I was born at the Medical College of Georgia’s Student Hospital, where my father was in med school. My parents took me home to Appling, Georgia, where a giant German Sheppard promptly took to guarding my cradle. It was a little yellow house with a tin roof, to this day I love to listen to and watch the rain.
At the age of 2 we moved to Athens, Georgia, which has been my home ever since. I have spent most of my life in Athens. I graduated high school from Clarke Central in Athens, and college from The University of Georgia. However, I had several notable adventures living elsewhere.
The first of my adventures outside of Athens began with a freighter crossing the Atlantic, the MeeMay. It took about 2 weeks, but my mother, brother and I traveled from Newark to Germany via the Atlantic Ocean. From there, we drove cross country to Travemünde, and caught a ferry to Helsinki, Finland, where we spent the next 9 months. My mother and I together conceived of the trip, she had discovered a music critic’s papers at the University of Georgia’s Library, and wanted to write a book about the critic, Olin Downs, and his major contribution, bringing the Finnish composer Sibelius’s music to the United States. I wanted a change of scenery. Watching my mother proceed to rise to the position of world expert on the work and life of Sibelius, from Editor in Chief of his complete works for a time, to the publication of his biography taught me an important lesson: Follow your dreams and your passion, even if no one else thinks you can succeed.
Two years later, with a high school diploma in one hand, I was accepted to The American University of Paris, and off to France I went, with 3 years of Spanish under my belt, but no French to speak of. Luckily the classes were taught in English. At the time I was debating between photography and physics. I had done very well in physics in high school, and there was a good deal of pressure from the adults in my life to pursue that field. However, the American University of Paris is a liberal arts school, with no sciences. I lucked out in that they partnered with Parson’s Paris and I was able to talk my way into some photography classes.
By the end of the year I had decided to major in photography. I applied to the Rochester Institute of Technology, and on my return from Paris I went and visited the campus and was interviewed by the Art Photography Department. I was suitably impressed with the huge north light studio, large enough to photograph a car, and the Hasselblad medium format cameras in cases, waiting to be checked out by students. I was not so impressed by the campus. Utilitarian, ugly to my eye, and severe, coupled with severe gray weather, even in early summer.
Upon my return to Athens, a year of financial stress and the resulting lack of decent nutrition caught up with me, and I fell ill. On doctors orders I was to live at home for a time, and when my acceptance letter from RIT arrived, for the following year, I was unable to accept. I enrolled at the University of Georgia and the Lamar Dodd Art School, and began to pursue a degree in photography from home.