Photography became a passion of mine at the very first moment I saw my adoptive father’s transparencies. I was barely 9 yo and since that moment I wondered “how can this be possible”. I’ve been nerdy since early age. I used to beg my parents to give me presents as chemistry sets, mechanical toys, erect O sets, etc. The camera demanded much more of my attention after I got at age 10 my first one: A square, cardboard brownie and a couple of medium format transparency rolls. I shot every single frame as told , I got decent shots but I knew: I need to work at this . . . a lot!
Before my camera turned one year old, my parents told me they couldn’t afford the cost of my hobby anymore. Processing was way costly. Then with lots of help from my godfather, parents, aunts, older cousins and uncles, I got my first darkroom and started to shoot B&W instead. I learned B&W processing and printing. Somehow I managed to show my prints everywhere and people were making donations towards continuation of my hobby – in exchange of a print.
About a year later I got my first real camera. A Kodak 35mm Retina. I never went anywhere w/o my camera since then. Most of the yearly school books included many of my pictures, the bowling alley near my home still displays the first 11×14 print I’ve ever made. A shot of the opening of a tournament and all lanes have a ball going at the same time in the middle of the lane and the bowlers are still showing their best style and figure. Many of my family old friends still own several of those photos and a few of them digitize them.
During my teens I bought with my own money my first SLR: a Pentax K and a couple of lenses. I was the envy of everyone those days. Before I reached 20 yo I bought my first Nikon. And little by little I got me another lens. When I turned 25 yo I bought a used Leicaflex with 3 lenses. A few years later I was able to buy me several lenses with the latest Nikon F2. I got all the lenses I wanted, but since those days, I mostly shoot with a very wide-angle (24mm), a fast small telephoto (85mm f 1.4) and my beloved 180mm F 2.8. However, I never wanted to become a professional photographer.
During those days being a photographer wasn’t an illustrious and well paid profession. Instead I continued college education, focused in anthropology and aimed to become a journalist. The cards were on my side and before finishing college I was already working for the top TV channel in the country and contributing to several magazines and newspapers in the country as a writer. The camera always remained on my side and used it even when told not to. Many of my print articles included my photos.
During my 20s I was asked to turn on a few paid assignments. Huh? Moi getting paid for doing something that I’d gladly pay for doing it?
I did fashion, modeling, beauty, fine arts, landscape, portraits and mostly documentary photography. In the early 70s I was given a small point and shoot camera that was in my pocket every single minute, except when shooting and shot hundreds and hundreds of rolls with it. A Ricoh 35mm with a self winder and shot small frames called Mercury. Meaning that it fits two separate images in the space of a regular single frame. Because that, I was able to take that camera with me during my frequent two and three weeks hike/camping adventures and got some amazing shots. It only took carrying a couple of rolls to do that. But as well, I managed to capture some “forbidden” photos because it’s small foot print such inside the presidential home, the congress, etc.
years later journalism brought me to live in the USA shortly after I turned 30 yo. I was recommended to a prestigious 50+year-old News/PR photo agency in Washington DC and got the job. I became their jr shooter and shared work with another 13 pro shooters. Three years later, I was covering the Senate, Congress and White House and the affairs of many of The National Trade Associations based in DC. I became one of the top shooters in my firm. However, getting there took me an average of 70 hrs a week of enduring carrying my 40 lbs photo gear everywhere and always rushing to meet a deadline.
I was an Official Inaugural Photographer for Reagan’s inaugurals. During Clinton’s inaugural I managed to get full press credentials to cover assignments for all network TV stations, a couple of magazines and became the Official shooter for HBO. I got credentials that allowed me to do something that never was done before and all photographers dreamed about it. My credentials allowed me to row everywhere, instead of being posted behind a roped area and next to all press shooters. I was able to choose my angle, place and direction. I did something :strange” as well and all photographers always asked me about “what’s up with that?”. I shot behind the elected president and national and world figures, showing the massive largest media coverage in the history of the US presidential inaugurations. My selling point was to illustrate the hundreds and hundreds of journalists of all media, covering this important inaugural. I literally covered every single event that took place during this inaugural. Including the most solicited ticket event. The MTV ball. It was absolutely great to mingle with many of the movie, press, TV, print media and music celebrities of the time.
Many of my commercial and journalist photos are permanently deposited in the National Archives and a few of my political photos still are displayed in many corporate and government offices. My family as well, have many of my prints in their walls.
Sorry! I don’t mean to brag about my gains and love for the medium but clearly I feel quite proud of them.
in early 90s I was on my own. I set up a nice photo studio on Capitol Hill and did every imaginable type of work there. Fashion, table top, portraiture, special effects, you name it. I was no longer an employee but an employer and many of my former assistants remain frequent and close friends of mine up to date. I also got involved with the Corcoran School of Art Internship program and had under my care a few of their graduated students.
Then I started to move around the US with my camera. Lived in LA, came back to VA a few years later. Taught photography at UVA and later went back to CA. I moved to SFO, one of my favorite cities of the world. My camera has taken me to more than 30 countries. I’ve been published in several magazines and several papers across the globe. And . . . I didn’t want to become a professional photographer huh! What about if I really wanted too?
Since the early 21st century my approach to living through my camera changed. I’ve done mostly environmental portraiture and I do as little as I can and as much as it would modestly support me. Gradually, I started to get back to my roots in the fine arts field.
Digital photography and the hundreds of graduated photographers every year, made me to reconsider my beloved hobby. As well, the fact that doing photography was becoming more and more like re-inventing warm water. My strongest point as a shooter is in the realm of documentary photography. But I’ve been too lazy to travel the distance to cover on speculation many assignments. So, I turned into still life instead. We all know that in photography everything has been done back and forth, right and left, up and down. I’ve refused to be a redundant shooter all my life. Therefore a quest to figure out what is next for me, was becoming a personal struggle for a while. Somehow during those days, I remembered the day I met the talented celebrity photographer Annie Leibovitz. Met her in the early 90s when she was the official photographer for Rolling Stone Magazine. Someone asked her: “where do you get your inspiration from?”. She replied: “From old photo books. I analyze the image and I attempt to recompose the flaws I found in the image”. Having a large collection of classic photo books, I started to delved into them to find something that could inspire me. Interesting that what my quest did instead: I found nothing that would inspired me w/o feeling becoming a rip off artist. But I figure: Huh! I should work on what no one seems to shoot, On what people never notice . . . What they never see. That will be my next project! But what’s that? My eyes again turned into an imaging maker in my mind every single second of my life and focused on stuff nobody cares about but I found interesting, appealing and would be challenging to find and work with. Among the projects I chose: photos of the left overs after a day of serious cooking. All those peels, bunions, shells, seeds, whatever, that went into my compost pile. I’ve been shooting those from the very moment they were discarded after I prepared my meal – to it’s state of decomposing all the way. I started to witness a new way of life . I found the aging part of food simply is a fascinating one. I never imagined that universe I’ve found in that.
After many, many shots of the same old samo, I feel a decent body of work is taking shape. I’ve shown many of those shots to some of the important people in the art, exhibit and photography circles in my city. I’ve been offered an exhibit once my work is curated. Sadly for me, once the shot has materialized into piece of paper or a transparency, I no longer like my shot. I know I can do better, much better next time. So I keep shooting at all times. As well, I NEED to keep working at all times and hoping that at some point, I am happy with the results and feel that perhaps it deserves public scrutiny.
Well, I am not quite there yet, but I feel I am getting somewhere. Shooting something that requires so little, it is so minimalist! But brings me a question mark . . . Makes me wonder so much about that recently discovered world. Somehow I find it parallel to the world I lived in.
So, here I am showing you, sharing with you a recent badge of those images. Perhaps the audience here is not prepared to deal with weird stuff like this, but maybe this insignificant post is a start of a good thing that one day may become better and appreciated. Just like those early years when I was shooting with my brownie!