I’m incredibly grateful and absolutely thrilled to be included in the Communication Arts Photo Annual for a second year in a row! Just getting picked once exceeded my wildest expectations, so it was quite dreamlike to learn I’d been selected in 2014, too.
It’s surreal to spot my work among the pictures of so many incredible image makers. In 2013 I was picked for my project on a tragic killing spree at a Sikh temple in suburban Milwaukee. This year, it was my portrait of Green Bay Packers fanatic Steve “The Owner” Tate. On the surface these projects have nothing in common. But if you compared Steve’s off-the-charts super fandom and the temple’s perseverance after tragedy, you’d find comparably high levels.
Flipping through the 2013 and 2014 annuals, I’m reminded of the day six years ago that I picked up the 2008 annual. I’d just moved to Milwaukee to join my fiancee, leaving behind a job as a newspaper copy editor in Iowa and the early stages of a side pursuit as an action-sports photographer. The economy was in the tank, and day after day the news grew worse. I was through with newspapers and the only work I could find was at a bookstore. Amid the uncertainty, I found some sort of beacon in that awards book. I’d never considered a career in photography. In my realm of action sports — rollerblading — there was really no way to develop a career. And outside skating and photojournalism, all I really knew was that some photographers made a living taking cheesy portraits. Flipping through that awards book, I began to understand that perhaps I could do meaningful work in other genres. There, the spark began. Here, we come full circle. Or something like that.
When I look back through that 2008 collection now, the work that resonates with me remains the same. It’s a mix of authentic-feeling and occasionally offbeat advertising, editorial, corporate and still life. It’s plain to me now how influential to my work those images — and the notions of authenticity, discipline, whimsy and order amid chaos — have been and continue to be. These people, in order of appearance in that 2008 book, continue to be inspirational: Patrick Molnar, David Emmite, Mark Zibert, Dana Neibert, Embry Rucker, Andrew Zuckerman, Brian Finke, Kenji Aoki, Marcus Nilsson, Martin Schoeller, Jeff Hutchens, Bryce Duffy, Andy Anderson, Ethan Hill, Platon, Art Streiber, Damon Winter, Ben Lowy, Callie Shell, Danny Clinch, Craig Cutler, Michael Prince, Sandro, Stephen Wilkes, Bradley Rochford (who… wait a second, I remember thinking… this guy works in Milwaukee?!?!), and the amazing Jim Krantz, who by way of Omaha and now Chicago has forged an incredible commercial and artistic career. Vision, versatility and longevity personified. Wow. I hope I can some day look back and see that I’ve achieved even a fraction of what the guy has.
The journey continues.