Once Upon a Time….
That’s how all good stories begin, right? Well how about my story. Some people say only fairytales begin with once upon a time.
Maybe they’re right. Believe me, mine is no fairytale.
From the age of fourteen, I knew that I was going to be a photographer. I was lucky enough to have a mother who was an Art Director and who took me to many commercial photostudios, where I was given small tasks such as cleaning up the studios, painting the cycloramas, going to get lunch for the crew, basically whatever needed to be done. And I was thrilled to just be in that environment! I thought to myself, wow, a job where you can wear blue jeans and there are pretty girls running around all over the place. THAT’S my kind of profession!
Flash forward six years, and I am graduating from Parsons School of Design in NYC, ready to take on the world! Just a few days later, I am on the phone with the First Assistant for a NY Photographer, Al Satterwhite. He was looking for a replacement for himself. I wanted that job and was determined to get it. He asked, “Can you get a police car, a policeman and a model for a photo shoot on the Parkway in New Jersey by next week”? Without a moments hesitation I said, “no problem”. I was hired! Right there, over the phone. Now all I had to do was to produce what I said I could do. And I did. The cover of Motor Trend magazine went off without a hitch, and I was no the assistant to Al Satterwhite! For the next year, we traveled extensively, shooting 35mm Kodachrome film and nothing else. The work was good, don’t get me wrong, but my heart was “in the studio”, not and endless road of location shoots.
My first studio job was with a photographer named Kit DeFever. He was from Detroit, and had a studio in the heart of the photo district in NYC, on the corner of 20th ST and Fifth Ave. Catalog work for department stores such as L.S. Ayers and Macy’s was the mainstay of his clientele. I felt right at home being the second assistant in a studio where I was given much freedom as well as responsibility.
And then I thought I was a Photographer. The advantage of hindsight is being able to clearly see when it was that you chose the wrong path at the proverbial fork in the road. And I was about to do just that.
Answering an ad for a position as a studio photographer at Universal Studios in Manhattan, was to be the next rung up on my ladder of success. But I should have known better. The idea of working as a photographer, and not just an assistant, was too tempting, and when offered the position, I took it without thinking twice, even though, again, in retrospect, knowing that it was NOT the right move for me. Nor was I really ready to make such a move. But I did, and this is where things started to unravel.
After a year of shooting cheap toys with an 8X10″ Deardorff field camera, I would walk to work muttering my new mantra, “I hate my job, I hate my job”. After many weeks of unhappiness, I listened to myself, and quit. But once again I made a decision without a plan. “What would I do? Where would I find work?” Hey, I was young, ambitious and confident that it would all work out. Just how long it would take and at what cost I was about to find out.