I was given my first Pentax 35 mm camera by my father, an avid amateur photographer, artist, musician, and tinkerer. My mother enrolled me in dance classes, and made all of my costumes. Because of this early exposure to the arts, my parents instilled in me a great pride in the beauty of my culture. I grew up in Southern California, but we are originally from New Mexico, with Native American, Mexican, and Spanish heritage. Growing up in Los Angeles, one of the most ethnically diverse cities in the world, gave me a deep appreciation of all the unique cultures and their ideals of beauty. I’ve travelled around the world, and I love taking photographs of people, especially in the clothing unique to their culture. I try to photograph people in a way to let the beauty and complexity of their culture shine through in their portraits.
While in high school, I was fortunate to have had an “old-school” photography teacher as a mentor. Mr. Fred Purucker was a devotee of the techniques of Ansel Adams. He insisted that we master the basic concepts of composition, lighting, and exposures on large format cameras before we were ever allowed to touch an SLR or use any camera with fully automated programming. I found that I much preferred the detail and warmth that large format photography provides. I wanted to take portraits in the style of Edward Weston, Imogen Cunningham, and Edward Steichen. I love hand-tinting photographs and darkroom manipulation. I love telling stories through my pictures. I love shooting my fellow dancers, my friends, my family and all of the interesting people I meet along the way who are willing to pose for me.
It was Mr. Purucker who first told me that I was a natural-born portrait photographer. I became his lab assistant and found myself in the darkroom before school, at lunch, and after school. I even built my own darkroom at home, and taught the process to my younger brother, Ollin. I continued to shoot and develop black and white photographs well into college and for years afterward, until the rise of digital photography. Having been trained in analog film and darkroom, I lost interest in photography for a few years until several years ago when I rekindled my love for alternative photographic processes, especially tintypes and other historic processes.