Photography was never my hobby and when enrolled in a college Photography 101 course, my final grade was an 'F'. I failed. There was fear of unreliable income that often goes with being self-employed. And while my father had been talented and financially successful as a graphics/packaging designer, our family had seen the great personal sacrifice of career as a visual artist in his home office. Those factors and others make this image collection very unlikely. Yet life is often not about foreseeable outcomes nor predictable beginnings.
University of Connecticut provided me a degree in business but not a fulfilling career track. Something with adventure seemed more appealing and I was a attracted to video. Back to school I went, re-starting with a photography course where my images were complimented by the students and professor alike. Final grades relied upon submission of a finished portfolio at conclusion of the semester.
However, when the professor proclaimed his 'right to own' any student's submitted prints, I chose to withhold my final work. I was there to learn and not for a grade. Two months later, I went to an interview for a staff photographer position with a graphics and book design studio carrying a folder of a few 35mm slides and my precious B & W prints from Photography 101.
Many of life's best memories are never recorded by a camera yet remain as vivid as any photograph. At the time, my job was cleaning bottoms of boat hulls. Typical days had me lying on my back staring upward, scraping off the slime and barnacles that dripped over me. A week after my interview it was one of those days, wedged in a space between concrete and a motor yacht. I turned my neck to notice the tires of a car that rolled up and parked. The car door opened and I saw feet. A face leaned under, upside down and silhouetted against a sun lit strip of background.
"Rob, are you under there?'' the face asked. " We've decided to hire you."
After one year of experience at the design studio I went freelance saying goodbye to a weekly pay check. As expected, nothing came easy. At age twenty-five my Chevy van with sleeping bag was my bedroom tucked into parking lots and driveways ... then rented rooms, house sitting for friends and basically living as a nomad for four years. My earnings were low but my level of learning was high, made possible by assisting three old and experienced photographers while also shooting for my own clients. Then, six years into the business I gained a new wife/art director and left Westport, Connecticut to re-locate to Florida, Susan to continue as a graphics designer and I as a commercial photographer.
I've enjoyed a wonderful career using film and later adapting to extreme changes brought about by digital imaging. My shooting has also evolved with interior design becoming a more important subject. In 2013, I discovered www.Houzz.com and honored with a 2014 'Best Of Houzz' award given to the top 4% of photographers who submit images to this leading on-line platform of home design of over 3 million photos. Other recognition has come with a 'Best Magazine Cover' award given by the International Association of Business Communicators, local Addy awards, and photography for interior designers winning national awards.
Twenty-five years ago we took a chance when buying a 'project home' in a tiny town with a population of 670. Within two years I was appointed to the Town Commission, later to be elected mayor in 2002 for a two year term and again asked in 2012 to serve yet another term as mayor. Being athletic I was attracted to the sport of triathlon in 2001 resulting in age group All-America Honors for the five years between 2002-06, still competing now in my fourteenth year. Fitness has always been important and before triathlon I raced to win my division in the 1996 Masters' North America Windsurfing Championships. In 2005 I was honored with the Paul Harris medal presented by a local chapter of International Rotary in recognition of my vision. Despite skeptical views, my urging and guidance resulted with the Rotary decision to produce an annual triathlon event having since produced many thousands of dollars for charity.
When considering my value as a photographer the benefit of longevity and experience of variety come to mind. But just knowledge of lighting, composition, Photoshop and all else required is meaningless without a most important ingredient... the uncompromising desire to satisfy the client... my best quality.