I like to say I went to two boot camps: one in Fort Benning, Georgia, and one in Pasadena. Military service taught me to carry myself with poise, but ArtCenter was where I mastered my medium.
These days, I’ve got 15 years’ experience in galleries and art fairs under my belt, plus 20 years in travel photography. My beginnings were more humble. I come from a family of military men. My great-uncles served in World War II. My father was a Navy man. After ArtCenter, I signed up for a four-year stint with the U.S. Army. If nothing else, I was up for what I thought would be an adventure.
I enlisted after scoring high on my exams, and was afforded a promising contract. I was to be set on a career path in military intelligence. Then, 9/11 happened, with just a year left on my contract, and what was supposed to be a four-year excursion turned into seven long years.
I’ve always been aware of the “soldier poet” archetype, and the ways in which it is both powerful and deceiving. My body of work is one that reckons explicitly with the American veteran experience. My photographic work draws heavily from my upbringing, my core beliefs, and the trials and tribulations I’ve weathered personally. It is designed to resist categorization, and defy any and all stereotypes.
I can only speak for myself in terms of the work I produce, but I also know there’s an unspoken, silent language that only veterans truly understand. My military service is something I’ll forever be grateful for, as it changed who I am on a cellular level.
After graduating from ArtCenter, I went on to take photographs for the Sunday edition of LA Times Magazine, plus Los Angeles Magazine and a host of other local clients. I even had a gig for Billboard Publishing, shooting for trade magazines like Drummer and Guitar Player. I was putting my photography degree to good use in a very practical sense.
These days, my priorities are a bit different. I’m teaching at Ventura College, which I attended, and my foremost goal is shepherding young creatives onto the path that’s right for them. If I can save them that annoying re-shoot, or even months spent chasing a fruitless creative pursuit, then I’ll have done my job.
Is ArtCenter like boot camp? In some ways, boot camp is nothing compared to ArtCenter! Sure, boot camp involves waking up at four in the morning to do physical training, which is no picnic. However, ArtCenter is where I mastered the rigor that would allow me to take on a career in commercial photography. It’s a life that involves restless, trying hours, and no shortage of travel, but it’s the only life I know.
In the military, and at ArtCenter, you are constantly subject to critique. In the service, even the placement of your nametag on your uniform denotes a certain significance. Everything has to be “Dress Right, DRESS”, and commitment to rigor is the name of the game. After a while, it all becomes muscle memory.
I carry ArtCenter with me everywhere I go. Some remarkable professors had a major influence on me – men like James Fee and Tim Bradley. My time spent with those educators, in addition to my military service, is what made me the person I am today.
I spend plenty of time asking myself how I can act as a guiding light for a young person in need of mentorship. Currently, at Ventura College, I’m teaching alongside my first-ever photography professor, a gentleman named Bill Hendricks. It’s surreal, but it feels very “full circle,” and it’s nice to know that I’m part of an effort to build a legacy that’s ultimately much bigger than just one person.
Don’t get me wrong; acquisitions at galleries are great. Selling a piece? Fantastic. But none of it compares to the rush of knowing you’re helping someone meet a goal, or helping them create honest, autobiographical work that is crafted with integrity. That’s what makes everything else worth it.
BFA 98 Photography
MFA ICP-Bard College
U.S. Army Veteran
Adjunct Professor, Ventura College
Vice President, Carnegie Art Cornerstones