Although I drew, painted and made a lot of things as a kid, I really started my life as an artist through photography. I was lucky to have some great teachers, Alexander (Sandy) McBride at Juniata College and Doug Baz at Bard College. Sandy was a painter who had come to photography later. He was the teacher who taught me that it's just a medium, one among many. I had some great painting teachers also - Alan Cote, Jim Sullivan and in an informal but no less important way, Jake Grossberg.
After college I moved into New York City for 6 years where I made a precarious living as a printer for many photographer/artists - Jill Freedman, Anita Chernewski, Rosalind Solomon among them and also for a printing company (the best in New York at that time) called 220 Print. I was an apprentice at 220 but we worked with some of the most important photographers then alive: Robert Mapplethorpe, Lisette Modell, Bruce Davidson, Larry Clark, Larry Fink and others. I learned as much (or more) from my employers, especially Chuck Kelton and Steve Rifkin, than I had learned in school - how to evaluate images, balance them, bring out their best.
I also worked at some commercial labs, mostly forgettable work but one I still think about. It was filled with a bunch of older Armenian guys (I never did find out why) who had been printing photographs since the dawn of time. They were vulgar, crude, warm and funny as hell. Even though our whole emphasis was volume and speed (Test strips??? Not in this lab, sonny!), in their joking way they were as good as any artists I ever worked with. They could glance at a negative, slap it in the enlarger, guess at the exposure, burn, dodge, manipulate in the developer and have that print in the stop bath in a minute or less. I remember them fondly and with a lot of appreciation.
Between 2000 and 2014 I returned to working primarily as a photographer. I didn't have the time or space to paint much and was working on my MFA in Photography. This was all digital (with a very few exceptions) and although there are some differences the lessons I had learned all applied. I am still working through the thousands and thousands of photographs I made during that period even though I am now painting again. And I am still shooting.