My First Studio

I have worked in the same space since the beginning of photography. My friend Gilbert, who got me into photography in the beginning, owned this little shed on the lower corner of his property. It was actually a very cool space that he was using to store all the records for his various businesses. One afternoon while I was down searching for some old box of records I began to notice what an interesting space it actually was. It was filled floor to ceiling with racks of old stuff that had probably accumulated for decades; we weren’t even quite sure what most of it was. Gilbert owned a flower shop some time back and I think most of it was staging remnants for that business. I had been doing photography for about a year, and had no real place to work or store any of my equipment. So Gilbert allowed me to clean it out and after many trips to the dump I began to discover a very remarkable space. It had been built by a painter and was his first studio. He is now a famous painter in Montana and noted mostly for images of what I would call Neon Cowboys and the West. His style is very distinct in that it crossed pop art with the West. The entire north side of the roof was filled with massive skylights and allowed the most extraordinary light to fill the space and change the color in the rooms throughout the day. There was space for an office and a very small changing room in the front and lots of wall space that I could hang what I was currently working on in a gallery type setting. I loved this space and Gilbert allowed me to use it basically if I paid the taxes, insurance and maintenance. It was perfect; I wasn’t really making any money with it at that point but it was just a great space to hang and dream. Well, after Gilbert passed away from a brain tumor in 2003, I was given first option to buy the space from his estate. It didn’t have any water or restroom facilities, so I really got it at a bargain, mostly just paying for the lot it stood on.

Business and photography began to flourish for me over the years and I began to create some very interesting images. I loved lighting and though the space was cramped it suited my needs perfectly. I had been to New York and visited photographer friends there and realized my tiny space actually quite large and a luxury in comparison. Because I could not afford any kind of lighting, photography began with the process of natural light. Slowly I began to work my way into the hot light systems for headshots and promotional images, buying a new light each month as I could afford. In those days everything went into photography. It consumed all my resources all the time. I loved the process as my life become obsessed with exposure, development, and printing. I ended up with a studio strobe pack and eventually segued into soft boxes and massive sources of light. I became fascinated and began all my studies in light. Anytime I could talk someone into coming into my studio was a new experiment in light. A lot of the time it was a mistake and often the process wasn’t even printable but the studio become a haven for me to grow and learn as I created these elaborate set ups in my 13 x 17 foot shooting space. People who saw the images would say “You created that in your space?” Yep it’s the process of creation.