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How did you become an designer/photographer?
I’ve always been drawn to art and design. As a kid, I’d draw, write, take photographs, write computer programs…whatever artistic impulse that came to mind. But I didn’t dedicate myself to being an artist until my early 30s. I had been working as a creative director for a number of years, and was burning out. I was tired of using my creative skills to help someone else’s dreams succeed. So I quit my job and began focusing on my fine art photography.
Where are you from originally?
Buffalo, New York, the city of no illusions. Nothing gets handed to you on a plate in Buffalo, so you learn to figure things out for yourself.
Who were your main influences growing up?
My father. Even though he had four kids, he quit a corporate job he hated to start his own business. All along he worked to find an outlet for his own creativity. Although I didn’t realize it at the time, it showed me that sometimes you just have to take risks.
Did you go to art school/college for design or are you self-taught?
I’m self-taught. Or should I say, I’ve been taught by experience. I never went to art school, but I did watch and learn from countless friends and colleagues.
Any advice or tips to novice artists/designers?
Remember that being an artist is a business, just like any other. You need to learn how to be an entrepreneur: how to market, sell, plan, and organize. Also, be prepared for how hard it is to be a professional artist, how much work is involved. You will be intimidated, you will be frustrated, and you will want to give up, again and again. Learn to deal with it. If you don’t feel like you want to give up, then you probably aren’t pushing yourself hard enough.
What has been the most rewarding and challenging project you have worked on?
My Fallen Leaf project has been a fascinating experience. It started one day when I found a old, decayed leaf on the sidewalk, and brought it home to my studio. There was something in the character of this decrepit object that spoke to me. I began collecting more leaves that had fallen and were starting to dry and decay to explore with my camera. I’ve been doing this for several years now, and continue to be amazed at the range of image and emotion that can be discovered in such a humble and disregarded subject.
What is your favorite portfolio piece? Why?
My favorite piece is a photograph called “Mask”. It is an abstraction of a fallen, dried leaf, that resembles a mask covering a face. This is my favorite because I feel it really created itself. As I was exploring this leaf through the camera, I discovered a certain point of view that really grabbed hold of me. Not only did I find it visually striking, the image exudes a strong sense of personality, mood, and even a backstory. I ended up spending several days staring at this leaf from this perspective, exploring subtle variations in position, lighting, and focus.
What American art or artist inspires you most?
Charles Schulz. Yes, he was “just a cartoonist”. But more than any fine artist, his work has has had direct influence how I see and understand the world. I love Schulz’s ability to express a gut-felt emotion through a simple image and a focused story. And now that I am an artist myself, I also find myself inspired by both his uncompromising work ethic, and his ability to always balance his time between work and family.