True story of a young photographer!
I took pictures of stuff kids take pictures of with my Kodak Instamatic. The prints were small, square, black and white basic. Sometimes the subject was centered in the photo, sometimes not. With pride I wrote STEVE TOOK THIS in pencil on the back of the photos and put them in a scrapbook. I still have a few. None were award winning images, but hey, we all have to start somewhere.
My Mom's side of the family were all artists. Grandma Braley was an art teacher; Grandad Braley was a graphic artist who commuted to NYC on the train every day; Mom was a talented Sunday painter, and my Uncle Bill was a prolific artist, sculptor, and boat builder. When I was little my Grandparents brought me in to the art studio behind their house, gave me a canvas, paint, and instruction. The result was not impressive. They gave me clay to experiment with; the result also not impressive. My Uncle showed me how to build stuff, out of wood, metal, and fiberglass, and those results were impressive. I had artistic sensibilities, skill to work with tools, and loved building stuff.
I can't recall who gave me a hand-me-down Voightlander camera, but something clicked with the upgraded photographic technology; I enjoyed working with that tool immediately.
The thought of capturing an interesting moment with a photo appealed to me. Understanding how the camera saw and captured a scene was a fun new challenge. I didn't have the talent to make art like paintings and scuptures from scratch, but had an eye for composition; to find the most visually appealing part of a scene, and hopefully, to tell an interesting story. Perhaps I noticed stuff that others miss. I took plenty of junk photos at first, but after a while they were pretty darn good. If a scene had an effect on me it might have an effect on others, and I thought it was cool to be able to capture a moment and entertain others that way.
Home life was not all rainbows and butterflies. My dad decided not to be involved early on, and so we were raised entirely by my hard-working single Mom. My sister Susie had multiple developmental challenges from birth that required all of Mom's focus and energy, so I entertained myself and tried to be as low-maintenance as possible.
I was a quiet, observant, smart kid, and got bored at school. Sitting in class was mostly torture. I would look at the clock, look out the window, look at the clock, look out the window... until the buzzer finally rang and I could escape. I could not wait to get outdoors after school each day and ride my bike.
I didn't say much in class, but learned that I could make classmates laugh with a well-timed joke. Some of my teachers thought I was funny, others kept me after school. That didn't change a thing. I was a rebelious independent kid.
I had lots of energy and a need to explore, and for that I had my bike. I was always taking photos, but the bike was crucial as my escape from the house for exploration. That first bike with gears was the best gift ever. It was Christmas and the weather was harsh, but I took that bike outside and rode it up and down my snowy street until my fingers and toes were numb. During Junior High School bike rides with friends morphed into bike racing, and I enjoyed going fast. So I was taking photos all along, but bike racing became my sport and focus through teen years and twenties. At the time my need for adventure, exploration, and to burn-off energy was stronger than my need to be creative, so sport took priority over artistic endeavors.
There were no after school sport activities for a cyclist so my daily training was a self-motivated solo mission. Fall of the year I began riding lots of miles, my town held a citizens' bike race and I entered the event. I practiced on the course and knew the best line for every corner; I was ready. I won that first bike race as a 13-year old and crossed the finish line triumphant. Rolling over to my three adoring fans, cleated cycling shoes still strapped into the pedals, I went to loosen the toe straps too late and fell over on the grass. I had found my sport and a focus.
So long story short, over 17-seasons of bike racing I had ridden perhaps 800 race days, accomplished most goals, raced all over the U.S. and Internationally, even made enough money to continue the sport. Then one cold, rainy, slippery race day, I realized I'd had enough.
However, I still had energy and the drive to race, began running, and raced run-bike duathlons. Eight years later I finally learned to swim. I began racing triathlon as an age group athlete, and truth be told it was more fun than bike racing. I won National Championships in four sports and stood on the podium at World Championships six times, even won an age group World Championship. I took photos wherever I travelled, and travelled often to races around the World. Then mid-2014 I had an incident that ended my racing. I had a good, run, no regrets. I had to reinvent myself, and photography was an excellent fit. Now I go to cool places, see cool stuff, and try to capture the feel of it with photos. My favorite hobby as a youth has my full attention now.