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You don't find it, it finds you.

I am on a job interview at least 50 times a year and when you interview for the same position every time, you get pretty good at it. Most of the time I get the job, other times I don't. And every so often I get the job, but turn it down. And that's good.

During the interview, I am frequently asked how I got into photography, or how long I have it been doing it. There are two distinctively different answers to those questions, and both are true.

The first (long) version goes like this. I was working for a financial services company doing third party commercial loans. We loaned money for big long haul trucks, trailers, and heavy duty "yellow" equipment. It was a good job, for it's kind. The job was predictable, steady, decent pay, and had good benefits. Then one day a huge Mega-Mongo company paid an unbelievable amount of money for our company, just to get this certain piece of the pie that resided in the Pacific Rim where liberal usuary laws made loans with interest rates of 50% and up a very, very profitable operation. The Mega-Mongo company that bought us also had a conmmercial lending division so some of us at the branch were offered positions in the central streamlined operation and others weren't. If accepted, the new position would require a major move. The timing of this branch closing and offer to move to keep the job was ill-timed. Kristen was in her 8th month of pregnancy with Bryce. This move would require us to sell our house, transplant a newborn, one highschooler, and one jr highschooler, and Kristen would have to quit her job. We considered it, but decided against it as the benefits did not outweigh the drawbacks. Instead, I took a paltry severence package and the improbable but joint decision was made that I would stay home with the baby, and begin offering photography services.

And so the short answer of version one is that I tired of being a pawn and working for The Man. I was tired of downsizing, restructuring, and layoffs and decided to pursue a passion and dream and work for myself as a photographer.

The pursuit of photography was something that had long ago been buried, buried deep in the no man's land of my brain, the place where Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, Fairies, and all the other fanciful and impractical dreams of youth are buried. The hole where mine was buried was dug by my father. At least he started the hole. With valuable and practical lessons he showed me how to dig this hole, and soon turned the shovel over to me where I willingly (how did this happen, this willingness?) finished the job. It wasn't a swift burial, it took a long time to dig the hole in just the right spot, deep enough and wide enough to completely swallow the dream, and cover it up so you could barely notice that anything was buried there at all.

The second (very long) version of the answer to the question how did you get into photography goes like this. During the summer between fifth and sixth grades I got my first job as a paper boy. I was responsisble for the delivery of the afternoon paper to 56 houses in my neighborhood. Once a month I would make the rounds and collect the monthly subscription fee from my customers, going door to door with my bank zipper bag and receipt book. I would then ride my bike to the designated spot to meet the route manager and pay my tab for the month. The remaining balance over what the papers cost me was mine to keep, my profit for the month. I made about $75 a month for 90 minutes of work each day. That's some serious cash for an 11-year-old kid.

I opened up a checking account and dutifully deposited the profits each month, watching my financial empire grow. I changed routes, getting more houses, hitting up the ones that didn't subscribe to take the afternoon paper, and making even more money each month. Now 12, my only means of transportaion was my bike. My one-speed route bike with the basket in front was adequate for delivering papers, but lacked the necessary speed for quick transport to friends' houses, the school playground, or the local convenience store (when a bottle of Dr. Pepper and a comic book was the only answer for a boring afternoon).

I decided that my first major purchase was going to be a Schwinn 10-speed bike. I told my parents of my decision and they agreed to let me spend the money. My mom took me to the bike store, where I looked over the selection of bikes. I finally found the one I wanted, and the salesman pulled it down from the rack. He asked me to hike my leg over the seat and straddle the center bar. I did so, but had to stand on my tippy toes, and even then the bar was pushing up on my package. He explained that because I could not clear the bar, for safety reasons he couldn't sell it to me. I was devastated. I ran out to the car and cried. Nothing my mom said on the way home made a difference, I was just crushed.

We got home and I jumped on my route bike and just started peddling. I wound up at a new shopping center about a mile away and was tooling around on the sidewalks when I stopped in front of a camera store. I walked in just to look aound. The owner asked me if I needed something, and I told him I was looking for a camera. I gazed into the display case and my eye stopped on a what can only be described as a thing of beauty: the top-of-the-line SLR Minolta SRT 102.

I asked to see the camera, and he brought it out of the display case and placed it on the rubber mat on the glass counter top. He gave me a quick rundown on how the camera worked and without any hesitation I told him I would take it. I wrote a check (can you picture it? A 12-year-old writing a check for $300 for a top-of-the-line camera. Uh, no ID, sorry, but you can call my mom) and zoomed home with my new possession.

My dad hit the roof when he learned of my purchase, but in the end I won out and was able to keep it. I carried it with me everywhere I went. I got books from the library on photography, and studied every piece of photography literature I could get my hands on. I would ride my bike to the camera store, hang out and ask thousands of questions about photography. I lived and breathed photography.

As time went on, I discovered the power that comes with carrying a camera. It was my passport to places I would never otherwise be allowed to enter. During high school I was accepted to the newspaper staff, because I had a camera. Hall pass? We don't need no stinking hall pass! As long as I had my camera with me, I was allowed to cruise the halls without interference. It got me to the sidelines of football games, backstage at concerts, early access to events. My camera and an "I'm here on assignment" got me where the action was!

During my junior year of high school, I planned on going to a famous photography school in California. I applied and was accepted, but the hammer came down and my dad refused to let me go. Instead, I was encouraged to pursue a more "valuable" and "practical" career in engineering. My parents agreed to foot the bill for my education, and off I went to the state university. But not for long. I didn't like the subject matter, and as a result I didn't do well. I left during the second year and decided to work for a while to figure out what I wanted to do all over again.

So the short answer to the second version is I have been taking pictures since I bought my first camera when I was 12 with paper route money.

During the decision-making process of what the hell are we going to do we're going to have a baby and I'm out of a job, a silent ground shift took place in the deep dream burial crevice of my mind, pushing the photography dream ever so slightly back to the surface, raising it just enough to the point of notice. When I first found it I looked at it and walked away, but kept coming back more and more frequently. Each time I returned to the burial place, it was further out of it's grave, looking better and better, as if this crossroads in our life were giving it energy, renewing it, feeding and nurturing it, until I had to bring it out to the open and speak of it. To me it was beautiful and scary (I can't imagine what it looked like to Kristen) but she agreed to let me try and I love her for that. If not for short legs and a corporate buyout and re-org, the dream would still be buried.

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