I'm fortunate for so many reasons. Among the first is growing up under the influence of another great photographer: my father. Equally important is the support and encouragement both my parents have always shown, no matter how crazy my ideas are.
While finishing my senior year in college in 2004 I had the extreme pleasure of photographing one of the greatest instructors in the history of man, Ralph Williams. Had I not experienced this shoot, I'd likely not be who I am today... or married* for that matter.
I was inspired to work with Ralph during one of his lectures. On this particular day he was being recorded by a local station and the film crew had set up spotlights so he'd show up in the dark auditorium. As he danced back and forth in front of the class, the spotlights highlighted his mannerisms so perfectly I could think of nothing other than recreating the set up for my own camera.
After first coordinating with his secretary, who made me explain my intentions numerous times, I was finally able to talk to Ralph in person. We picked a day during Spring break so the auditorium would be empty and I secured lighting from another department at the school.
When the day arrived I triple checked I had everything loaded in my car and even brought Ralph a muffin and tea. I arrived early to set up, ran a few tests and anxiously awaited his arrival. When he got there we chatted a little and I explained what I was looking for as he still seemed confused by my request.
"Just give me a lecture like you normally would", was what I said. I knew it wasn't one specific pose or anything I could control, it was simply Ralph being Ralph. So he began, book in hand, and I began shooting. To me it felt longer than it was because when this man delivers a lecture to a class it's epic, but when it's channeled at only one person it's almost more than the mind can handle. But, I survived. And shot three fabulous rolls of black and white Ilford HP5 Plus.
I finished, Ralph departed and I wrapped up. I didn't know it then, but this shoot was the beginning of my career. So many shoots I'd go on to be part of or orchestrate myself would function similarly, but they weren't as special because I knew how they'd unfold.
I recently got to work with Ralph again, two months shy of ten years later. Unlike our first shoot, we spent most of the time talking about family, travel, our careers. The experience was just as amazing as I remembered and below are some of my favorites.
Thank you, Ralph.
* In 2004 I entered the pictures of Ralph into the art school's senior show. A recent art graduate named Yen saw them and felt compelled to email me. I'm happy to say we still email one another if for some reason one of us isn't at home.