December 25, 2006

20 Years

Digital original, 10 image stitch
It was twenty years ago today, On December 25, 1986, that I received my first camera, and unknowingly began this life-long journey. At the age of 17, my parents gave me a used Olympus OM-10 and a handful of film, to begin my exploration with. Weeks later I entered my first darkroom, and processed my first wet chemical print.

Since then I have custom built three darkrooms (with one, three and two enlargers in each respectively), and one digital “lightroom”. I have owned at least 25 cameras (small, medium and large format, and digital), and well over 50 lenses (not counting duplicate copies of the same lens), and almost a dozen tripods. I have lost one camera, light meter and a lens to a river, worn out (as in killed through excessive use) three Manfrotto tripods, and one digital SLR.

By rough estimate, I have made 70,000 film images (1,600 rolls of 35mm, 1,400 rolls of 120, and more than 8,000 sheets of 4x5 and 8x10 film) and 48,000 digital images (which after stitching make up about 22,000 actual photographs), for a whopping total of over 118,000 images (the irony here is that the 70K film images were made over 18 years, and the 48K digital were made over four years).
This does not include discarded film images (messed up in processing or incorrectly exposed), or deleted digital files (the 48,000 digital images were made on four cameras which collectively have made 147,000 photographs, meaning I delete approximately two images for each one photograph I kept).

My photography has introduced me to some wonderful people, from my partner, Joy, to supporters, patrons and models. All of these people have helped shape and fill a world that revolves around the creation and celebration of beauty. I have been privileged to photograph some wonderful individuals, both on their own, and as part of couples, with friends and as siblings. I have been granted the gift of photographing one of my best friends through not just one, but two pregnancies. The reward of working as I do is not only the images I create, but the people involved in the process.

The years have not been without the negative, however. I have lost wonderful images through darkroom and computer errors, had an image stolen from an exhibition, and had permission to use a complete body of work revoked by a model who’s life changed in a way incompatible with her modeling history. Permission to use still other images was lost to the end of my first marriage, as part of the fallout of the end of the relationship. These are small prices to pay for the rewards that photography has brought me

Other sorrows are felt deeper, and have taken longer to work through. Five years ago, a friend and model took her own life, something which I have not spoken/written about before. Her passing shook all who knew her, and took much of the magic out of the images we’d made, until I realized her own troubles didn’t tarnish the beauty she created with me, and that the images she’d left behind celebrated her. I still think of her often, and can now look at her photograph and smile.
So the first two decades are complete. I still have much left to say, visually, and with luck and fortune, lots of time to say it all in.

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