For me, photography is more about the experience than the image. The photo is simply a way to share the experience of a person, place, event, activity…whether found or created. How well an image engages the viewer, conveys new information or a new perspective, or activates emotions and memories is the challenge of the craft.
Photography is a passport to all sorts of experiences I may never have otherwise had. While in high school I photographed for a small daily newspaper. Assignments there were wide ranging. I took portraits of everyone from some student award winner to business owners to the state’s governor to the World Chicken Flying Champions (for real). The thing about an editorial (or advertising) portrait is that it’s not just a representation of the physical subject. It needs to tell a story. What did or does this person do that is worth the reader’s time? Who are they, really, and why should you care? That takes getting to know the people and their stories. I get to experience who they are and have to find ways to convey that experience to the readers visually.
Besides portraits I shot concerts and sporting event. I photographed and flew in a hot air balloon festival. I flew in a sailplane. There were plenty of tamer subjects, too. All of them were fascinating experiences although sometimes I had to work to find that element of real interest. I really enjoyed finding interesting and different ways to convey those experiences to the readers so experience them vicariously. As you might imagine, I was learning a lot.
Once in college I was faced with choosing my career path. The top contenders were research immunology or astrophysics. (In high school I built my own telescope, had a pretty extensive biology lab and was a member of the AAAS (American Association for the Advancement of Science). I never got to make that choice because I found that I was spending so much time pursuing and shooting freelance work for newspapers and magazines. Finally, I decided to just give in and commit myself fully to that which I obviously couldn’t resist, a career in photography.
Really, science and photography have a lot of the same attraction for me. Science is the pursuit of knowledge, of understanding and discovery and the enormous satisfaction of sharing what you learn with others. That is what drives my interest in photography. The difference is that in science you may spend years working to answer one question before coming to some aha moment. In photography, every job presents much of the same enticements and every project is different.
I start each assignment by getting to know the subject, whether it be a person, manufacturing process, medical procedure, water park or natural wonder. I explore how best to convey what is special about each in the most compelling way visually. In advertising work, I love creating a visual experience that best conveys the message. I get a special thrill out of creating a scene that simply doesn’t or couldn’t exist in real life.
When shooting advertising I can certainly execute a layout. But most clients look at me as a creative partner and through that synergy develop something greater.
For many years I maintained a 2000 square foot studio, seventh floor, massive windows overlooking the Milwaukee skyline and lake-front. It was a spectacular place to watch fireworks from all the festivals each summer. And we created some great images there. But most of my work and my true love is shooting on location. So, the studio is no more but I pride myself on being able to bring a studio production on location when needed.
I pride myself on pushing boundaries and limits. I was an early adapter of digital imaging (2000) when many clients said they would never allow anything but film… until they saw what I could do digitally. That same boundary pushing continues, especially in my virtual reality work. That has become such a major focus that it warrants its own website and brand, Tour de Force 360VR. Check it out to explore a new, remarkably engaging world of visual communication.
In a long nutshell, that is who I am and what makes me tick. You start to know me in a similar way to how I get to know my photographic subjects. In a similar way, perhaps it will help our work together be even more effective.