I have always been fascinated with images and travel. Coming from a family with both my father and mother in the military, I was exposed to both of those things quite frequently. I was always the new kid, and my experiences stretched far beyond a single environment. I often turned to art to make friends in new places. I reached home in St. Louis, Missouri in 1993 and discovered a box of old photographs while we were moving in. They showed me all the places I had been, what I had done. At a young age, I appreciated the art of photography and it would come back to inspire me later on in life.
Once again, my father had an opportunity to relocate with his new job and we left St. Louis in the middle of my junior year of High School. While signing up for my new classes, I was surprised to see that photography was offered as an elective course and it was something that was always on my mind, so I signed up immediately. The first camera I owned was older than me. It was a Canon AE-1 Program film camera. My father had used it to produce all those photographs I found in that box while moving in ‘93. I acquired an artifact that gave the most meaning to my existence. It had recorded me as a ‘Border Baby’, because I was born on the border of East Germany and West Germany when the East Germans were a direct threat to America’s national Security. These pictures also captured my first birthday and pictures of my father going off to Operation Desert Storm. These pictures provided a light to my past, and introduced me to my future.
At age 19, my father gave me my first photography book with a note on the inside that read, “ Every young photographer must have a copy of THIS work.” It was a hardback copy of Moneta Sleet Jr.’s life work “Special Moments: In African American History 1955-1996.” I was amazed at the incredible images Sleet was able to capture while at EBONY magazine, often during chaotic moments in our nation’s history. Sleet led me to Gordon Parks, who lead me to Richard Avedon, Ansel Adams, Garry Winogrand and other incredible photographers.
While completing my Bachelors of Art degree in Photography at Arizona State University, I used my developing leadership skills to provide my own photographic opportunities. I often organized my own events to document. I was entranced with the ability to satisfy both my fascination with images and travel through the magical ability of my lens. With photography, my thoughts and wishes could materialize into the experiences of a lifetime. I’ve met some of my favorite photographers, traveled across the United States and talked to some of the most fascinating people on the planet all because of photography.
After graduation, I left Tempe, Arizona for Richmond, VA to be near my family. In 2008, I was offered a long-term substitute teaching position with Richmond Public School District. I worked as a 7th grade U.S. History teacher for six months at Boushall Middle School. Teaching became another of my passions during this time. While the position was challenging, my staff and administration made my time at Boushall one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. I used my experience in photography and digital media to construct relatable lesson plans to educate students based on familiar concepts. At the end of my tenure, 84% of my students passed their Virginia Standard of Leaning exams. With my school fighting for accreditation, I am the most proud of this accomplishment.
I have learned that any chance to practice the craft of photography is a tremendous opportunity, and I have actively sought out these opportunities to become better as a student of the art. I am constantly soaking up visual storytelling, shooting and lighting techniques of the medium. By 2009, I was teaching these techniques to students of the University of Missouri, School of Journalism-Photojournalism sequence while receiving my Masters of Art degree in Journalism. I am satisfied knowing that I have helped to train another generation of talented photojournalist. I love giving back to the profession and most importantly, the community.
In the future, I hope to continue working both professional and personally in the field of photography. Some of my current goals are to continue developing my long-term project Beyond This Place, which documents the visual history of African American Fraternities and Sororities, contribute research on media literacy in the African American community and to publish a photography book. Some of my hobbies include roller-skating, writing poetry and