I saw it written someplace years ago that,
“When you retire, live your life the way you thought you would when you were younger.”
When I was younger I never thought about retirement. I probably should have. I just didn`t. In high school I didn’t yet have a direction that I thought my life would proceed in but I figured it would at some point make itself known. I was racing motorcycles and working after school in a grocery store to buy gas and parts and stuff. I was a horrible student and high school seemed to have nothing for me. I started taking pictures of my buddies at the track on the weekends and imperceptibly the pictures started to get better. Much better than I was finishing races.
I sold some motorcycles and bought better camera equipment. And, when I had my back turned, “direction" slipped in the back door while I wasn’t paying attention. I started to think more about photography and what it would take to actually earn a paycheck. My family was quick to assure me that “nobody makes a good living with a camera.” Well, to fast forward a bit, I never made it to college. I worked in various camera shops, color labs, and as an EMT for a while in Peoria trying to make ends meet. And, they rarely did.
From a professional point of view my first big opportunity came when I was hired as a photographers assistant for a commercial and advertising photographer in Peoria. It was all product illustration every day all day long. Nearly all was large format, 4x5 or 5x7 sheet film in an un-air conditioned older building in downtown Peoria. And, at least initially, all under quartz lights or as they were called, “hot lights”. We worked a lot at night due to the heat. And, while we were there working in the middle of the night shooting product and running the film line the next morning, “direction” unexpectedly slipped in once again.
So, at some point I decided to lean in the direction of doing commercial and ad stuff. Now is a good time to once gain hit the fast forward button and find me as the newly minted, first ever, staff photographer for a company called Morton Buildings in Morton Illinois. The year is 1978.
I knew somebody who knew somebody else and they needed to hire a guy with large format experience to shoot buildings for the advertising department at Morton. That’s where my previous experience kicked in. Remember? All products, all day long, all large format? I covered 26 states and was gone roughly 10 months out of 12 traveling to shoot buildings. I learned more about the United States in the first year on the road than I did in all my years in school.
My position at Morton Buildings ran until 1986 and I was “cooked” over the constant travel. While working at the Morton office in Southwest Missouri I heard about a relatively new company called Bass Pro Shops in Springfield Missouri. At the time, they were one store in Springfield and doing a massive volume of studio photography. After numerous attempts, in March of 1986 I got hired as a staff photographer with Bass Pro. As space and time does not permit a quick 35 year synopsis of where that leads, we`ll do bullet points.
Home every night, lots of overtime, lots of nights and weekends, spirit crushing deadlines, open a second store, then a third store, then another, then dozens of others, the travel starts back up, then more travel, then travel to cooler places, then a LOT of travel to cooler places, then buy your largest competitor, and then 30 some years later, TAKE A BREATH…………………….
Along the way I finally started to think about retirement. Once you figure that you may actually live that long, your old nemesis, “direction” once again makes his presence known. I guess at some point I figured I’d put the camera down and go do something else. Now closing in on nearly 70 years old maybe that will happen at some point. Right now though, I still have stuff I want to shoot. So, take a look around in my website here. There`s shots that show the places I went, the things I saw, and people I met and photographed for most of the past 35 years. I am now three years into retirement and have a new project to occupy a large portion of my time. Take a look at https://CreeksideStockyard.photoshelter.com
Thank you for your time.
My career was like an oversized landscape painting of my part of the world. Rich in color and texture but with sound and heat and cold and rain and wind and weary joints and all of the other components of a Life Well Lived!