I was born in Chicago in 1941 and grew up there. When I was a young teenager, I received a chemistry set and set up a lab in my parents’ basement. I don’t know if that gave me a head start but I excelled in chemistry and ended up majoring in it at Roosevelt University before going on to graduate school at Case Western Reserve University.
At the same time, I was interested in photography and making pictures. I would marvel at the presentations at the Institute of Design at the Illinois Institute of Technology. They were eye opening. So, it seemed only natural that I would get a camera and build a darkroom next to my chemistry lab in the basement.
But alas, once I began my full-time chemistry studies, photography interests were set aside.
That is until I moved to Laguna Beach and started using a rented darkroom. I ended up enrolling in the photography program at Orange Coast College. What had been a hobby had become a passion as well as a profession. From there I went on to build a career in Los Angeles as a professional photographer. So long, Joel Mark, the chemist. I specialized in architectural photography, corporate, and editorial work.
Apart from the medium itself, commercial and fine art photography share an important thing in common. They are about storytelling. For commercial imagery, the story is all about the client. In fine art, the story is about the artist. Either way it is the vision of the creator that makes the picture.
My fine art and commercial practices are complementary to each other; the technical discipline required for commercial projects enabled me to use the tool as an extension of my body to create a different kind of work as an artist. In turn, the open experimental nature of my approach to capturing what I see has influenced my commercial assignments.
Creating a photograph (story) from a picture is selection. Just to start the process you have to choose one element and only one from the many that make up a picture. Now keep going. What is your next element? Then the next one. You select what works and you decide what does not. At base you have only one criterion: If something interests you, it stays in — if not, it stays out. That’s a crude way to assess things, but it’s all you’ve got. Forget market research. Never market—research your photography. Photograph subjects in which you have enough interest on your own to see you through all the stops, starts, hesitations, and other impediments along the way.
Paraphrased from John McPhee on writing copy, The New Yorker, September 14, 2015