sort of a long story ... (sorry)
i got my first camera at 5 or 6 and have been taking photographs ever since. it was one of those mickey mouse cameras that you pulled the ear down and it tripped the shutter. i wish i still had it, but alas a neighbor got it at a garage sale when i was about 7 or 8. i took classes in black and white through high school and 7 semesters in college, and started doing pretty much what i am doing today - doing weird abstractions, making portraits, photographing buildings, and archaeological ruins ( and making hand stitched books). i didn't think i would be doing this way back then ( 80s ) and had studied to become an architect and go to architecture school, but realized that i can't draw if my life depended on it so that pretty much was out of the question.
after college, i thought maybe photography was going to work afterall, and soon i became an assistant to a few of the local photographers - one commercial guy, and one architecture guy. the commercial guy was kind of spent from his daze in the 60s and eventually we parted ways, and the architecture guy sort of ran out of work so i didn't get to many calls after a while. eventually i landed a job assisting a portrait photographer trained in the 1930s. she hired me to do all of her processing and printing, and taught me retouching ( with leads on an adams machine ) and from time to time i was squeezing the bulb of the packard shutter. she still shot 5x7 film and when she wasn't doing formal/informal headshots for pr agents, she was doing karsh-esque portraits. ( some folks used to call her the karsh of rhode island ). working for her i learned more in 10 months than i did loading hassy backs and setting up lights, and seeing the 5x7 film, retouching it, and printing it made me want to buy a speed graphic, and not use my yashica that i had been using. we had a parting of the ways after a while ( i lasted longer than any assistant before me <except her mom!> so i don't feel bad )
soon thought about what i was going to do and thought that maybe photography was going to be more of a secondary thing for me, not a career. i eventually went back to school and got a degree in preservation planning and got a job with a cultural resource planning firm doing historic preservation kind of work. i had originally thought that the preservation work was going to free me up to do photography. little did i know that i was going to be doing photography work instead. after a few years there were problems where i was working, and i decided rather than waiting to be fired, i would go off on my own, and maybe do the same sort of thing - preservation planning and photography. turns out there were fewer than no jobs for someone with no contacts, so i decided the heck with the preservation part, i would do photography again and market myself to preservation people. so i did just that. i also schlepped my work around to galleries too ( still making weird abstracts &C ) and eventually got tired of galleries telling me my photographs were not photographs but something else and "this is art" (pointing to a pile of debris on the floor) ... so with a bunch of artists ran an art gallery outside of boston. i figured it would be a good place to make contacts, show my work and maybe get my name out there. by this time, i had experience shooting for a newspapers and magazines, i had done commercial and architectural jobs and several years worth of preservation-oriented photography.
the gallery didn't lead to any work, but it was a good time, until the place was overrun by chaos --- i got out before it was too late. the whole place collapsed, and imploded and eventually became a bike shop. i still pursued my photography, and at this point i was broke. i lived+worked in a cheep loft, had a little studio/shooting space and a darkroom and i worked and worked at the part time job, took photo jobs on the side. i didn't make much money but eventually got married, moved and continued with the photography. i didn't move far, and the clients i picked up in the boston kept me on, so i travelled a little bit. i worked again for a newspaper, and after a few more years, photographed lots of interesting people (politicos, indian chiefs, supreme court justices, ceo-s, factory owners+workers), and started doing magazine work too. after a while i was "downsized"(at the paper), and am back to doing piecemeal work.
it is kind of a love hate relationship working as a photographer. you love the work, and it is great when it is there, and you get paid, but there is always the "what if ... a client tells me the signed contract is in the mail, you will start in 2 days, and the contract never arrives and the client vanishes (and you bought all your materials as you were told to do)", "what if ... the evil client takes all your work and doesn't pay for it "
... lots of what ifs ... and they do happen--and sometimes you just hope "the next one" isn't like "the last one" sort of thing
... sometimes scary, lots of fun, and as i said, love-hate ...