I took a photography class in High School. I can't say it was anything special. I can't say it was love at first sight. But that is technically when this whole mess started.
After several years of basically doing High School all over again in Community College, I knew the time was coming when I'd have to select a major. An area of study. A focus.
I do not know when or how I came to this particular conclusion but it made total sense at the time: I was going to major in film. "I like movies!" I said. "This is foolproof!" I likely also said. And somehow, amidst all this grand scheming, I managed to convince my best friend to come along with me. Keeping in mind that he was currently already at University, in Lubbock. FOR COMPUTER SCIENCE. I am not sure how this conversation went but I can only assume I had a stunningly magnificent argument. This is important because he was a huge help and continues to be a huge influence on my work to this day.
Armed with what was certainly almost a plan, I found the University with the shortest drive possible, cause I'd be damned if I was going to travel for an education. And thus began my foray into real, hardcore ARTS.
Loaded up with a metric shit ton of art credit hours, I began my first semester. It was a nervous kind of excitement. I had always been a creative child and now I got to be a creative adult! What fun!
I must preface this by saying that my Intro to Film class was taught by one of the best professors I've ever had and shooting a film, even on a Sony Handicam, was the most fun I think I'll ever have while still doing something legal. Stressful, but fun. The two projects that I turned in are available here and here, and I must warn you that they are so, so bad. If you are feeling masochistic, then you are in for a treat. They do serve to illustrate that I have never been very good at balancing my urge to do serious work with my urge to crack a joke, so they have that going for them.
And yet. The film department was loathsome. I did not like the faculty. I did not like my fellow students. Of the 2+ years and dozens of classes you would have to take within the department, there were only four professors. If you didn't like one of them or they didn't like you, well, that was just too damn bad. And if you didn't like your classmates, well that was also too bad because guess who would be holding the boom mic for you?
This was upsetting, in an "I don't know if we should do this anymore" kind of way. I didn't want to be stuck there, but I had already planned out my future (in a half-assed sort of way). And the two of us were enjoying being creative, and we were already credit hours down the art path.
Thus we turned to photography. The department was two whole floors above film so you got to ride the elevator! And it made sense, logistically. We had already been in Intro Photo at the same time we were in Intro Film, so neither class would be wasted in the end. And both involved cameras. "We're just condensing a film into one really important frame." We said to each other. "It's practically the same thing."
So for the first year of my work I very much kept that cinematic eye I had been taught, and I concerned myself with execution first and content second, as terrible content executed well is totally acceptable in the film department. This, I much later learned, is not something that sat very well with my photography professors.
Towards the end of my first year is when I discovered Ralph Eugene Meatyard, and fell in love with literal masking (that is to say, someone physically covering their face somehow), and that's when I started to actually sense out an artistic voice of my own. This is when pieces like Family Album came in to existence. Until then I was still very much in film mode where I had to have a narrative and it had to be clear.
Boy did I abandon that quickly.