Duration: Two years.
Location: River Forest, Illinois.
Education: BA in advertising and design at the American Academy of Art College, Chicago, Illinois.
Career path: I was a creative director at Leo Burnett Chicago for a number of years, where I oversaw and directed the location photography for a major global client. I worked with a variety of world-class photographers and learned from the best on how to capture candid imagery using available light and a dose of good luck. I started bringing a camera with me on shoots to hone my skills and to also keep the photographers I hired from getting complacent: if I was shooting too, they knew that they’d better get the best shot.
Now I like to shoot anything revolving around the automotive world: pride of ownership, the patina of the mechanic’s garage and the detailed precision of the craftsmen who restore vintage vehicles. I’m hired by automotive restoration businesses or racing clients, but I’ve also been photographing more individuals who just want some memories of themselves with their rides.
Artistic influences: My dad inspired me to pick up a camera. He worked in the financial industry, but his creative outlet was using his Bell & Howell 8mm film camera, which he fired up any chance he could get: birthday parties, little league games or family vacations. I saw the joy it brought him to make something that he could share with us and that would last a lifetime.
As a creative director, I was always searching in industry journals like Communication Arts to get inspired and to find new talent. Today, I’m influenced by many sources, like the detailed perfection of the cars and men in Formula 1 racing; the architecture of Frank Gehry; new talent on Instagram; and reacquainting myself with the work of my favorite photographers, such as Hans Gissinger, Nadav Kander and Albert Watson.
Favorite projects: My ongoing series Men & Machines, in which I strive to portray the personal stories of how these people have acquired and customized their cars, or the journeys they’ve been through to complete restorations. In this world, the vehicles are secondary; it’s the people that are the stars.
Work environment: I use natural light, so most of my images are exterior shots on location at the beginning or end of the day, or within industrial spaces that allow for plenty of illumination. Once a year, I like to take a road trip through the American West and shoot whatever presents itself that day. I enjoy the uncertainty of what lies ahead, the quiet time in a rental car observing new landscapes and discovering that special moment or place to document.
Approach: I’m a born designer with a photographer’s eye and a creative director’s vision. As an award winning art director and designer I possess the knowledge and skills to plan, execute and produce a successful shoot. Designing the setting and correctly framing the image is key for me. Great planning goes a long way, but I’m always hoping for the happy accidents that come with working on location.
Philosophy: A provocation from my first design boss still rings true: “Is that the best you can do?” Never settle for average.