Almost everyone has certain photographers who are of some sort of influence and inspiration, who are these photographers for you?
Strangely enough, this also changes for me every now and then. I admitted that early on I didn’t find Ansel Adams’ images very inspiring and was more drawn to the color work of contemporary landscape photographers like the late Galen Rowell. I did not come to fully appreciate Adams until I read his written work and developed a better understanding of the expressive aspect of his images, as opposed to their documentary value. I also recently researched the work of Philip Hyde who I came to admire greatly. So, the more I learn, the more new inspiration I find. It seems, though, that in American photography all roads ultimately lead to Alfred Stieglitz. Without him we may never have heard of Paul Strand, Ansel Adams, Edward Weston, Minor White, Eliot Porter and a great many others. I have to say that my admiration for photographers over the years became more about their personality and character than trivia about their heroic escapades or their ability to “get the shot”. I don’t care what shot you got if there’s no substance and meaning and a true creative mind behind it. I think that most photographers initially draw their inspiration from objective qualities of images - their face-value aesthetics - but, as you learn more about the people behind them, your sensibilities begin to change. This is no different than other areas where knowledge is more important than objectivism. Take wine, for example. The way to learn to truly appreciate wine is not to buy more expensive bottles but, rather, to take a wine tasting class and learn to identify the more subtle and less obvious qualities that set the best ones apart.
Have you gone through any formal training in photography or are you a self taught photographer?
I am self taught in photography and in just about anything else I happen to know. Although I did receive some excellent formal training in many areas, I never felt like I truly understood a topic until I took the time to research and learn it on my own. Even in school I was considered odd; I would cut classes in order to sit at the library and read about the same topic as the class. I still often scored better on the test than those who attended every classroom session. The only formal education I found valuable were ...