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.