As the picture above shows, I grew up on a block in the suburbs of Miami, Florida. My dad was a mechanical engineer, working at Hunt Valve Company, and bought this electric car from his boss for $25, needing repair. My grandfather helped do the fiberglass repairs, and I got an electric car for my birthday. I was a privileged kid.
My dad worked and my mother stayed home and raised my two sisters and me. I wish every kid could have the opportunity to grow up in a caring environment!
Photography has always been a fascination for me. When I was maybe 6 or 7 years old (early 60s) my parents bought my sisters and I, Tower box cameras. They were simple press the button & wind the film to the next number in the little red window.
I would wonder about what gave film the ability to capture light, unroll it little by little and eventually play like I was developing it in a bathroom sink in the dark. I would hold the ends and see / saw it back and forth like I saw on TV. I was fascinated how light and film worked. I knew better, I knew that water was not the same as what Frank Kovetko used in his darkroom but I was having fun playing like I was getting images on film.
On my tenth birthday my parents bought a Yankee Contact printing set for me. My dad’s friend gave him and old Federal enlarger that used diffusion glass; and I started printing pictures.
My cameras were the Tower 120, Kodak Instamatic 100(?), Kodak Pony, Petri rangefinder, Sawer twin lens (124-roll film), and a Leica IIIc that I earned by chopping out a couple coconut trees and a bunch of Florida Holly bushes.
It wasn’t until I moved to Ruidoso (1974), when I bought a Pentax Spotmatic F, that I moved up to an SLR. I bought my Pentax MX, KX, and a system of lenses while working oilfield in Odessa, TX, the summer of 1977 and that’s when my collection of photography begins. The photos from before that are far and few between, many are somewhere stored at my parents, others just lost
From 1977 on, I tried to photograph Ruidoso and capture the historical places before they changed. After moving from Miami I would tell people I met “it’s coming”, meaning the trend was to leave the city. Ruidoso was in a building boom.
Starting in 1978, I worked 12 years for the U.S. Forest Service on Smokey Bear Hot Shot Crew, fighting fire on federal lands. I started by using the Spotmatic F, but had no room for it in my pack, so for the next few years used a Rollei 35s with the pull out lens. It took me that long to realize that the Singapore knockoff lens was not the German quality of earlier models. For the remainder of my stint I used a MX body with 35mm f-2.8 & 100mm f-2.8 lenses. (no 50mm) It all packed into a little cassette tape pouch I wore on my belt. No padding, one lens fit in the bottom and the other stayed on the camera. We would be gone on a dispatch for maybe a month and I would end up with 5-7 rolls of film. We could not have stuff on the outside of our packs when we traveled so I had very little room for my stuff.
I would show slides to the crew and the wives would ask, why is everybody sitting down? It was the only time I had to take pictures.
When we dig line around a fire; you depend on the person in front finishing their job so you can do yours. It’s a line of people systematically clearing debris so that the last person only has to do finishing touches. One person not doing their job right causes problems behind because they have a different tool to do a different job. I didn’t wonder around doing pictures while everybody was working as a group. When I sat down I rested, and resting meant sharpening and maintaining a chainsaw first. I missed tons of photos because my job was to be part of the crew, not a photographer.
My pack would weigh 40 to 50 pounds with water and saw parts; plus a chainsaw at 16 pounds or more. I carried gas, oil and water on my belt and found I could still carry my camera on my hip and pull it out much the same way as taking a drink of water. That’s when I bought the Rollei, (1984?) but I perfected the technique using a belt tape-cassette case and my Pentax equipment. I used a stitch awl to reinforce the belt loop and keep the zipper from opening all the way and dropping out the lens in the bottom. (1ME super with winder, and 2 lenses; one stays on the camera)
In 1984 I rented a shop below (Jacks/Handi Hanks/The Title Company- 508 Mechem Dr.) and set up a woodworking/darkroom & tinker with everything kind of place with lots of room. I wanted to print my photos in color so I built a state of the art color dry to dry darkroom and found I could make a living at this.I had great feedback on my photography, I quit Smokey Bear, and opened a photo studio establishing “ORIGINAL DESIGNS” in 1989 as my business name.