I hate this part.
I’m a 5th-generation Californian, a resident of San Francisco, and the father of an 11 year-old daughter. I’m one of those people who is lousy at most things and fairly good at a few. I was really good at driving a taxi, which paid poorly, and really lousy at practicing law, which paid fairly well. I ended up starting software companies, which fell into the sweet spot. My last venture was a video game start-up that grew quickly and attracted the attention of a global conglomerate called Electronic Arts, which bought it. Alas, I was lousy at working for a global conglomerate, and soon found myself unemployed, depressed, and sitting on my couch.
Enter street photography.
My father had a darkroom when I was a child and I’d always had decent cameras and enjoyed making photos, but after watching the Vivian Mayer documentary I became obsessed with a very specific and challenging genre. Five years later I’m still taking pictures of strangers in public without permission.
I’m also the founder of StreetFoto San Francisco, an annual international festival of street photography, which has allowed me to meet a lot of my photography friends and heroes. I’m fairly good at running it, and it pays poorly.
San Francisco. But I’ll go anywhere.
I shoot best at home, and I move all over the city, rather than doing laps on Market Street like many local shooters.
But I’m also an avid traveler who will go wherever a cheap ticket takes me, and I consider a trip a success if I return with at least one keeper. The drawback of shooting around the world is that it is more difficult to make work that fits within my personal style. When I went to Cuba, for instance, I shot at a lot of Cuban cliches and made photos that were decent, but didn’t feel like they were mine.
At one point, I was shooting almost every day. Now I go in waves, and focus on times and places that seem promising, rather than forcing myself out daily.
And when I shoot, it is usually in the daytime. If you see me using flash at night, I’ve probably been drinking.
I like making the world look surreal and highlighting the oddities of everyday life. I don’t consider myself a documentarian and I’m not good at capturing lovely moments of human emotion, so I focus on form over content more than I should, and obsess over clean frames. This is why I shoot towards the sky so often.
And while I like telling stories, more often than not they’re lies or mysteries created intentionally, rather than literal narratives of something happening.
For the goddamned glory of it all, of course.
But seriously, at the risk of sounding corny, when I manage to turn a singular moment into a memorable photo that no one can ever duplicate, I feel like I’ve brought something special into the world. This is what keeps it fun.