Like most photographers, I’ve carried a camera with me for as long as I can remember. As a teen I remember the excitement getting photos back from the lab. It was a great hobby, but I felt my chosen career was to be a family therapist. I wanted to help people and make a difference.
I graduated with a BA in psychology from UMASS Amherst, worked for a number of years on inpatient psychiatric wards in Boston, and then further advanced my education by attending Smith College School for Social Work, graduating with an MSW in 1993. I was well on my way. All the while I had my camera with me, always taking pictures.
After working a few years as a social worker, I experienced a series of unexpected layoffs. It was a pretty heavy dose of reality, and I saw people in the field losing their jobs after 20 and 30 years. I decided to get some distance from it, and clear my head before simply finding “another job”. I took an extended trip across the country to reevaluate and refocus. I had $5k in savings, a CD player Velcroed to the dash of my Integra, a cooler, three-person tent from EMS, and my trusty Nikon with rolls of film in baggies. I was ready for anything.
The trip lasted four months and I hope to do it again some day with my wife and kids. I saw the entire country. I shot hundreds upon hundreds of images (which back then was considered a lot.) My journey spanned the entire country, focusing on our National Park system. When I was done, I came to realize two things: We live in a beautiful country and it was time for a new career.
And that career was not photography. At least not yet. I devoted the next 9 years to traveling coast-to-coast building sales teams and meeting amazing people from all over the world. It was an invaluable experience that taught me so much about how to run a business and take care of customers.
It was not until I had returned home to Boston, found the love of my life, got married, and then started writing down new career options, when photography came into focus. I was brainstorming a short list of businesses, when my wife looked over my shoulder and said (and I quote):
“I see photography at the top of the list. How come you don’t take that seriously? Why don’t you take some classes and see how it goes?”
And with that, my transition from longtime hobbyist to full-time professional took a major first step. I took our wedding photographer out to lunch on Newbury Street and spent over three hours asking questions on how to becoming a professional photographer. That led to a year of intensive workshops at NESOP and the greater realization that I was happier than I had been in a very long time.
Over the years I have continued to enjoy a vast array of hands-on experiences and formalized training in Boston, NYC and Las Vegas with photography icons such as Joe McNally, Doug Gordon, and Peter Hurley as well as numerous training opportunities through Kelby Training, WPPI and PPA. I am a strong believer that training doesn’t end when your business reaches a certain point of success. As I see it, photography is a creative art form with no clear destination. I still enjoy attending trainings and I always will.
Looking back on how I got here, the career path to professional photographer makes a lot of sense. It’s no secret that I love working with people and that I gain satisfaction from being able to give to others. I also love to figure things out and I am highly driven to push myself every time I pick up the camera. I’m also a little obsessive compulsive when I get on a project, an ailment that comes in handy in photography. In all, I feel quite fortunate to have found my path.