|At about age ten, in Albany, NY,
I bought a camera for about two bucks at the drugstore. It came
with a roll of film. Very soon came the problem of what to do
then. A friend showed me how to develop film and make contact
(same size) prints and my dad helped to make a closet darkroom.
He dipped a small light bulb in red paint to make a safelight. I was a
shy dorky kid and the camera became a passport of sorts. A saintly
maiden aunt whom we visited annually let me play with her
fine German Rolliecord camera, a twin lens reflex with a ground glass
screen. I became hooked on the pictures that could be framed on
it's screen. In late teens I inherited that camera and continued
to work at it.
During the late fifties I was a Cold Warrior in Germany and fell in with a German photographer who became my mentor. Germany was still the out-front leader in technical photography in those days and when I got back to the states in 1961 I realized that I had quite a leg up when it came to small camera work. While at the Language School in 1958, I'd met Frank Wright and David Walton and after the Air Force I came back to help David open what was to become The Palace.
I launched myself as a photographer a few years later, at first shooting overflow weddings for Steve Crouch and working out of home in Monte Vista with wife Myrna and family. In about 1963 I took one room upstairs in the Bear Flag Building for a lab. I was between a one-man fm radio station and Jay Chapin, the taylor. In about 1965 I opened gallery and lab space on the street across from Neil DeVaughn's restaurant and in 1967 or thereabouts I took 3000 sq feet, roughly one quarter of the building, on the second floor of the Monterey Canning Company as lab-gallery-living space. The rent was $75.00 a month. No water, electricity or heat. As the Row blossomed with refugees from Haight/Ashbury, that became the place that we all remember with such nostalgia. Soon after I left in 1970, the building itself sold for a million bucks and the flowering of the row was over.
That few year's was also the period when I peaked as a photographer. One the one hand, automatic photography was coming on strong and, on the Row, it just wasn't as much fun after the wildly painted school busses pulled out, the hippy cafes closed and the last of the squatters were rousted from under The Wave Street Hilton.
During, roughly, a decade of high activity as a photographer, my work was about evenly divided between small camera portraiture in the Monterey area and in journalistic-style illustrations for corporate publications and advertising. The best of the portrait work was done for love - though lots of it was commissioned - but the corporate work kept the pot boiling and some of that was pretty good, too. I guess that I managed to get a pretty fair sample of the artists and writers of that time and place but there were many whom I missed. Seeing ones work on Barbie doll boxes counts in a different way.
When it was all over, no one was more surprised than I to find that my whole passion for photography had just faded away as well. I bounced around for a year or two and then, on the very last gasp of my G.I. Bill, went to graduate school in Portland and into psychology as therapist, later as evaluator in the criminal courts, and still later as a builder of cruising houseboats. For nearly all of the next twenty years I lived on boats in Olympia.
Wendy and I made our first trip to Alaska in 1995 and were smitten from the first. We swapped the first old wooden sailboat for a larger old wooden sailboat and came back in 1997 to be caretakers of a remote fishing lodge. In 2000 we swapped the big old wooden sailboat for an even bigger old wooden power boat and came up to Tenakee Springs. Tenakee is a very old coastal community of less than 100 people: no road, no cars, no cell phone - though we did get slow inter-net a few years ago. I build and mess about with small boats and I write articles about life in the bush for the Capitol City Weekly in Juneau.