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Feeling My Way In The Dark

I grew up in Oak Lawn, Illinois which, in second half of the 70s and early 80s was a cultural desert.  If there was any culture to be had, I wasn’t aware of it.  My parents were good parents, but family, work, and making a home were their main pursuits.  My mother had a few LPs, Errol Garner, Johnny Cash, Herb Albert and the Tijuana Brass, and some Christmas records.  There couldn’t have been more than 20 total.  We had 1 TV which was shared between my parents and my 4 older brothers.  Suffice to say, my viewing options were limited and I was bottom of the totem pole when it came to selecting what to watch.  We didn’t go to the movies, let alone theater, concerts or art museums.

Once I reached junior high, things started to change for me.  I started to take music lessons. A friend’s parents took me with them to see Abel Gance’s silent film masterpiece Napoleon at the Chicago Theater with a live orchestra.  I saw my older brother perform in his high school’s version of Fiddler on the Roof.  Once I got a taste of the arts, I couldn’t get enough.    Eventually, I became the entertainment editor on my high school newspaper, and was regularly winning local music performance competitions.  I was an honors student and my parents expected me to go to college to become an engineer or scientist.  With no one to really understand or nurture my interest in the arts, and limited means to pursue it on my own, my aesthetic education was slow.

I think it’s kind of funny that I ended up as a photographer.  I don’t think anyone who knew me in my high school days would have ever predicted it.  I went off to the University of Illinois enrolled in Liberal Arts, secretly wanting to become a film director, but afraid to tell my parents lest they say, “You’re going to be a dentist, and that’s FINAL!”  I thought perhaps I could sort of ease them into it.  How was I to know that I should have found a way to attend the University of Southern California if I wanted to go into film?  I was a plumber’s son from Oak Lawn, Illinois for god’s sake and all the smart kids went to the U of I.

I took my first photography class pretty much by accident.  Once I was out of the house, I was exposed to all kinds of new and interesting people, and was encouraged by my teachers and the creative environment.  I did have a lot of catching up to do in terms of my aesthetic education. Here are a few samples from my earliest attempts at photography, mostly from Photo I and Photo II classes.  These images span approximately from 1983-1985.

As part of an ongoing project, I’m reviewing some of my photography work from my first photography class to the present.  Here is my first post.