In my junior year at Cornell University, at the encouragement of my friends who were photography majors, I took a Photo 101 course and fell in love with the art of photography. I had been on the road towards Architecture, following in the footsteps of my father and grandfather, earning undergraduate Bachelors in Design. Once I had the photography bug, it would not let go. Over the next year and a half, I took as many photography classes as I could get my hands on, much to the dismay of my academic adviser. Upon graduating from Cornell I knew I wasn’t ready to open my own studio nor did I have enough experience to go to graduate school. I felt the next step in my growth would be to work with the best and brightest, so I set my sites on New York City. I prepared letters of introduction, gathered letters of recommendation from my professors and put together a portfolio of my work.
Before I set off for New York I returned to Columbus to get myself together. In this period, a friend of the family encouraged me to meet with a prominent Columbus photographer who had just moved back to Columbus after an illustrious career in New York City. As every young person does, I immediately called and set up a meeting to be granted the great seeds of advice he might imbue with me. The day came and I headed out to the photographer’s studio. As I sat there, surrounded by his framed imagery, I could not wait for his advice. After waiting for about 15 minutes I was told he had time for me. I went into his conference room and watched as he paged through my portfolios, reviewing my work in silence. After about 5 to 10 minutes, he looked up and said, and I can hear these words as clear today as they were in 1986, “I hate to break this to you but, you are going to go to New York and no one will hire you and in 6 months you will come back with you tail between your legs. I don’t say this to offend you, I merely say this to keep you from wasting your time.” Disheartened and disappointed, I packed up my things and went on my way.
My plans were set; there was no changing them. I needed to set off and determine whether I was right or was he. I went to New York City on July 1st of 1986 and began following up on my letters with phone calls. Within the week I had several interviews and ultimately had to choose between a job opportunity with Richard Avedon (considered one of the greatest photographers who ever lived) and Annie Leibovitz (not a bad second choice). I chose to work with Richard Avedon and over the following few years had the great opportunity to work with Robert Mapplethorpe, Arnold Newman, Horst P. Horst and Joyce Tenneson to name a few. I then returned to Columbus where I have built a very successful Photography Studio. I employ a staff of three, uncommon in the world of photography. I have a photography rep in Chicago, have been widely published and have traveled throughout the U.S. and the World on photography assignments. Over the past few years I have photographed everything from Jazz at Lincoln Center to the Denver Broncos Stadium to all the imagery for COSI’s Lost Egypt Exhibit. I continue to be supportive of young photographers with advice but will always reflect back on the words of discouragement.
It is like the movie ‘A Wonderful Life’ and the ‘What If’s’. Glad I didn’t take the advice and even happier that I took it as a challenge to prove wrong.
architectural photographer, Ohio architectural photographer, national architectural photographer