I think there’s an assumption that a photographer begins their artistic work first and then if there is a commercial career, it comes afterward. With me, it was completely the opposite. I shot for 25+ years in advertising, developing a way of seeing that worked for my clients and made me happy at the same time. It wasn’t until 15 years ago that I started photographing landscapes in the eastern part of Washington State. Even this interest came about because of an assignment for a bank that took me from Seattle to Walla Walla. It was then that I fell in love with that part of the world. The majority of eastern Washington is sparse, in direct contrast to the lushness of the western region, which while beautiful, never interested me photographically. The “Channeled Scabland” was created during the last ice age, a 1/2 mile high dam of ice that failed over and over,until ice and water raced through eastern Washington, stripping away soil and rock, carving the current landscape that I love to photograph so much.
Enough geological history.
I always felt that one definition of photography, is simply a recognition of what personally resonates. For me, simplicity, graphic shapes, strong lines or shapes that repeat are what “do it for me.” In business, it just became second nature to walk into a situation I’d never seen and start to look for these elements. Many times they were found already existing, sometimes I needed to create them. The first time I drove from Seattle to the eastern part of the state, after crossing the Columbia River I began to recognize the things that were a trigger for me visually. A black asphalt road cutting for miles through harvested wheat. An empty, snowy field with a stream creating a curve to a single tree. Or a small barn, the roof barely visible above a barren hillside. I would get in the car and just drive empty roads for days, sometimes seeing another car, many times not. And very rarely seeing or talking to other people. This was a choice after years of photographing people for work; and besides, why force people into a landscape where they’re seldom seen? These images void of people are an accurate representation of being there. Then, after many years of shooting landscapes without any tools other than a camera, I began to do what I did primarily for work; artificially light subjects by bringing powerful strobes into the landscapes.
Since late 2017 I have been living in Bozeman, Montana. I’m finding there are some similarities, buy many differences as well. And this is fine, as I’ve always defined my job as “problem solving.” I’m ready for the challenge.
Guns in America
After my father passed away in 2007 and as I was going through his possessions, I came across 3 vintage handguns I never knew he had. Given the violence in this country’s current history, I was undecided at the time as to what to do with them. Torn between the fact they belonged to my dad and my feelings regarding US policy on gun control, I decided to just put them in a lock box and store them in the basement until I was in a clearer mind-set to make a good decision.
Jump ahead to late 2012 and the Sandy Hook shooting. My good friend and fellow photographer planned a road trip to do some shooting of our own, only with cameras. As was the custom with our travels, it provided a lot of time to talk. Music, family, photography, movies and the latest news were always part of our drives. The horrifying murders in Connecticut had recently happened, and we were both depressed about the current state of affairs in our country. It occurred to me then, that I had never dealt with my father’s guns and I suddenly felt hypocritical possessing them. I told my friend this and that I was ready to get rid of them. After a few moments of silence his reply was, “before you do, you should photograph them”.
Jump ahead to early 2013. I had just treated myself to a year lease on a studio in Pioneer Square, Seattle, not really knowing what I was even going to do with it. After 35 years of commercial work, I never had a studio, as my assignments were always on location. Pacing around an empty space is intimidating to me, as there is then the responsibility to fill it. One day the conversation with my buddy came to mind and the next morning, I brought the guns to the studio and laid them out on the worktable. I basically just circled and stared at them for days. I didn’t have any emotional connection with them at all. I didn’t even know my dad had guns. I gradually brought out strobes and tried different approaches in black and white, but they all left me feeling indifferent. I had recently found a piece of rusty, painted metal that I planned to use for a portrait. It was square with a round yellow flaking shape in the middle. I laid the gun on top and took a test shot in color. It was then that something snapped. The image still didn’t really communicate anything to me, (other than being pretty) but I felt that I was going in the right direction. I would go on to use the guns illustrating my thoughts on the absence of sane policy in the United States. For the rest of that year, I spent hours upon hours wandering antique stores and junkyards looking for props to build the sets. The lighting became a paramount component of the 18 images that followed; harsh light, both frontal and from the side, with loud, tweaked and saturated colors. The images are not subtle. Nor is the subject matter and the violence that we face every single day.
United Farm Worker Portraits
While I was living in Seattle, the state of Washington approached me to photograph the living
conditions of migrant farm workers in the area. Their idea was to shoot where they lived during
their time in the state before moving on to the next location. Washington was trying to raise
awareness of how bad the conditions were in order to approach the federal government for
additional funding. My idea was to not just photograph the living conditions, but also to turn
the images into portraits of the people within those camps.
The way was paved for me by a state liaison who contacted leaders of certain groups. She not
only accompanied me on the shoots but acted as interpreter as well. The first camp we went
to was on the Columbia River near the small town of Vantage, Washington. When we arrived,
the men, women and children were living under sheets of plastic, in cars and rooms made of
cardboard. People were cooking their meals on open fires and washing their clothes in the
river or in tubs and hanging the clothes on stretches of rope. Mirrors were hung on trees for
the men to shave.
At another location in Mount Vernon, the conditions were only slightly better. Rooms for
sleeping were made of particle board. The one shower had a concrete floor and a bare pipe
that came out of the ceiling.
By the end of the three-location shoot, I photographed about 25 portraits of these very hard
working and generous workers and their families, after which they moved on to California to
Born and raised in Los Angeles, photography was made exciting to me by my hobbyist father who gave me his Argus
C3 rangefinder when I was 15. He built me my first darkroom in our house’s only bathroom (much to the chagrin of my mother) when I was 17. That lasted about a month until my mom couldn’t take any more and relegated the darkroom and me to the garage.
When I was 18, I met a professional photographer and began to assist him for the next
several years, exposing me to the world of corporate photography, location lighting,
dealing with clients and maybe most importantly, the business of photography.
I started my own career in 1979 pounding on doors and showing what had to be the
world's worst portfolio. Despite that, I began getting small assignments shooting for
corporate internal publications.
In late 1980, I had a miracle meeting with the Vice President of Communications for the
Northrop Corporation, Les Daly. (A whole story unto itself.) At the time, Northrop
produced the most respected and artistic annual report in the world. At that sweaty
and nerve-wracking meeting, Les offered me the chance to photograph what he
deemed to be the backbone of the company, the Northrop engineers, during a threeday
assignment. My life and certainly my career was never the same after that day.
Since then I have shot for Boeing, Northrop Grumman, Rockwell, Microsoft, Nintendo,
Aflac, Alaska Airlines, Delta Airlines, Apple Computer, AT&T Wireless, Charles Schwab,
Coca-Cola, Comcast, Dell Computer, IBM, Mastercard, Rolls-Royce, Netflix, Rand
Foundation, FedEx, Lockheed Martin, Potlatch Paper, Weyerhaeuser Paper, Unocal,
Seattle Symphony, Starbucks Coffee, Times Mirror Company, University of Washington,
USC, Kenyon College, Bowdoin College, ADM, Rosewood Hotels and Resorts, United
Technologies and Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation. And many others.
In my 40 year career, I’ve been privileged to work with some of the country's top graphic
designers such as Kit Hinrichs, Michael Bierut, Lowell Williams, John Van Dyke, Audra
Brown, Kerry Leimer, Bill Cahan, Doug Oliver, James Cross, Michael Weymouth, Hornall
Anderson and Robert Louey.
I have traveled to and shot in 41 countries on 5 continents. The most dangerous places
I’ve been are Moscow, (did I really need two retired KGB agents with AK-47’s to stand
next to me the entire time?? Apparently, yes, I did!) and Belfast, Northern Ireland in the
Hottest photo shoot was in Abu Dhabi at 114 degrees (and yes, I was shooting outside.)
Coldest photo shoot was in Flin Flon, Manitoba at -40 degrees (and yes, I was shooting
My favorite place is, without a doubt, just about anywhere in Japan.
During the mid and late ‘80’s, I was a “stringer” for Time, Fortune and Forbes Magazines,
photographing profiles on Ray Bradbury, Gloria Allred, Daryl Gates, Cesar Chavez and others. I
worked on stories about heroin addiction in the upper class, education advancement in East LA and
many profiles of corporate CEO’s.
Famous faces. As mentioned above, Cesar Chavez, authors Ivan Doig, Ray Bradbury, Tom Robbins,
Nancy Pearl and Timothy Egan. Bill Gates (4 times), Michael Dell, John Sculley (Apple CEO), Louis
Chénevert (United Technologies CEO, 7 times), Gloria Allred, Daryl Gates (infamous chief of police,
LAPD), Lou Gerstner (IBM CEO), Roberto Goizueta (Coca-Cola CEO 4 times), Vanna White (yes, thee
Vanna White!!), Steve Ballmer. And architects Michael Graves, Richard Meier, Antoine Predock, Eric
Owen Moss, Jim Olson, Harry Weese, Thom Mayne and Stanley Tigerman. And, during my last days as
an assistant in the late '70's, I met and photographed Groucho Marx.
I’ve had many exciting assignments over the years. Hanging out of a helicopter over the Thames River
in London, shooting in the jungles of Borneo for Unocal, doing overnights on oil rigs in the Gulf of
Mexico and being able to direct US Air Force pilots as to where to fly their Apache helicopters. But the
one that really stands out was spending three days on the Tyrrhenian Sea on the Italian aircraft carrier
Garibaldi, photographing Harrier Jet missions for Rolls-Royce.
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