I am often asked how I got started in photography.
This is what I say: My younger brother Kevin, when a young boy, was occasionally inspired to drive my mother mad and cause mischief. Not so much to be "bad," but more it seemed to scratch an itch, to follow his impulse to do what he wanted, no matter consequence.
It was a summer morning, I was maybe eleven or twelve years old, my father was at work and my mother was close by, but not at home. I was in my second floor bedroom, the one facing the back yard, practicing DJ'ing with the only two 45's I had: Dexys Midnight Runners' Come On Eileen & Boy George's Karma Chameleon. Thru the open window comes a big splash of water. Then another. Water was pooling on my floor and running down my wall. Kevin was showering my open window with the garden hose and mixing laughter with that kind of smile that says "now I'm pooping in YOUR pants!"
Trusting past experience, I knew a good smacking was coming my way unless I could prove my little brother responsible. Rather than shut the window, I left it open, so as to bait him. I ran to my parents' room, found my mothers plastic, photo-cube-flash Kodak camera. There was film inside! I ran back to my room, winding the camera with a push of the small silver lever. I knew I must capture the little monster actually in the process of spraying my window. This way, and only this way did I imagine he alone would get the smack down.
I called his name out of the window. I challenged him: "you can't do it again! I bet you!" His eyes twinkled. He fired. I planted, raised the Kodak to my eye and snapped, just before getting soaked. I slammed the window shut. I got it. I got him! I felt the moment to take the picture and I knew it was perfect. I had proof!
It would take weeks for my mother to finish that roll of film. But my enthusiasm for justice never waned. He had it coming and I couldn't wait.
"Open them! Open them!"
"Wait a second." I waited a second.
"Please open them. Kevin's in there. He's squirting my room with the hose!"
She opened them, flipping thru irrelevant, square images with heads cut off. Come on, come on!
And there it was. Proof. Picture perfect square proof. My little brother, the twinkle in his eye, the shit-eating grin, the water arching up & out of the hose, heading directly for me, the window and the lens. There it was. Here it is. Here is the proof!
"See! See! I told you. Kevin did it! Punish him!"
She took a long moment, studying the image. "Hey. This is a good picture."
"Aren't you going to beat him?! He squirted thru my window!"
"You should show your father. It's a good picture. Now go play while I make dinner."
"No butts, don't go far. Your dad will be home soon. Hamburger helper. Mmmmmm."
And that was it: perfect proof that I could anticipate and capture exact, specific and sometimes magical moments on film. It was as the amazing photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson called it, "The Decisive Moment."
Kevin never got a beating for this watery crime. (But he did get plenty after that, I assure you.) But I got a big clue to lead me into what Joseph Campbell called "following your bliss."
When I am photographing, seeking those decisive moments, I am following my bliss. And I believe you see it in my work and when you see me work, my passion for it.
And thus my philosophy: I must get as close as I can, standing in front of the truth, watering my soul with each click of the shutter. I desire each photograph to be a decisive moment: that perfect look, that boy in mid air, story and mystery.