As soon as I tell people I’m a photographer most people respond with, “What do you do – weddings or portraits?” I’ve become accustomed to the confused looks when I say that I do neither.
To keep it simple, I say that I do food photography. Some people – especially foodies or those who love to cook – seem to get it, but most seem a little baffled by it. One very blunt gentleman even asked, “So you take pictures of plates of food? How is that a job?”
We’ve all seen food images in magazines, cookbooks, menus, websites or even fast food restaurant windows that look absolutely delicious. Most people appreciate a well-conceived image, but don’t realize the amount of work – with attention to lighting, food styling and props – that went into making that image pop.
This is where my work comes in – I thrive on making all of the elements work together to capture an enticing image. I live for the thrill of making something creative … amazing … unexpected … beautiful … emotional … profound … unique happen by releasing a shutter and guiding light waves to travel through a glass lens in just the right way.
I enjoy working collaboratively on creative projects and I’m motivated by challenges. Nothing gets my creativity going more than when someone comes to me and says, “I have a concept that seems impossible to illustrate,” or “We have an idea for a photo that has never been done before.”
The bigger the challenge, the happier I am as a photographer.
1978 - Got my first camera (Kodak Instamatic) for my ninth birthday
1980 - Took an interest in the Photo-Graphic photography magazine that came to the house every month. Probably because it was the only opportunity that a 10-year-old boy had to see a nude woman (artistically done in black and white, of course), but I thought the other stuff was cool, too.
1982 - Started fiddling around with Mom’s Olympus 35mm camera
1983 - Saw a series of Maxwell House commercials where a photographer (and his dog) were traveling the country taking pictures for a book. Everywhere he went, people would invite him in for coffee.
It was at that point that I thought, “What a great job – wandering around taking pictures and talking to people …” Only later did I realize that there were such things as deadlines, budgets and bosses. Or that it’s apparently not appropriate to take your dog on most photo shoots. But the dream of being able to support myself by wandering aimlessly and taking photos of whatever I want is still alive and well.
1984-1987 - Took three years of photography at Liverpool High School. Diane Wehnau (now Diane Sipfle) was a truly inspiring teacher. I’ve spent my entire career trying to recapture the sheer joy of processing my first roll of film and seeing a white piece of paper magically turn into a photograph under the red lights of the darkroom.
1986 - Got my first Nikon with a lot of help from my parents (instead of the pro camera, they opted for the “no bells or whistles” FE2 model, along with a set of budget-minded Vivitar lenses).
1987 - Went to the Rochester Institute of Technology for photography. Amazing photography program, but I didn’t stay there long. Eventually moved south and earned my degree from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.
1992-1994 - Launched my career as a freelance photographer. Nearly starved.
1995 - Did an internship at University City Magazine
1996 - Relaunched my freelance career with only marginally better results. There were still dues to be payed and lessons to be learned.
1998-2004 - Photographer for Lake Norman Magazine. For the first time I could truly make a living doing what I loved. An amazing learning experience.
2005-2009 - Chief Photographer for the Charlotte Observer’s Magazine Division (SouthPark Magazine, Lake Norman Magazine, University City Magazine, Lake Wylie Living and Center City Living). Grueling 70-hour weeks, but I’m confident that I learned something new every single day.
2009-Present - Freelance, once again. Finally got it right this time – with a great mix of food, editorial, conceptual and stock photography, I love the fact that I can be constantly creative and that every day brings something different.