I always dreamed of being a photographer growing up in San Francisco, probably from the day my father brought me home my first camera that used roll film. It was blue, my favorite color, and I quickly realized that it offered me a way to capture the favorite slices of my world and then see them again when I accumulated enough allowance money to pay for developing at the local store. If I was lucky, sometimes my father would develop the film for me. He was a professional photographer, with lots of cameras, lights and the cool “darkroom” with the amber glow that had all sorts of amazing equipment that quickly captured my imagination. I was hooked.
As I entered my teenage years, the legendary photographer Ansel Adams became an inspirational “heroe” of mine. At about 15 years of age, I even got to attend one of Ansel’s workshops in Yosemite – something that I never fully appreciated until much later in life. I simply remember the old gray haired, bearded man with the arthritic hands who deftly handled his photographic tools and created brilliant photos.
I bought my first professional camera when I was 16 with money that I had saved up from doing a paper route – a “Nikon F” 35mm camera. I traveled the world with that camera and shot with it all through college, including being paid for editorial and breaking news photographs that I took and had published in local newspapers.
You would have thought that my parents would have wanted me to become a professional photographer, but quite the opposite was true. They wanted something “better” for me. I succumbed to parental pressure and went to UC Berkeley as an undergraduate, then on to law school, and even got an MBA. Although I spent many years in tech and business, it was my photography that fulfilled me and I always stayed connected with it through my work with models and later with dancers. I had developed friendships with some of the most prominent photographers in the world through contacts I had in the industry, and strived to learn as much from them as they could possibly share. Photographers are typically very generous with their knowledge.
Although my early roots were in landscape photography, taking photos of subjects that talk back has always captivated me. The complexity of shooting another human form challenges me more than shooting an inanimate object. The subject thinks, has feelings, fears, talents, beauty, personality, and an infinite number of characteristics that must be optimally integrated into a thought-provoking composition. Building trust with a human subject, understanding how the light plays across their unique features, and figuring out how to bring out the best of them truly intrigues and drives my passion for photography.
Perhaps it was my destiny, but around 2010, a professional ballet dancer contacted me with impressive credentials ranging from the American Ballet Theater to several European companies. She had seen some of my fine art images online and was heading to San Francisco for a modeling assignment, and asked if I would mind spending a half day shooting dance images with her. She told me that the images we created were the finest photos that any professional photographer had ever taken of her. I was captivated by dance and the deep respect I have for the dedication and focus of those who reach the top tiers of professional dance.
I am driven to capture the beautiful lines AND emotion of the dancer in a manner that is distinctive from the plethora of non-distinctive studio dance shots – within a setting that stands on its own artistically and serves to complement the dancer. In other words, I strive to blend fine art and dance photography to create images that are thought-provoking and unique.
The subjects on the other side of my lens endlessly inspire me, and because of them, I’m here writing my story.