photography: unexpectedly profound

It’s been a little over 10 years since I started shooting professionally. It’s been a fascinating journey. Entering photography as a career was unexpected, and somewhat of a “plan B”.  Maybe even a “plan C” or “D”.  I used to joke about being a photographer for a living, but I never thought I’d actually do it.  During my psychology studies at USU, I encountered a major crisis of faith, to which my wife threatened to divorce me over. I reluctantly took a semester off from school to sort out my head and heart and attempt to save my family.  During that time some circumstances serendipitously appeared and I took a position as a partner in a prestigious photo studio. I was both elated and almost devastated. In psychology, I knew I’d have a career that would help people, that would leave the world a better place – and that’s always been a core value for me. Photography just seemed like shallow fun and games. What higher meaning could there be in photographing bratty 8 year old kids, middle aged women, and quarreling families with fake smiles at weddings?  I moved forward with my photography career with partly cloudy skies hanging over my heart – a good chance of showers. 

I am happy to report than in the 10 years since, I have found photography to be a visual psychology of sorts. It has allowed me to preserve moments, meet people, discover things in myself, and reveal a higher way in others.  In a spirit of gratitude, I want to share a few images and reasons that I truly love my craft:

Prior to her boudoir session, she dressed down. She cast her gaze down as she walked.  Call it self inflicted homeliness. She did not think herself a beautiful, powerful, intelligent, sensual woman… but she entertained the idea that she could be.  After her session, she moves through the world differently. She carries her head high. Men 20 years younger than her turn their heads as she walks past. She inspires respect and allure. She is realizing the full measure of her place as a woman in the world.  Being a part of this transformation was an awesome thing to witness.


Tina’s mother has been diagnosed with an advanced stage cancer not long before the wedding. In moments like these, the opportunity to capture family moments becomes poignant and irreplaceable.


I thought the matching RUSH T shirts would be the highlight of this father – son session…

 … But it got better:

Curt and Taft sat down for a moment after their shoot at my studio. I had a copy of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue sitting on a table. Taft (his 4 year old son) picked it up and began flipping through it. “Dad! It’s too big!”  “Dad, she’s naked!” he would say, pointing at the various swimsuit models. Rather than swipe the magazine away from Taft and instill shame into him for innocently perusing a magazine, Curt gave simple, age appropriate, fatherly explanations to everything Taft saw.  Limbic brain imprinting disaster averted. Well done, Curt.  Moments like this are priceless.


Any moron can make a baby. It takes someone special to make a family. My dear friend Jack has been one of the most influential people in my life. I credit much of who I am today to him. We played in a band together before I left for my mission. He and his family taught me many deep truths without words, only by example.  Many years later, he finally realized the dream of having a son of his own, and I’ve never seen him happier. The baby boy in that photograph is in for an amazing, wonderful, beautiful ride on planet Earth. I’m just grateful that I had the means to capture the moment.


One afternoon I came home to find “RoadRunner Records” on my caller ID. Yes, Roadrunner is the home label for my top 2 favorite bands of all time, RUSH and Porcupine Tree.  But there was something greater in store:

They are also home to legendary stand up comic Doug Stanhope. I had only heard his name before, but I had no sense of context of who he is. Stanhope filmed his most recent comedy special in Salt Lake City. They hired me to follow him around and photograph the whole evening. At this point, my ambitions to be a stand up comic were just whispers in the back of my head that I was too embarrassed to acknowledge. It’s been 8 months since I came out of the closet as an aspiring stand up comic.  The reason any of this matters, is that I’ve discovered comedy to be a soul-aligning path. In the quest toward learning to be funny on stage, I’ve discovered things about myself that I never would have found otherwise. I now have an appreciation for the greatness of the man I was paid to hang out with back stage and on stage that fateful August afternoon. It was an honor and privilege that was wholly unbeknownst to me at the time.


My first impressions are almost always dead on. But when they aren’t, I can be light years off target. I first encountered this particular singer / songwriter called Dave Tate in the now defunct Cabana Club in SLC.  Dave, if you are reading this, I’m sorry for what I’m about to say, but I trust you’ll forgive me:  Initially, I could not stand this guy. I immediately thought him to be a prick. His manager contacted me to do a press kit shoot for him, which led to me shooting his sister’s wedding, which led me discover that Dave Tate and his family are some of the finest human beings I’ve ever encountered. I’ve since shot 3 weddings for their family, including Dave’s own. Aside from having shot countless more photos for Dave, he and I have a friendship that will be life long. That very fact is humbling – and always reminds me to give a second thought to anyone I may initially think ill of.  We are truly brothers. I have a deep reverence for this man and his music. 


The profound and the profane:   I love the range of assignments that I get to cover often within days of each other. One night, I’m photographing NOFX as they instruct a family of 4 (mom, dad, 2 boys, 7 and 8 yrs) on the finer points of a sexual maneuver known as “The Chili Dog”:


And 4 nights later, I find myself in the Conference Center for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints photographing the Mormon Tabernacle Choir with Tom Brokaw and famed tenor Alfie Boe for their annual holiday DVD:


…and 5 days later, Snoop Dogg expounds on the finer points of gin & juice:

Okay, now I’m bragging.  But seriously,  it may suffice to say, that given my background and the nature of the last few years of my life… photographing The Choir was an honor, a privilege, and a multifaceted beautiful experience.

There are many other profound moments, but neither you or I have all afternoon to wallow in them.  A photographer named Marc Riboud said it best:

“Taking pictures is savoring life intensely, every hundredth of a second.”

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