The Early Years
I grew up in a small town outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in a wonderful little neighborhood, full of trees and meadows, and we used to go and play in the forest everyday after school or play football, so it was a very sort of wonderful childhood. But I always had this yearn, I always had this sort of hankering to see the world; this was one of my ambitions from a very early age. It wasn't until I was that I decided to go to live in Europe for a year which actually was a very pivotal time in my life because I happened to end up living with a family in Stockholm, Sweden, and who were photo enthusiasts. There were the boy and the family, and the darkroom, and we used to go out on the weekends and during the evenings, and take pictures of whatever struck our eye. So it was a way of a, a different way of photographing from anything I had ever known before. Growing up we photographed special events, weddings, birthdays, Christmas, whatever, but this experience of just ...
wandering and exploring, and just looking at life, and looking at sometimes details in the sidewalk or people sleeping on park benches, or just various things was a really great kind of eye opener about the potential of photography. What I learned in that first experience in Sweden was the with the camera you could wander and explore, and get into sort of a meditative state, get into a zone of concentration where you really became hyper-alert, hyper-aware of your environment, and you really started to notice things, the sights and sounds, and whatnot, which normally we would walk by and not pay any attention to because our mind was thinking about something else. But with a camera, I became much more attuned to my surroundings and appreciation in fact for, for what I was seeing, people walking, and children playing, and a dog running down the street; these all became much very kind of interesting for a subject matter. When I was in college I studied cinematography. I always wanted to be a film maker, I wanted to do what I love, and what I had a passion for, and that's, that decided what I wanted to study. In the course of studying cinematography I was required to take a still-photography class, so I signed up for this fine art photography class and after a few weeks, I decided that really what I wanted to do was photography and not do cinematography. So I, when I had graduated with my cinema degree but when I went out looking for work it was in photography. I think studying film was a great basis in order to learn about still photography. I think of the great director Stanley Kubrick who actually started his career as a photographer, working in Look magazine and eventually went on to be one of the great directors of all time, and you look at every film that Stanley Kubrick ever made and almost every scene is just a work of art. So I think he had a great eye and I think by looking at films, some of the great films, we can learn a lot about lighting, framing, composition, and story telling. My first job was working for a newspaper, a very small newspaper in the suburbs, and that was interesting for a while but I really got kinda bored with repetition, and again my passion was always to travel. So after two years working on that newspaper I decided to save my money, and I got a one way ticket to India and that was sort of a, like I literally jumped into this open space without any guarantees, without any assignments, without any support really; I just felt like I had to go somewhere and start this kind of, exploration. One of my sort of photographic heroes was Brian Brake who as a young 12 year old boy I had seen his incredible photo-essay on the monsoon in Life magazine in 1962, and this really struck me, this really kinda influenced me really. I thought you know someday, I wanna go to that place and see that, the monsoon and this traumatic weather system, and so I always had that in the back of my mind. So when I got to India, that was one of the first things I was kinda fascinated to experience, was kinda living for a monsoon, that heavy rain, and so, you never go wrong following your heart, you never go wrong photographing what you care about and what you're passionate about. Always remember that it's not about the camera, it's not about the make of your camera. I use a lot of different cameras, I use my cellphone all the time, maybe everyday. So it's not about the camera, it's about your eye, it's about your vision, it's about your curiosity, and when I was working in you know, in that first trip, I had two camera bodies in case one broke and I had two or three lenses, which I usually ended up using one which was a 50 millimeter lens. So I never really had anything beyond that. It was very simple, I thought you know I had to carry my own equipment, and I've always felt that you know, you could do everything in photography with a very short lens, so that's what I did, that's what I used, I used just that one lens. Had a couple other ones which I rarely use and use black and white film, and some color film, I used a bit of both and eventually after about a year I decided just to shoot in color. I mean I shot in color because in fact the world's in color and it seems more logical to photograph the world as it is. But either one's fine. I think you can make great pictures either way, but I think there's in many cases especially in places I've been, a part of the story is in color. I think of Tibet monastery and so much of the story is about the color, and the, you can't tell the full story unless you show it in color.