I was born in the small midwestern town of Dubuque, Iowa. It sits directly overlooking the Mississippi River, so close in fact you can take a 10 minute drive to both Wisconsin and Illinois. I was raised by two of the most wonderful parents you could ask for, in a home that encouraged me to do what I loved. My Dad, the President at the University of Dubuque, has always worked an around the clock schedule, just so my Mom could stay at home with me and my two younger brothers. I owe my family the world for their constant support and inspiration.
Before photography became my fulltime job, life was consumed by sports, football being my favorite. When I started college, I knew I wanted to continue my football career, which unfortunately ended about a month into the season. I developed a sudden health issue, and while it’s non-life threatening, it ended up sidelining me for good. Football had always been something I loved and a huge part of my life, so this incident put me in a pretty low place. This low point in my life however, is what would unknowingly bring me to the camera, and be the beginning of my journey with photography.
One day bored and down with nothing to do in my freshman dorm room, I dug out my Canon Rebel T6. My Mother, who dabbled in photography, had given it to me at the beginning of summer as my high school graduation present. I started looking through the photos of the last time I had picked up my camera. The pictures were from a hot summer day on the Mississippi River with some of my best high school buddies. I had decided to skip the water skiing and wake boarding that day and instead tried to get some action shots of my friends on the water. I knew close to nothing about photography at the time, as I was enrolled as a Sports Management major for the upcoming fall semester. Either way, I decided to bring my camera out on the river that day. I took quite a few pictures, some in focus, some not, and thought some of them looked surprisingly pretty good for my first time using my camera. After looking at a couple dozen pictures, I switched off the camera and didn’t think much about the photos, until that day, early in the fall semester, when I was alone in my dorm room. I decided it might take my mind off football, if I went over to my parent's house and used their iMac to edit the pictures from the summer. I played with the Apple editing feature, talked to my family and went back to my dorm.
A week or two later, my Mom came across the pictures on the family computer and impressed with my work, decided to send the photos to a close family friend and professor at the University of Dubuque, Alan Garfield. Alan, is the Chair of Digital Art and Design, and also the Director of the Bisignano Art Gallery. I had no idea that my Mom sent Alan my photos, or that Alan would enter my photos into a competition without my knowledge. He had entered my photo me in the College Photographer of the Year contest based at the University of Missouri. Later, he told me about the competition and that I was one of the finalists and had also earned honorable mention, in a competition entered by thousands worldwide. I was already in shock when Alan continued to tell me that he had changed my schedule to all Digital Art and Design classes and that he was my new advisor. I trusted Alan as I had known him as a close family friend for most of my life, so I knew he wouldn’t push me in this direction if he wasn’t absolutely sure it was best for me. He wouldn’t let me leave his office that day until he made sure I knew I had the potential to be a great photographer. I specifically remember him saying “You better never put that camera down.”
With the support and critique of Alan, my bosses, and clients, I have won several awards throughout my career as a photographer. My work has been exhibited in galleries, published in multiple online articles and used on many social media platforms. However, my achievements are not what drives me to continue to lug around my camera bag everywhere I go, nor do they define who I am.
What defines me and inspires me to continue my journey with photography is a simple idea. I want people to look at my photos and feel as though they are standing in the same place. I am fortunate that my work allows me to travel to parts of the world that many people only dream of visiting. The goal of my work is to be able to show people the diverse and ever changing world we live in today, as it is. My work displays the good, the bad and the ugly. I believe photography is a way to document the world and all it holds, at its best but also it’s worst, and that’s exactly why I do what I do.
Photography isn’t just a job to me, I don’t wake up every morning dreading to get out of bed and go to work. I wake up excited and ready for the day. The camera is more of an extension of who I am than just a tool I use every day. Like my Dad always says, “You will never work a day in your life if you love what you’re doing.”