As long as I can remember I have always wanted to be an artist. I think it’s just something in you: yes, some people do get up one day and say, yeah, I think I’m going to be an artist for a job. I feel like it has to come from a place within you, something we can’t put our finger on. A calling, as it were.
For me, it started when I was very young. The first thing that I wanted to be was a wood-carver – because my grandfather was a woodworker and I wanted to be just like him. He used to carve peach pits. Yup, I said, I can do that. So at 6 years old I sat behind the shed next to the two chicken coops we had and started carving. Predictably, it wasn’t long before I sliced my hand good. That was the end of my wood carving period.
As the years went by and I could see I didn’t fit anywhere – in school, in jobs, etc. – my wanting of my inner artist to come out became much stronger. I went from oil painting to watercolor, on to painted furniture, to fresco painting. I did love the idea of fresco: you use lime and clay pigments and raw earth colors, so it’s very much close to the earth. I like that; very dirty and hands on. In the same vein, I also tried pottery and even bought tools to be a stone cutter. I still kinda like all those things and play with them from time to time, but they just never felt like my art. Something was missing.
I have always loved photography, but didn’t ever think I could do it; it seemed so over my head. I’m not good at learning things, it does not come easy for me. What does come easy is to look at how something is made and kind of reverse engineer it in my mind. Like, I see a barn, and I can build it. I can put a transmission in a truck on the side of the road in the pouring rain if I had to. I can drive a team of horses. I’m very hands on, and I can see a problem and fix it before it happens. But to learn a modern camera? Nope, that’s too much for me to take in. But one day when I had just turned 47 it just hit me, make a camera! And shoot old fashioned style wet plate collodion!
I had loved the series “The Civil War” by Ken Burns, and have always loved history. Photos from that time just stand out to me. I feel who those people are; there is just something about those images that is timeless. I wanted to do it, but could I? I knew nothing about any of it. That was the beginning, that’s the start of my wet plate journey that is just turning out to be the most beautiful ride.