What do you say on the home page of your blog? For a guy who loves to talk, I find myself “wordless.” But….here goes it….
I feel blessed. I’m a dad, a grand father, a husband and hopefully a friend. I have four amazing children and 5 grandchildren. I’m married and sincerely blessed to have the woman who is truly my better half as a partner. She puts up with a lot. My first wife who is the mother of my children put up with a lot too, and thankfully we’re good friends.
I tell you all of this because life is not always easy. Life is what you make of it and sometimes when your focus is about what you see and feel, and you have a vision of how you can capture it….and the babies crying or you’re being told a bill is due, and your in a zone thinking about an image you saw….well, life can be at odds with you and them. None the less, I’m blessed.
I was the only child of two first generation American German parents growing up in middle America. My mother wanted me to go to school and prepare myself for college. I had ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder). They told my parents I was a slow reader and my math skills were not good. I was aptitude visual they said. Aptitude is of course is your natural ability to do something.
My mother told me math and science were the courses I needed, and no you’re not taking art, you can’t make money as an artist. My father was a photographer early in his adult life, his brother a artist painter. In the end, I didn’t take an art or photography class until I was married and in my twenties. I watched my father take pictures all my life. He bought me my first camera, but never showed me how to use it. He never really told me how to look at a subject or expose it in a particular way. I learned from looking at his pictures, trying to duplicate what he had created. I looked at other photographers and the images they shot, the pictures they created. I learned.
I loved taking pictures of my children. A child is pure and genuine, whose precious faces are full of joy or sadness, baring so much emotion. I took it to the street and watched strangers. In 1968 my father had taken me to watch the events on the streets in Chicago during the Democratic Convention. It was a time of unrest and revolution against the Viet Nam War and politics. The scenes playing out before me as a 14 year old changed me.
Years later I was working for my father in our family business. It took me to neighborhoods and places in the city that most of my friends and family would never venture into, ever. The Southside, Westside, Uptown,and Skid Row. I saw things that you just didn’t see in Du Page county where I grew up. The West Loop, then known as Skid Row and the adjoining Fulton Market, was teaming with a culture of food processors and suppliers, light manufacturing and warehousing buildings. It was also the last refuge for the drunks who lived in the flop houses and drank in the shot and beer taverns along Madison street.
It was there that I went to take pictures of the forlorn habitants of Skid Row. Shot on film in 1978 and later scanned to Digital media and posted on this web-site, they were discovered by a production company producing a PBS special and used to depict the condition of the area now known as the West loop.
I remember coming home as a teenager and finding my dad listening to music. When he got home from work he would take off his suit, leaving on his Wingtip shoes, his bowers, and his wife beater (sleeveless undershirt).Our house was always filled with music, Jazz, Blues, Rock, etc. On this occasion he was dancing in his “out of work outfit”, snapping his fingers and dancing in his wingtips to Peggy Lee’s “Fever.” That image has never left me.
His two loves, music and photography. I find I’m a lot like my father, less the crazy outfit that made me ask him, “Dad, really……what’s up with that outfit?”
I’ve been fortunate. My wife has also been a fan of music. She sang a little bit and had numerous musician friends. One being a drummer who she bumped into again after 20 years of no connection. He was playing with a band and asked us to come out to a gig and have some fun. We went, had a great time and went back. This time I took my camera.
I guess you might say that this was fate. I took some pictures, posted them on facebook. The band loved them, and I became their official, non official regular photographer. More importantly I became friends with the bands leader, Pete Special. Pete loved my work, and invited my wife and I into his circle of friends. My wife became friends with Pete’s wife and I was blessed to meet a large group of musicians who I have photographed on many occasions.