I think if you check out biographies of many notable artists/ musicians/ creative-types, you will see that their achievements are the result of a life-long trajectory, that started when they were pretty young - before they even realized the path they were on?... they were on it.

The same is true for me. (That doesn't mean I am equal to them, at all - it just means 'the path is the same', for all of us.)

I was born in Burlington, Vermont, spent my first year or so in a foster home, & was then adopted by Robert & Margaret Bennett, at age 1 and a half.
Until I was 4, we lived on a farm in Rindge N.H. - All I remember is a very large barn next to the house, with a marvelous population of swallows, nesting in the rafters, that would fill the air at dawn and dusk.
This is a memory that is soo deeply held, and moving, I can't possibly convey it. I still hear and see them today.

In the summer of '55, we moved to Gardiner, Maine - population 7,000 - where my Dad owned and ran a Chevy dealership until the late 70's.

Like a lot of people who grew up thru the 30's & 40's
(Depression & WW2) they wanted their children to not only 'never experience what they did'...but also to get an education, & 'move up the ladder'...

My mother grew up in Boston, in a household that was thrown into dire economic straits by the premature death of her father/my grandfather. He worked for Cunard Shipping, fell ill while going thru the Panama Canal, and died very quickly thereafter. The remaining family was left penniless, except for a job offer to my uncle from Cunard, which he accepted...and when Cunard was bought by American Express, he worked for them...and retired as an executive VP of some sort in the early 70's, to very grand place in Greenwich, Connecticut.

(I remember him telling me once that he never planned to become what he did - he simply enjoyed working, and the work they offered him... & they kept offering him promotions - and since they were always for more money & more interesting challenging work, how could he say no?
)

His sister was equally ambitious, in her own way, and was determined to give her kids 'culture', so she packed me, my bro' and sis' in the car, and drove us to anything artistic/culturally enlightening that she could drive to. I was seeing Winslow Homer and Andrew Wyeth, etc, when i was all of 7 or 8 - this was in Maine, hence the choice of artists & destinations. I couldn't possibly remember all the things she took us to..

My Dad liked to take us on driving vacations - so we went to the Bay of Fundy(Canada), to see the tide go out, and every peak of note in the N.E., and all the historic sites, & all kinds of 'outdoor/natural' things.
We spent alot of time along the Maine coast, Pemaquid Point being a favorite spot..

'Driving' was the way to see the country, even if you didn't know where you were going - on one trip to Canada, we got lost on a backroad, and never went thru Customs - the only way we figured out we were in Canada was... all the signage was suddenly in French..!

So already, before i am 10 years old, the threads that are the foundation of what i do now, were in place - "art" and "natural things/places".
(They never took me to Disneyland - bless their hearts.)

When I was 10, they sent me to a private boarding school, a very good one - St. Paul's School, in Concord, New Hampshire.
One of my earliest memories of the place is of taking a calligraphy class, in a study room with carved oak walls and windows with lead paned glass, that looked out on a babbling waterfalls...
( I felt like some kind of medevial scribe...)

I was soon studying Latin, and Greek, and French. Didn't think much about it at the time, but in retrospect, studying languages gives one an appreciation of the depth & fluidity of our "human "symbols", be they language, or pictures, or whatever.... which is why i can now look at ...a ladder stuck in the sand, or a windmill, or landscape, and "see" something else, some other metaphor/relationship...

I also started drawing in my early teens, and started really taking art seriously. The art teacher i had at St Paul's (Bill Abbey) once took the class to the campus chapel, and had us 'draw from life' - our choice of subject. The chapel was very ornate, with carved oak panels, and pews - i chose a fleurdelis (sic?) ornament at the end of a pew, and the curves connected with the previous years' calligraphy...and i was hooked.

It was somewhere in this time period that i came across an old Kodak 'Autographic' camera in my dad's desk drawers - It was totally an antique then (never mind now).... and i took a few pix w/ it... but stayed primarily interested in 'art' (as in "painting/drawing" etc.).

Over the years, the art/work that has attracted/inspired me includes
(in no particular order, and it's a very incomplete list - i am sure i am forgetting twice as many as i am including):
Durer, VerMeer, Klee, Thomas Cole, Turner, Paul Jenkins, Claes Oldenburg, Roy Lichtenstein, Salvidor Dali (and all the surrealists),
A whole lot of Asian art: Angkor Wat, in it's entirety...,
Tibetan tangkas, & Japanese Sumie...
I lived in/around Washington DC for over 20 years, and have spent many hours at the National Gallery, Freer, Corcoran, Phillips..

I finished/graduated boarding school in 1969, & 'messed around'
a lot in the early '70's, doing... i'm not sure what....
(if you remember it, you weren't really there, right?)....and I got back to going to school in '74 - I was inspired by a graphic design teacher to go into advertising (it was a way you could do 'creative things' and get paid for 'em! ( as in "having a job/salary/regular paycheck"...).
That sounded good to me, so i did it. Along the way, i took every art course there was - between the boarding school and college, i studied drawing, painting, silkscreening...anything there was a course for...

I also ended up in a photography class... I learned all my 'basic darkroom skills' there. I know my first 50 rolls or so looked like crap.... but i kept at it.

At the time, i lived in Old Town Alexandria, Virginia, which was very quaint/historic/ un-"yuppified" - and very photogenic. I roamed around w/ an old Nikon, and shot whatever struck me... ( From this time onward, i have always had a darkroom of sorts in my home, no matter crude/ "guerrilla" style it was.)

From '76-81, i worked as an advertising art director, and watched every photog i worked with - that was a good education.

In '81, I got bored/frustrated w/ advertising, and went into architectural photography. Shooting architecture leaves one w/ alot of 'down time' due to weather/winter, so i started working w/ things in my darkroom - At this point, a number of things came together - and i started making the kind of montage pix i do now.
It kinda 'took off' from there.

My photographic influences would include: Pete Turner, Harry Callahan, Joel Meyerowitz, Clarence John Laughlin (sic?), Robert Misrach,... and of course, Jerry Uelsmann...but also (and equally) a fellow named Reijlander, who did incredible montages in the early 1900's, with far less technology...

The recession of the early '90's totally cleaned me out - architectural shooting in the Wash., DC area took a nose dive, my income went from $30k to $3k... i got divorced for a second time, and ended up throwing whatever i could fit into my car, and drove west - as far west as possible... and ended up in SF.
I had traveled to both SF and Reno, NV before - on business or assignment for ad agencies and photo clients - and I simply woke up one morning in Arlington Va shortly after the divorce in late '91, with one thought in my mind "I am OUTTA here! Going WEST!"

The things i was looking for back east, ended up being out here, and virtually all of what is on my site has been done in the last 18+ years.

Everything I've done previously seems to... have been a building block of some sort.

For example.... alot of the analysis and planning that goes into shooting architecture can be applied to the landscapes and locations I shoot now in California.
...and of all those 'early influences'?
... the one that sticks most in my mind is a quote from Joel Meyerowitz:

"I've been down to the harbor a thousand times, but it only looked like this once..."

The sort of improvisation that I learned in drawing and painting is alive and well in my darkroom.

A couple of other things that have always sustained me? - music...and books.

I am still wearing out copies of Hendrix "Are You Experienced?"...
but I also listen to 'space'/ambient music...
Last christmas, I got a copy of the re-mastered "Who's Next"...
I'll stack it next to Michael Hedges, John McLaughlin, and Mark Isham's "Tibet".

Alot of evenings at boarding school, when i was at the Library supposedly studying Greek... i was instead finding Robert Bly and John Berryman.
There are 5 books on my shelves you will have to wrestle out of my...uh..."cold dead hands"....
Peter Matthiessen - "The Snow Leopard",
Bruce Chatwin - "The Songlines",
Edward Abbey - "Desert Solitaire",
Joy Harjo and Steven Strom - "Secrets from The Center of The World", and...
John McPhee - "Assembling California"...

 

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