How Did I Get Into Photography?
It’s been a long winding road. I have worked as a screenplay writer, taxi-cab driver, bus-boy, can-carrier in a movie lab, custom color lab printer, programmer, corporate v.p. of software, and lighting director on feature films (the entire list of jobs would take up the entire bio).
After working in the filmmaking world for ten years, and spending another decade as a software engineer in the corporate world – I was propelled one day – or compelled – to try and make a living at photography. I had always photographed – going back to when I was a 15 year old kid in the Bronx. But I didn’t become a professional photographer until I was 40 years old.
Part of what propelled me back into photography (after my programming stint) was the realization that a properly mounted and framed photograph was a finished product; and that there was a good chance that I would get more satisfaction from this bit of art then weeks or years of managing programmers or compromising on movie scripts. The photograph existed whether anyone liked it or not. Whether anyone saw it. No matter. It existed. It was complete. Photographs don’t need a committee of producers or vice-presidents to give their approval. You can post a web image that gets generates thankful comments from people around the world. For example, I currently have over a million followers on Google Plus, and these are viewers that understand and appreciate the images – and they are from every corner of the world.
That’s such a long way from the beginning when I showed my work to a few close friends. I was afraid to try and make a living at photography. I was afraid that I would wind up broke (nothing new for me); and I was afraid that the happiness I got from photography would be ruined if I had to depend on it to eat. I made one vow: if I began to take photographs simply because they could be sold, I wouldn’t continue with photography as a business. I have yet to break that vow.
Where did it all start?
I was born and raised in the Bronx; had my first darkroom when I was fifteen. Introduced to photography at a community center. At the time of this writing, I am 60 years old. And I have been working seriously at the craft for about 30 years now.
There are some large format and medium format photographs on the site, taken at a time when I was still developing my craft, studying the Zone System technique, and learning how to print. I’ve been working with digital cameras and printers for the last six years. I love to experiment. For example, I now have two digital cameras that have been modified to shoot infrared; and an electronic flash that only emits infrared light.
Where did you study black and white photography?
I didn’t attend any photography school or work under the tutorship of any established photographers. What I know has been learned through trial and error. I did spend two years at NYU Graduate School of Film and Television where I learned a great deal about lighting techniques from a fine Hungarian cameraman, Other than that, I am self taught.
I don’t believe that you need to go to school to learn photography. It is more important to have something interesting to say about life, or if not interesting funny. When people ask me about where to study photography, I tell them to study literature or music instead.
I am a late bloomer when it comes to color photography. Hard to believe but I didn’t enjoy color work until a few years ago when I found that I had a tremendous amount of control over the color images with the great post processing software that’s around now. I use Lightroom as a catalog, NIK Software for processing, and of course no one gets by without Photoshop. If you compare my color work to my b&w work you’ll see a total difference. The black and white work is naturalistic and often documentary. The color work is almost entirely surreal, or impressionistic.
Who or what inspires you? I believe in the 90% perspiration, 10% inspiration motto. Or as one of the Westons said, ‘most of photography is drudgery’. There are, brief flashes of inspiration. When I began doing a lot of street photography, I was inspired by ‘A Vanished World’ by Roman Vishniac, and practically anything by Andre Kertesz. I really don’t know much about the contemporary photographic world. As I walk around the city, inspiration is not a problem, it is everywhere. The only problem I have is turning it off.
What Equipment and film do you use?I’ve used just about everything, from large format view cameras to smart phone cameras. As I edit this post, I’m using a recent Canon cropped sensor DSLR.
Of course I began in the darkroom. When the Epson 4800 was introduced I discovered that with Crane / Museo paper I could get excellent fiber prints and I sold my darkroom equipment and went digital.
Currently, my prints are outsourced to a company that specializes in black and white prints, and this gives me more time for post production and shooting. Every print is shipped to me first for approval, signature etc. before going to a client. Many clients are art buyers and interior designers and my work is featured in institutions, corporate buildings, and luxury buildings around the world.
I would like to thank all the visitors to this site who have written to me to say how these straight-forward black and white photos have moved them. And the customers and collectors who have made this dream a reality for 10 years.
If you want to read more about techniques and photography musings, the daily photo blog has many posts about specific techniques I’ve used as well as what I’m currently working on.
And yes, this is my sole means of support which is an amazing thing for a fine art photographer to say.
P.S. When I first began selling fine art photography on the web (1999) – the web was not seen as a suitable venue for serious photographers. But after doing a few shows in New York, I decided that I could offer a much wider selection of prints at more sizes through what was then a new media.
I haven’t done many gallery shows because it would mean that the prints would need to be sold for much higher prices, and I would have to sell them at the same prices on this web site. The few gallery shows I did in 1999 were successful, but from the start, I decided I would rather sell more prints at lower prices, than a few prints at higher prices.
But this was a somewhat misguided attitude. There is still something very special about doing a gallery show. The fact is, that is the only time you see people viewing what I consider to be the final product which is not a web image but a mounted, framed print. And financially, most people are more willing to purchase the actual item that they are looking at then a “fine art” print on the web no matter how beautiful or interesting it looks. So I expect to be doing more gallery shows soon.
Oh, and one more thing if you’ve read this far – I have gotten more personal satisfaction from seeing my prints on a living room walls, then anything I ever did when I made much more money in the corporate world.