How it all started

Greetings from Hamburg, Germany. After a decade online I felt it was time for an upgrade to my website, which now includes additional image galleries and a new story section. Time permitting, this will be the first in a series of upcoming articles highlighting my life and career in photography across seven continents. Looking back, it's pretty amazing that I survived some pretty scary stuff like attempted Khmer Rouge kidnappings and Sri Lanka gun battles. Only as a result of extreme luck am I able to share my journey ...

While the Beatles were conquering Europe in the early 1960's, I was fighting boredom as a six-year-old living in Costa Mesa, California where I would often sneak out of the house to explore surrounding neighborhoods, only to face my mother's wrath from the back of a police car. To amuse myself, I would flip through my parents World Book encyclopedia set, which included pictures of Indian tigers, Brazilian jungles and Hawaiian volcanoes. Drawing provided a fantasy land, where I could imagine myself in Africa with herds of wildebeest or Thailand mingling with monkeys. The world was astonishing and I was determined to see it all

Photo of me at age 7, taken in Scotsdale Arizona by Leigh Wiener in 1964

On the first day of kindergarten, I vividly recall the tears and anxiety on kids faces, but unlike them, I eagerly embraced the smell of fresh Play-Doh and a desk full of crayons, which was a welcome upgrade from my worn out pencils. During one art session, students depicted scenes of happy faced suns and loved ones holding Valentine hearts, which was typical for a normal child. But I wasn't normal and it was only a matter of time before my frowning teacher appeared at my easel. She silently observed my progress and then left only to return with a squad of school officials, who questioned my color selection of black to brush geometric lines, triangles and circles for my project. I explained it was a tire factory with gears, levers and buttons. Though I had no idea what a psychologist was, it was the height of embarrassment being summoned from my giggling classroom the following day. The painting was later exhibited at the 1962 World's Fair in Seattle.

Following several months, my family packed up a U-Haul trailer and we moved to Scottsdale, Arizona, where my father accepted a public relations job at an aerospace firm outside Phoenix. The desert landscape was an exhilarating change and further stimulated my curiosity. One afternoon, dad arrived home with his photographer buddy Leigh Wiener, who worked extensively with Life Magazine. He made some holiday portraits of my family and Little did I know at the time, the one hour photo session would dramatically change the course of my life forever. When Wiener opened his metal case, my eyes popped. The carpeted living room became littered with camera bodies, lenses, flash bulbs, filters, motor drives, light meters, and bright yellow boxes of Kodak film. I was completely fixated and that memory is still etched into my soul.

Photography landed on my doorstep at age ten when my parents surprised me with a Kodak Flashfun Hawkey camera and though it has long disappeared, it's remarkable and symbolic that I still have the very first picture ever snapped, showing my grandfather walking across our front lawn in Canoga Park, California – dated June, 1967.

This is the first Photograph I ever made, which shows my Grandfather walking across our front lawn in July, 1967

To raise money for film, I would draw peoples homes for a dollar and while it was a cool gig, my hope of becoming a professional painter was shattered when Leonardo Da Vinci entered my life. Even though his genius was a revelation, I quickly realized how ridiculously lacking my painting skills were, so the camera eventually replaced the brush.

Though my first camera has long disappeared, I amazingly found and purchased this complete Kodak Flashfun Hawkeye Camera Kit on ebay

During my senior year at Reseda High School in Southern California Leigh Wiener employed me after school as a darkroom printer at his Hollywood studio on Santa Monica Boulevard. With guidance from the master himself and my photography instructor Warren King I was able to win the 1974 Kodak/Scholastic National Travel Scholarship beating out 8000 students from across the United States. The award included an African safari to Kenya and Tanzania and later that summer I found myself photographing herds of wildebeest from the top of a Toyota Land Cruiser, but that is another story ...