I would be lying if I said that I could recall the first time I used a camera. It was most likely in the mid to late eighties with a 110 film point-and-shoot, but that first shot wasn't the true first step in my photographic journey. It happened when I was sixteen years old and I took a high school photography class. It was the mid nineties and film photography was still the standard. Before I stepped into my high school's dark room, my photographic process began with taking a few snapshots with my dad's camera and ended with the pharmacy's photo lab doing the rest.
The darkroom opened me up to a new world. It was fun, challenging, and fulfilling. There were field trips, and art competitions, awards and a growing body of work. It taught me a lot about photography, but most importantly it taught me patients. It was a lot of trial and error to wrap a roll of film evenly on a metal spool in the dark. By far, the toughest part of the process for me was making sure the film wouldn't buckle on the spool preventing it from being evenly saturated with the right chemicals.
"The not so still life" Bayonne High School, 1998
My favorite photo from high school was the image above. At the time I viewed it solely as a test of my photographic skills, but in retrospect is was when I started thinking like and Art Director. It wasn't just about crafting a photo or processing in a dark room. It was conceptual. It was a production. I had a crew and model comprised of classmates, and some much needed direction by my instructor. We found every possible prop that would work and combined it into one photo. It made an eclectic image with stopping power, but the piece that tied it all together was the flag in the background. A piece that I later found out was a World War II relic. It belonged in a museum, but somehow it ended up in my photograph.
On the set of "The not so still life". Me on the left.
The photo won multiple competitions. It was fun to see my work earn recognition at such a young age, but most importantly it inspired me to keep thinking, not just shooting. It was when my photography evolved from composing nice landscapes and still life images, to something more conceptual. I was art directing a shoot and I felt right at home.