I was born in northern California. I live in Baltimore now.
What is your background in Photography?
I have no formal background. I pretty much took it up as a hobby about 10 years ago and then really got into it about 4 or 5 years after that.
What equipment do you use? What are your feelings on Film vs Digital?
Probably about two thirds of what I shoot these days is on medium format film with most of the rest being 35mm. I also shoot a little bit of Polaroid pack film and some digital.
Obviously I love film, but I also really like digital. To me digital is just another format. The whole digital vs. film thing kind of misses the point to me. Everyone should use whatever format is appropriate for their needs. I tend to shoot more film because I like the actual rendering that I get from film and usually prefer that to digital. To me it’s worth the extra work involved in terms of waiting, developing, scanning, etc. I shoot film not because of some nostalgic attachment to an older medium but because it’s the only option for most of the pictures I want to take.
I enjoy the process of taking pictures more while using a TLR or a classic rangefinder or SLR. Most digital cameras come in a couple specific varieties and there is little variation. I think the way I take pictures has a big influence on the pictures themselves. I can do a lot of things with a 50 year old rangefinder or TLR that I just can’t do with any digital camera that I know of or can afford.
A while back I read about Gary Winogrand’s lost photos from the 1960 Democratic convention. At that one event he shot thousands of photographs and the vast majority of them were never seen by the public until recently. I know that Robert Frank shot something like 700+ rolls of film for The Americans. Needless to say, shooting that much film gets expensive, so it’s pretty amazing that any photographer can shoot thousands of pictures with a digital sensor without constantly draining funds after the initial investment of the camera and memory card. As much as I love film, I love the fact that digital has made photography more accessible for millions of people. While many have written and talked about how digital is killing film, I actually think, in a paradoxical sort of way, that digital has helped current and future film photographers, since shooting digital allows for experimentation and mistakes that can get very frustrating when all you are using is film. It’s awfully nice to get instant feedback from digital and be able to use that knowledge for less problem prone film frames. This is just one of many ways in which the two mediums complement each other.
What is your creative process? Are your shots planned or spontaneous?
Well my shots are not exactly planned in that I don’t really do studio work or do anything with lights, flashes, models, etc. Essentially when I go out at night and take pictures I have some things in mind but I often just see what happens. Sometimes I’ll notice something that could make a good photograph and in the process something else catches my eye that’s actually more interesting. When I walk around the street it is much the same way. The whole process of seeing in order to take a picture is really enjoyable for me. I feel like it’s made me more observant in general and I find myself looking for photographs even in situations where I’m not planning on taking any picture or don’t have a camera with me.
What drives you to keep taking photographs?
Essentially if I don’t take pictures I start to get a little depressed. Not morbidly depressed but I just feel compelled to do something creative after a week or two of not shooting. I’m not sure how I got this way and I wonder if it will “wear off” over time, but so far my desire to take pictures is stronger than ever.
I also enjoy sharing my photos and the whole social aspect of photography that exists today because of sites like flickr. I guess having an audience makes me want to perform and keep getting better. Of course I want to take pictures that interest me, but I think sharing with others makes me do more. It’s not a competition, but when I see other people take great photographs it just makes me want to go out and take some of my own.
When taking portraits how do people usually respond to you wanting to take their picture?
It runs the gamut. Sometimes people are surprised, concerned, irritated or pleased. Often I can tell that someone isn’t going to go for it but often enough people do, which is great. Most of the time it’s me that has to overcome my shyness, but sometimes I can get on a roll where I’m feeling bold enough to engage a lot of people.
Who or what gives you inspiration?
Baltimore in general has been a big inspiration for me. I’ve also made a lot of friends through photography and they’ve inspired me as well. I also don’t give my wife Amy enough credit for the inspiration she gives me. She’s very open and accommodating towards my photography and she has a general appreciation for creativity. She writes, draws comics and sometimes takes pictures, but is often engaged in some creative activity. It’s something I can take for granted but it’s a wonderful thing to live in an environment like that.
Are you working on a specific project at the moment? What are your plans for the future?
I’m mainly focused on improving my output and just enjoying myself through photography. While I’ve settled into some patterns in terms of how I take pictures and what I shoot, I don’t like to limit myself. I would like to think more seriously about creating a book of my photos. I created one a few years ago but I wasn’t very happy with the print quality and haven’t tried again since. That’s something I might try to change in the next few months, if I can get enough time and patience to do it right.