...