It all started in Leadville in 2001. But the roots go back a little further.
I’ve been taking pictures for as long as I can remember – both with pocket cameras and with 35mm. As a kid, I loved my Pocket Instamatic. As a young adult I owned a couple of Minolta SLRs. In the late ’90s, I started a business making custom drums and drumsets (I’m a drummer). The drum website was useless without pictures of the drums, so I bought a Pentax ZX-M 35mm film camera body, two consumer-grade zoom lenses and a fast 50mm prime. Nothing fancy, but at the time it was a substantial investment.
The Pentax kit did the trick – I was able to get some nice images of the drums posted on the web and inquires rolled in. It didn’t take long before customers started asking for pictures from angles other than those I had posted. They wanted close-ups of the finishes and certain features.
Thankful for a growing number of interested customers, I readily complied. The problem was the cost and time it took to respond with additional images. This was film, after all. Inexpensive developing took days and one-hour processing was $10. Plus, it was a waste to process an entire roll of 12, 24 or 36 frames when all I needed was three or four shots.
Digital cameras were just hitting the market. I looked at them before I bought the Pentax, but they were very expensive and I already understood the 35mm film world. But they were perfect for the situation I found myself in with marketing drums over the internet.
After much research and saving, I paid almost $800 for a monster of a digital camera – a 2MP Sony Mavica. It was huge, but it had a lens that could do everything I needed for taking photos of the drums. Plus, the camera saved the pictures via built-in floppy disk drive! I could shoot the pictures, remove the floppy from the camera, put it in my computer and email the photos within minutes of the customer’s request.
Since arriving in Colorado in 1993, I’ve always enjoyed searching new roads to go as high and far into the mountains as I could get. As the highest incorporated city in the United States, Leadville, Colorado has always been a favorite destination. Nestled at the base of Colorado’s highest peaks and just outside of Leadville is Turquoise Lake. The combination of high, snow-covered peaks and shimmering blue water was irresistible. It was the perfect place to hike, bike and take pictures.
While strolling the Shore of Turquoise Lake on sunny spring afternoon, Mavica in hand, I came upon an uprooted tree stump lying sideways. A few minutes later, I had some images on a floppy disk that interested me.
A few weeks after returning home, I learned of a gallery (long since closed) in Old Colorado City that rented wall space for framed art to be sold on consignment. I was thrilled when the owner passed judgment that my photo called ‘Driftwood’ was suitable for display. After applying a $35 price tag to the frame, I happily paid the owner $5 for a month’s rent of a square foot of wall space. My first piece of photo art was now available for sale!
A month passed with Driftwood still hanging over that square foot of rented space. The owner said that the photo had received some notice by his customers and felt it was just a matter of time before it sold. That was all I needed to hear to put up another $5 for another month of display. But that month came and went as well.
The decision to try a third month required a great deal of thought. I was approaching the breakeven point on the deal. Subtracting $15 of wall rental, the 20% consignment fee due the owner should Driftwood sell, the cost of the frame, print and my labor from the $35 MSRP left almost nothing in profit – if the piece sold.
But without a sale, there was a 100% chance that I would lose at least $15. Nothing great is accomplished without risk, so I decided to give Driftwood one more month. It was one of the wisest decisions I ever made.
In just a few days after handing over that third $5 bill, I got a call from the gallery owner. He had a check for $28 dollars for me from the sale of Driftwood. It was one of the happiest moments of my adult life.
I know how hard I work for the money I make. For others, it’s the same or more. For me, there is no greater compliment and honor paid than when one person sees more value in the art than in the quantity of cash they must hand over to take ownership of it. I would take pictures of people, places and things that interest me even if nothing ever sold because that’s what I do and who I am. But for those that have paid their hard-earned money for my art, I am sincerely and deeply appreciative. Thank you for the most profound of compliments.