I Owe It All To Mrs. Lynch...
The Beatles, The Ed Sullivan Show, 1964
… she was my fourth grade school teacher and was the source of endless fascination to the students (at least the boys). She really encouraged us to pursue our interests in music and art, and something amazing the day after the Beatles played on the Ed Sullivan show. The whole country shut down for that performance and the next day the students were simply crazy and all we could talk about was John, Paul, George, and Ringo. She was smart enough to ditch to normal curriculum for the day, and we talked about the Beatles all day until we had completely exhausted the subject. We were so thrilled.
It was during this time that I took an interest in playing drums and in photography. I formed a band and Mrs. Lynch made it happen for our band to play on the stage in the lunchroom during lunch break. We knew three songs, and the kids loved it, and they made us play the songs over and over again (I wish I had a video of that). BTW my drums were a gift from this crazy beatnik guy down the street. Later I discovered he went on to a fair amount of fame as Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen, but I digress…
I also dug into photography and by the fifth grade I had a dark room and was developing my own film and making prints. I learned two things from this time in my life:
1. Once you’re a drummer, you’re always a drummer. When I listen to a song the first thing I hear is the drums, then everything else. I think I know every fill and accent that Ringo Starr, Ginger Baker, John Bonham, Mitch Mitchell, and Keith Moon played. To this day, certain songs make me want to stop and listen, just so I can hear the drummers.
2. Once you develop an interest in photography you always see things as a potential photograph. After I discovered the magic of composition and creating a photograph, everything looked like a potential photograph. During that year, President Kennedy was assassinated, and the photojournalism that was a byproduct of that tragedy really spoke to me. I just stared at the photographs of Jack Ruby shooting Lee Harvey Oswald, John John Kennedy saluting his dads casket, and a myriad of other amazing images. I dreamed of taking an image of historical significance. I poured through magazines like Life, Look, Time, Newsweek and National Geographic, and was completely fascinated.
The picture that sparked my interest in photography, and the man who took it, Stan Stearns.
The iconic image of Jack Ruby shooting suspected assassin Lee Harvey Oswald.
I was very active with my camera until through high school. After graduation, I got distracted in the pursuit of other interests, but I never lost my eye for composition. Many years later, I’d find myself turning just to compose a scene in my head. I would close one eye and move to the left and then to the right and up and down, just to observe things.
One night while I was at a bar with some friends they caught me lining up the salt and pepper shakers closing one eye and looking at my composition.
I looked up and they were all staring at me… “Dude, what the hell are you doing?”
I said, “I don’t know, I just thought I’d line these up so they would look better.”
They looked sideways at each other until one of them said, “What are you, Rain Man?”
In 2001, I went on a humanitarian relief trip to El Salvador after a major earthquake. As the only person on the trip who knew something about photography, I was the designated photographer. That trip awakened something inside me and I picked up where I left off 28 years earlier.
In 2003, I took an image of Annapolis after historic flooding from Hurricane Isabel. I was the only person to get the shot from this perspective and it became a runaway bestselling image. In very short order, I had sold thousands of Isabel prints and my dream of taking an image of historical significance came true. Long story short, the combination of right place/right time, a little luck, and some marketing, resulted in a new career.
Being a photographer has given me front row access to life and I have traveled to far flung places such as Sudan, and more than 25 trips to El Salvador. The type of work that has always appealed the most to me is portraiture, which I now do exclusively.
It’s hard to believe how one’s life can change from one moment, and one photograph.