More About the Author
I love photography. I can't believe my good fortune that I get paid to do it. It's not a job-but there is work involved. I often get asked what I do, and my stock response is "except for people without clothes, just about anything...' and that's true, and it's what makes photography so much fun for me. Every day is different. Sure, the White House some days, a Hollywood-type the next, but if I had do either of them all the time, it'd fry me. Sure, I even do an occasional wedding, but because it's not that often, it's another really great assignment for me. The proverbial "variety is the spice of live" rings so true.
During college, one of my professors was an editor for The World & I magazine, so I showed them my portfolio. I pitched five stories I'd shoot during summer break between Junior and Senior year, and lucky me, they published one. Then, I proposed to shoot the Bush-Gorbachev Summit at the end of my Senior Year, and they agreed. Come September, I was told that the magazine's photographer was leaving, and he said if I wanted the staff job it was mine. That same week, a limousine company (did I mention I used to be a tour guide/chauffeur and a DJ in Georgetown as well?) offered me a job managing the company.
I called my mom, as any newly graduated son should do, for advice. My dilemma? The magazine paid $15k, the limo company $40k. my mom gave me the best advice-she said "I'm sorry, I can't help you on this one, you're going to have to figure this one out on your own."
So I did. She did that because all my life I had chosen the path of economic wealth...now, I chose the path of least economic wealth and most happiness...photography.
Then, after 5 years at the magazine, I went out on my own, and hoped the phone would ring. It did, and (thank God) still does. I'm busier than I ever thought I'd be.
Three or so years later, I get this funny call. It's from a woman at the National Museum of the American Indian. After the initial pleasantries, she asks "...are you Native American?" I respond that I am, and she further asks if I'm a full time photographer? "Yes" I respond, and she then says she's in the book division of the NMAI and why hadn't I called the museum to work for them? I said I'd figured I'd stop in once the museum opened, and see what was going on. She asked me to come in, so I did. I get there, and she and her boss, the head of the book division, seemed perplexed that I'd never come to them, and they said they thought they knew every Native photographer. At this point, I sensed that I wanted to put this to rest, so I pulled out my tribal card, talked about going to pow wows, and said that I'd love to work for the NMAI, but I didn't feel I should come and sell myself as a Native photographer and expect something, but rather, somehow, I'd see if my skills could just help me find my way there. My grandmother, as I recounted this story to her, smiles and says that's just how the Great Spirit works, and how I came to be working with the museum is fitting as it is the Indian way. Three books later, being one of the official photographers for the Museum's opening, and shooting the portrait of outgoing Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell for the magazine's cover, I'm excited about giving back to my culture.
Oh. Did I say photography is so much fun and I can't believe I am making a living doing it? So far, it's been about 17 years. I'm keeping my fingers crossed.
I read a book some time ago, by Nelson DeMille, and one of the things that stuck me was something he had written. "The problem with doing nothing is that you never know when you're finished." So, I am always trying to do something.
Also, another author, David Morrell, wrote in one of his books which has a fictional character that's a photographer - "The day you're satisfied with your work is the day you'll stop being an excellent photographer." I think there's some truth to that statement. I'll keep on trying.