Like a lot of people who take it up as a hobby and eventually a career, I got bit by the photography bug back in my high school darkroom, where I spent many hours breathing developer fumes and groping around in light-safe bags, when I should’ve been outside learning how to ride a skateboard. My first “official” SLR was a Canon AT-1 that leaked light worse than a linen shirt and chewed up film sprocket holes like it had a personal grudge. It’s a wonder I ever managed to capture anything.
My first career ambition -the one all the high school guidance counselors wanted me to pursue- was architecture. I even earned an associate’s degree in architectural design and a certificate in drafting, but I decided pretty quickly that the drudgery of drawing bathrooms for a living in a design firm was not worth four more years of school and a hundred grand worth of student debt. By the time this dawned on me, I was commuting three hours a day to and from an illustration firm in Bethesda, MD, earning minimum wage as an architectural perspectivist.
After three years of rubbing elbows with the Washington DC design community on such projects as the Atlanta Centennial Olympic Park, and Baltimore, Maryland’s brief tango with the Canadian Football League, my dreams of honing my broad-stroke pencil technique and fetching coffee for ungrateful masters dissolved unceremoniously. With the pressures of rent bearing down, I did an abrupt about-face and jumped head-first into the dizzying high tech world of telecommunications network surveillance.
It wasn’t until my second year of working a graveyard shift in a Network Operations Center that I started to find the time and disposable income for hobbies; I scored a Minolta Maxxum and was blown away by how automated everything had become in such a short time. I still recall the thrill of reaching the end of a roll of film, only to have the camera rewind it automatically -what a luxury! But even with my renewed interest in photography, it seemed my adolescent dreams of shooting impossibly beautiful bikini models in far-away tropical locales were giving way to more pedestrian -and domestic- realities. It wasn’t until digital SLR technology came down from the Thurston Howell tax bracket that things really started to take off.
And that brings us to the present day. Fifteen years after hitching a ride on the doomed dot com bubble, I am still happily employed full time as a business analyst for a top three telecom giant, and supplementing my income with illustration and photography commissions. I earn enough to keep the Apple Store employees and Nikon reps at my local camera outfitter smiling, and they reward my tech toy crack habit by dangling newer and more advanced technologies in front of me every fifteen months.