When did you first begin to think of yourself as an artist?
Well, my Dad got me a little box camera when I was in high school. I was going to the drag races and I’d take my camera because I liked the way the old cars looked. That was the impetus, early on. But I didn’t really explore photography any more than that until I got out of college. I was studying marketing in college and that kept me busy. Later, I met a fellow who became a mentor and he had this complete darkroom setup in his house. He decided to sell it and he made me a deal I couldn’t refuse. He offered it all to me at a discount price and co-signed a note at the bank for me, so I was off and running. I photographed Aqua Fest in Austin and other kinds of events like jazz and music festivals. That was kind of the beginning.
Later, I had a little darkroom where I could process black and white film. It was in what had been a dentist’s office and it had a reception area with a receptionist. It was about 6-8 blocks from the University of Texas (UT) campus on 19th street, now MLK. I was in that office, when, on August 1, 1966, the receptionist came and got me out of the darkroom and said “we’re gonna go down the street.” Somebody on the UT tower was shooting at people. I had a large 500mm lens on loan that attached directly to a tripod, and the camera would attach directly to the lens. So, it turned out that I could really ‘hone in’ on the tower as the police fired bullets up there. I never saw Whitman. But, I did have a press pass and got in the next day and photographed where all the bullets hit the walls as he would fire down into the stairwells to keep people from coming up. I saw the bullet holes where they had finally shot him.
After college, I began working with ad agencies and home builders. The home builders needed what they called a ‘PR story’ on their new additions. Of course, they’d say, “Get out there, we need to make the paper in two hours.” That’s life when you are working with ad agencies. Deadlines, deadlines, deadlines.
I later met a fellow who became a friend and he played in a band. He also booked bands. At that time, I had a small studio and business on Barton Springs Rd. in Austin, and while there, I photographed a lot of different music groups. I was at that studio for eight years and then I moved to South Congress Avenue, and after that move, photography was no longer my primary focus. For several years I was doing graphic artwork for ad agencies. I sold my small business in 1993. I didn’t really have much choice. When people started using computers to design ads they didn’t need someone to enlarge or set type, so typesetters and graphic arts businesses were pretty much out.
Back into photography, I shot one event every year for 52 years. In 1967, while doing a photo shoot in the Capitol of Texas building, I was approached by the Director of Bluebonnet Girl’s State. It’s part of the America Legion Auxiliary. They focus on civics classes for young women who were at top levels in their school. The Director asked if I’d be interested in photographing an event. I said yes. I mostly photographed young ladies in various group settings. I’ve done it every summer since 1967, until 2018. It was a long ride: 52 years. They honored me for my photography of the event. I was thinking. ‘“Well, this might be a good time to wrap”.
How do you decide on your subject matter…what you want to photograph at any given time?
Photography was my primary interest when I moved to Wimberley in 2014. I got the first digital Nikon in 2015. I started going to the butte called ‘Old Baldy’, would hike up 218 steps, then watch the sun go down and watch the sun come up. Then I discovered River Road in Wimberley, and I’d go on there on early Sunday mornings just to get that first light. That’s what drives me: coming up with that ‘magic-hour’ shot when the light is just right.
Then, I starting photographing longhorns. Usually, I would photograph them through a barbed wire fence, and these photographs are some of my best sellers. I met many of the owners later, and we became friends. Some would allow me on their property to shoot.
I continue to do a lot of shooting at Zilker Gardens in Austin, especially in the fall when the butterflies are there. It’s about getting that perfect shot of the butterfly on a flower. I’d get there around 11 a.m. during the day in spring or late fall. The light filters through the trees, so I get this nice pattern of light.
What’s the weirdest or funniest thing anybody ever said to you about your work?
I use Photoshop and print the images on canvas. People often ask if I painted them, or if I painted them and then photographed them.