In June of 2003, I was invited by Dr. Lennart Moller of Stockholm, Sweden to participate in a book entitled Images in Science. It was the first time in my 30+ year career that I had been invited to share my career story and photography. I am not sure whether this was the catalyst or if there were other reasons but I became interested in sharing my career story on my web site. I have been frequently asked how I got into this field by prospective students and families and the following is my story.

As a prelude, I will share that I feel incredibly fortunate to have created a life where photography is interwoven into my professional and personal life. Photography still gives me great joy. Some days I feel like someone is watching out for me, but the truth of the matter is that my life has been a series of events based on taking chances and making the best of each and every opportunity. In each phase of my life, whether it was my parents, my teachers, my coaches, my wife, my kids or my friends, I have been fortunate to be surrounded by love, support and good advice. Whether I am making photographs, studying or writing about photography, or simply enjoying snapshots with my family, I have developed a deep appreciation for good photography. I believe in working very hard and enjoy the feeling that can only come after many years of dedication to one's passion. Although I am not superstitious, I have experienced many things in my life that are difficult to explain.
At this point in my life, I cannot imagine doing anything else. I learned early on, that there would be no guarantees and that I could create opportunities through hard work. By giving freely of myself I have been the direct beneficiary of many rewards. The former principal of my children's elementary school once gave me a plaque that still has great meaning. The message shares "The more you give, the more you receive". This philosophy has been a strong and guiding principle in my life. I learned early on watching my parents volunteer how important giving freely was. I should also share that NETWORKING has been an equally important tool. Not being shy, I have often meet new people in unexpected places. I have found many of my collaborators along a pathway that often I was not seeking. I also learned that opportunities may only come once and that you must be prepared to act on them or be left wishing you had. I have found there rarely are second chances. To that end, I have taken full advantage of every chance I have been given not knowing where it might lead or who I might meet along the way. I have also - like so many - experienced rejection and adversity along this path. Nothing has been easy but it has been very exciting.

Utica, New York
I was born in Utica, New York in 1956 to Barbara and Richard Peres. My dad moved to Utica to work for Brooks Brothers and met my mom in 1954. My mother’s father was a jeweler and he had a small jewelry business located on Bleecker Street that my Dad ultimately worked in. My grandfather died in 1957 and so I never got to know him however my grandmother was very special. I can remember many visits to her 2003 Baker Avenue duplex when I was growing up. Utica at the time was a city of 125,000+ residents and was a fun place to be a kid. I have one sister Abbe, who was born in 1958. We were fairly typical kids and enjoyed a fun childhood visiting my other Grandmother in New Jersey each summer. We also would take day trips to the Adirondack mountains which were just north of Utica to visit Old Forge and the Enchanted Forest amusement park. Each winter for as long as I can recall, my father built a skating rink in the backyard which helped me develop a great love of winter in a odd way. I attended John F. Hughes School.

I remember just a few of my grammar school teachers. Mrs. Carmella Catera is one that I recall with fondness. I was in her Introductory Physical Science class - a sort of accelerated class at the time - where I learned about titration, distillations as well as environmental awareness. She was way ahead of her time in the earth movement and she made her students aware of man’s influences on the environment. Good teachers, as I look back really influenced me. I can remember the joy of being challenged to learn and develop attitudes about life right from the beginning. Education was a core family value. Education was a vital in ingredient for success and there were no short cuts to being successful. Hard work and perseverance were characteristics of successful people I quickly learned from my parents. My grandfather went to Harvard, was a NJ state beach volleyball champ. He had become a dentist. My grandmother was from a respected and educated family and all of my uncles and relatives on both sides of the family were either physicians, lawyers or successful in business. My dad also loved sports, which rubbed off on me at a young age. While I played little league baseball and I also made the John F Hughes school baseball team, it was apparent early on that I would not be a professional athlete. My minor league baseball team went 1-18. I also played in several “rec” basketball, bowling, and golf leagues. I was always doing something that involved athletics. While not very good, I loved the challenge and competition during that phase of my life.


High School

When I finished grammar school, I went to Utica Free Academy, which was one of the 3 Utica Public high schools in 1970. High school was a challenging period of time for me, which seems to be the case for many teenagers. I was trying to find myself and it was my age of enlightenment. My high school was large with over 1200 students. It was a city school with kids from all sorts of backgrounds and it was very exciting to me. I was studying in the college prep program because going to college was always in my master plan. I took mathematics, social studies, English, various lab sciences and German classes and I tried out for various sports teams. I was a pretty good student and received good grades but my sports skills remained inadequate to make the school teams. I ended up managing the freshmen basketball team and I got pretty good at providing support to the coaching staff as well becoming the score keeper for the football team. I also got interested in boy scouts and I went to Cedarlands Boy Scout wilderness camp in the Adirondack mountains for 3 week camping trips.

As my high school years progressed, I continued to take traditional college prep classes and became the varsity basketball team manager. I also played varsity golf and was active in scouting. As a consequence of some good luck, I was selected to attend a Boy Scout World Jamboree in Japan. The jamboree was held at the foot of Mt Fuji in June of 1972. As part of the trip, I would tour Kyoto and Tokyo as part of the 3 week visit. As a sophomore in high school, I had still not discovered my interests in photography but I was having a great time learning about life and finding new opportinities through being out of my comfort level.


By some strange destiny - while I was at the Jamboree and in camp at the foot of Mt Fuji in 1972 amongst the thousands of Scout troops from all over the world - Japan was hit by a typhoon. The storm wiped out all the camps and all the scouts were evacuated to various safe places around the area until things calmed down. I ended up in a Shinto shrine with hundreds of campers from other countries including the Nigerian scouts. It was here that I first met Prosper Igboeli, who at that time was a Scout from the East Central State of Nigeria, formerly the Biafran Republic. Prosper and I became immediate friends and he shared his dream to come to the U.S. and study to become a doctor. He desperately wanted to become a physician so he could return to Nigeria and open a hospital dedicated to his parents Margaret and Moses. His father - Moses - was a general in the Biafran army during the revolution and fought for independence from Nigeria. When the war was lost, he was executed which profoundly affected Prosper and motivated him in ways I could not always comprehend.


When I came home following the trip, I was excited to tell my family about Prosper and I could barely control myself. As a consequence of much hard work and generosity from my family, Utica College, the Utica Kiwanis club and many others, Prosper was admitted to Utica College that following year in spring 1973. Prosper immediately became a member of my family and his influences on me were significant. First his courage and tenacity to work tirelessly was beyond my comprehension and was evident in everything he did. He graduated from Utica College in less than 2 years and did so as the Salutatorian of his class. He worked at a local hospital studying genetics and evaluated whether it might be possible to read fingerprints to determine if a person's long term health might be visible there. Following UC, he was accepted into the Upstate Medical School where he also excelled.

For the sake of space and time, I will jump to the current state of this extraordinary story to share that Prosper did indeed open a hospital in Aba, Nigeria called the M & M Hospital and he has become an infertility expert there. He travels all over the world, provides frequent lectures, and maintains a rigorous medical schedule. He recently served as the medical director of the Nigerian Medical Association.

 



As I finished high school, I was reminded daily of Prosper’s work ethic and I too thought I was destined to go to medical school. I continued to take the required curriculum, which I hoped would get me into a good college. By some strange coincidence, I signed up to work for the high school yearbook as a co-editor of the sports section. It was in this role that I was first introduced to photography by Rick Kozak, the school newspaper and yearbook photographer. Rick had a home darkroom and from that moment, nothing was to remain the same for me and my interests.

After the first time I watched Rick develop b&w film and print pictures in his home darkroom, I was smitten, and I mean smitten with the power of the picture and the process. I could not get enough of photography. Another friend of mine, let me borrow his enlarger and I used my family’s Kodak Instamatic 126 camera to take pictures. I shot Kodak 126 Verichrome pan film and I developed my films in the family bathroom using Kodak Microdol-X. It was intoxicating. At that same time I was working as a bag boy at at a local supermarket and eventually saved enough to buy my first camera, a Minolta SRT 101 camera with a 50mm lens. I took that camera everywhere I went and always loaded with Kodak Tri-X Pan film. It was like a necklace for me. I took pictures of everything. Nothing was too ordinary or boring. Rick and I often took road trips around the Utica area photographing. I made portraits of dogs and friends. I photographed weddings and I made product pictures for my cousins businesses. I was emotionally hooked on photography but my plans were still to go to college and study pre-medicine
.


Several frames from my first roll of film - Kodak 126 Verichrome Pan

I had never been exposed to “art” in any meaningful way before this time in my life and I am not sure working on a yearbook would be considered art but this was first time I had experienced the process of creating something. No one in my family was an artist nor did anyone work in any other crafts besides knitting. I had taken one required art class in grammar school but photography was new to me and it seemed to open doors everywhere I went. During the summer of 1973, Rick I and set off to create a book of Utica NY, something we never finished but many of the images are still around in my archive. I must have shot one hundred 36 exposure rolls of Tri-X pan film during the summers of 1973 and 1974. I also got better in the darkroom. During my senior year, I became the sports section editor and Rick was the photographer/photography editor for the yearbook again. I was still managing the basketball team however now I was also photographing for the team. Additionally I applied to and was accepted at Bradley University in Peoria Illinos where I was going to be in the pre-medical studies program. I had applied to many schools and was not certain I wanted to go that far away from home.



As I reflect on that era, I had youthful naivete' and everything seemed like magic to me. Scholastics, athletics and photography were all rolled into one seamless life that I had created at the time. I was having a ball as I prepared to go to college . So as I think back, I felt interested adventure and decided to enroll at Bradley, which was also my Dad’s alma mater. They had a good pre-med program, they had an excellent division I basketball team as well as several photography classes which I palnned to take in addition to the required biology coursework. At 18, it seemed like the right thing to do and begin my life's journey.

College
As a freshmen I had the usual adjustment problems. It was 1974 and I was home sick some of the time and I knew only one person in Peoria. My dad however still had some friends from his time at Bradley including the school’s basketball coach - Joe Stowell and another friend - Harry Erlichmann - who owned a recycling company, I. Erlichman and Sons. I immediately got a job working for Harry on Saturday mornings at the recycling company where I operated the scale and bought recycled paper and used aluminum cans. I also used to hang around the gym and watch basketball. I took a lot of pictures for Coach Stowell that year and tried to acclimate to my new surroundings. As the year progressed, I became a paid tutor for the basketball team and maintained my own good grades in my biology studies. School was going great and the Elrichman’s had adopted me as their Peoria son which was great. I now know how vital that supportive emotional connection was for me. Being more than 1000 miles from home, their love and support during my four years in Illinois enabled me to flourish as a young man and have the confidence to take chances.
Harry Erlichman, Galesville, Illinois 1999
Joe Stowell in his home in front of some my pictures, 1999
During my second year at Bradley, I got a job working for the Audio Visual services dept as the student photographer. I worked in this department for all 4 years while at Bradley. Each year there was another photographer hired. They included Jay Boresma, Daryl Littlefield, Mike Summersville and John Kujowoa. I learned much from each of these people and working there was an important job for me. Although I mostly was exposed to on the job training. That was a very practical body of knowledge that I was gaining in this job. I developed color slides in an E-4 sinkline, I made duplicate slides using Kodak Slide Duplicating Film, I processed and printed all the department’s b&w films including 35mm and medium format. I also shot most of the University's evening events such as retirement parties, alumni activities and other non-critical events. I cleaned sinks and mixed chemistry as well. I made title slides using Kodak Vericolor Film and in a nut shell was the University photo tech for all darkroom chores. The best part of the job was that I had access to the facilities during the evenings and weekends. I cannot begin to tally the thousands of hours I spent in that darkroom during my time at Bradley but that time as I reflect back was a time of great learning on how to be a photographer. I would refine my skills using many sensitized materials. Although I amassed much photomechanical knowledge there, I also was learning the approaches required to be professional photographer. I was "paying my due"s and putting in my time in with the blind ambition becasue it was intoxicating. With each experience I learned something new. One of my specific recollections while there was making 4' x 6' prints using a 100 foot rolls of paper and developing the prints using sponges soaked in developer laid out in a huge sink. To my knowledge those big prints are still displayed at Bradley.
My first published photograph - Utica O-D May. 1975
Weekend newspaper feature cover - May 1976
Another photograph published - Peoria Journal Star April 1977

I first got exposed to biomedical photography while working on my biology degree as a sophomore at Bradley. As a pre-med student, I took courses in all the usual required courses including biology I, II and III, genetics, biochemistry, botany, histology, anatomy and physiology as well as the other lab sciences and mathematics courses. I had fantastic professors while at Bradley including Dr BJ Mathis and Dr Bjorklund who were incredibly supportive of my interests in photography. After several early humbling experiences trying to photograph my biology experiments, I became immersed in trying to photograph biology as I worked on my class biology projects. While working on my degree, I also took 4 photography classes including photojournalism with Howard Goldbaum and fine art photography with Francois De Champs. While studying ecology with Dr Mathis, I was exposed to entomology and preparing insects for study and Dr Bjorklund exposed me to histology and more importantly the microscope. These important resources for me also sponsored 2 independent studies where I had my first experiences in learning how to photograph through a microscope and create science photographs.

During my 2nd year, Coach Stowell invited to me to manage the Bradley University varsity basketball team. He suggested I could do several important things for the team in this job which included being a full time tutor for the players( when necessary) and I could be the official team photographer. Coach Stowell loved pictures and loved giving pictures away as gifts to benefactors of the program. For the next 3 years, I worked a 12 month year being the team student manager performing all the various tasks such as preparing the gym and lockers for practices and road trips, cleaning up the locker room after practices, and other chores as delegated. Additionally, I made pictures for the team and University and in this capacity, I also traveled with the team and eventually visited Madrid where we played in a Christmas 1976 tournament. Bradley was beaten by Real Madrid as I recall by an enormous margin.


Life After University
For a variety of reasons, I started Bradley in January 1975. Consequently I graduated in December 1978. I was in no hurry to leave Peoria and I really had become very comfortable being there and being on my own. I tried to unsuccessfully to break into the medical photography field after finishing Bradley and I interviewed all over Illinois including Chicago with Jack DeBruin. He suggested I might consider going back to school and attend RIT where I could learn the special skills required for this specialized field. He also suggested I should join the Biological Photographic Association. I was a bit stubborn and I was not ready to return to school again or return to Utica, so I took a job with Charles Twing, the owner of Charles Twing Photographer and the Slide Factory located in Peoria. This was the perfect job for me right out of college. Chuck was never there and in a very short period of time, I became the day-to-day manager of his business. In fact, he had just rented a new space, so I became the designer/ renovator of the space as well as coordinated the move from the old to new location. The Slide Factory was a custom lab that processed E-6, made slide duplicates, processed and printed B & W films as well as copied paper documents onto slide film. It was an ideal job for me because it really built on skills I had been developing at the A-V services department at Bradley, except now the clients were companies like Caterpillar Tractor who paid real money for the work. So by day, I worked 10 hour shifts and at night I partied and photographed with my friends. Now almost 30 years later, I still maintain some friendships with the people who were so integral in my life including Kevin and Sherrie Schneider, Jerry and Gail Stowell, and of course Harry & Dee Erlichman.

In the late summer of 1979, I decided working in a photo lab was not going to help me become a photographer and so I concluded I might be better prepared to act on new opportunities being on the East Coast. I once again applied to hospitals all across New York state, including the University of Rochester where I was told by a supervisor that medical photography was not the field for me. I was very frustrated in my inability to open any new doors and I had not ever experienced this level of rejection. Just when I was most dejected, a door opened at Main Street Photography in Syracuse, New York. MainStreet was owned by Bob Lorenz and managed by Lynn MacMahill. Bob hired me because he wanted to to develop E-6 films in-house and I had extensive experience in that area. I loved being in a photography studio and my work went in new directions. The Studio did a lot of catalogue work for Gladding corporation as well as public relations work for the Syracuse New Times and Syracuse Stage. I was now making pictures while still developing film and run lab services.Every day provided new problems to solve.

I helped purchase a Colenta film processor and kept the chemistry in-control as much as that was possible in a variable rotary tube machine. I made some photographs as well keeping the studio clean and organized. It was awesome situation, except I was earning NO MONEY and I could not completely pay all of my bills( all of the time). My parents were very helpful but suggested this “life-style and career” might need to be re-examined if I could not support myself. I still maintained the dream that I could be a medical photographer and I reluctantly decided to visit RIT where I met the real GURU of the field and my soon to be mentor - Nile Root. I begrudgingly applied after the visit because I still felt like I could make it on my own. Ironically there was no response from RIT and I continued with my work at MainStreet with the thoughts I was not going there.



Rochester Institute of Technology
In May of 1980, I received a letter from RIT sharing I was accepted into the summer transfer program which would begin June 1st, 1980. At first, I was very hesitant to accept this opportunity and it took a lot of persuasion from my parents for me to begin see the advantages of going back to school. I did enroll and immediately was engrossed in the most intense experience of my photographic life( to date), the “summer transfer program”. The courses ran Monday through Fridays 8am to 6pm and provided an equivalent of the entire 1st year 30 week curriculum in a mere 10 weeks. This course was incredible on many levels. I was eating, breathing and sleeping photography and it was thoroughly consuming to me since I was really learning about how the materials and processes functioned. My work improved exponentially in a very short time. I was learning to control the processes of photography rather than being controlled by them. In that summer I met some people who still are central to my life including Gervase Pervarnik, the staff photographer at Wards Natural Science. Gervase has influenced my photography in so many important ways. We immediately became “photo partners” that summer and we are still friends so many years later.

 

When summer was over, the school year resumed at a normal pace. I took a job with Mel Simon Inc, a custom color lab, where I processed E-6, C-41 and produced custom slide duplicates. I worked 20 hours a week for Mel at very unusual hours since my class schedule dictated when I was available and his business was also very flexible to its customers. It is interesting to see now how my life seemed to have reoccurring cycles. I continually found myself in a lab developing others films while I was working on becoming a photographer during this phase. While at this lab I did a lot of custom slide work for Xerox and fine art printing for a successful B & W artist in town.

Because I transferred to RIT with a BA degree, my academic schedule was very compressed. In fact, I only took photography classes while at RIT. I studied close-up photography, photomicrography, high speed photography, photographic instrumentation, color theory, and so many other subjects during the next 75 weeks. In school, I studied with many important giants from the field. I took courses from Les Stroebel, Richard Zakia, Ira Current, John Compton, Nile Root and Andrew Davidhazy to name a few. There were many other faculty with whom I studied, but this was core group that taught the classes that I was required to take. Being in school was incredibly stimulating for me. I was exposed to great photographers such as Lennart Nilsson and Arnold Newman. I also met Josef Karsh. Everyday there was something new to learn or do including how to make fine B & W prints using the zone system. I also was very fortunate to have access to a space that Gervase and I converted to home darkroom in the basement of long time family friend, Michael Lebowitz & Leslie Berkowitz. When my Mom was in her 30’s, she went back to college to become a teacher. While there, she met Michael who was a sophomore at Utica College. Michael and my Mom became good friends and he often visited our home for holidays. It was so ironic for me to end up in Rochester and be reconnected with him. This darkroom became my second home. It was in a basement and part of a coal cellar and had a dirt floor. It was full of spiders and was a great space to print because of its isolation. In the 1.5 years that I had this space, I would guess I made no less than 2000 prints there.
:)


In 1981, I met my wife - Laurie Greenberg who changed my life forever. Laurie was exciting and fun to be with. She loved life and was very spontaneous. Our chance meeting was great fun. One Thursday evening after my class I went to a local bar and Laurie happened to be there with a broken leg and one of her friends. Laurie hobbled up to the bar and we hit it immediately. She has such a great wit and laugh. We really bonded from the start. We did everything together. She came to the darkroom with me, she went to various lectures, school events and became an important part of my life. She shared my work and the challenges of being an adult student. I knew in a few months after that chance meeting that I had a new partner to share all my life's adventures that lied ahead.

As the summer of 1981 approached, I began organizing a work-study block as my coop requirement. I decided to apply to the Johns Hopkins Hospital to work at the pathology lab under the supervision of Raymond “Pete” Lund.

JHU was well regarded and Pete was legendary for the organization that he had built. I started at path photo June 1981 and spent a very exciting summer working in their lab with my RIT lab partner, Larry Newell. Again by some strange coincidence, I met a future boss, Larry Koffer. Larry was one of the supervisors in the photo department. We worked well together. He had a great sense of humor and was a very hard worker. Our days in the lab were very intense because the lab produced all jobs in one day or less. Every morning started with each employee rolling out a 100 foot bulk roll of film which made 18 - 36 exposures rolls. The lab produced slides, prints, and all services such as surgical photography, photomicrography and passports. It was a beehive of activity with people frantically trying to get all work out by 5pm. Baltimore was also a fun place to live for the sumer, especially in a dormitory. I shared a room with Larry and we did a lot of sight seeing visiting the Inner Harbor, Washington DC, and Arlington VA . I also met a very dear and long time colleague in Norman Barker, RBP who started his career that same summer at Hopkins where he is now the pahtology photography department director.













 

Medical Photographer
I completed my second degree in February 1982 and at the time, the U.S. economy was awful. I could not find a job anywhere. I must have sent out 200 resumes and no one was hiring. In the interim while I pressed on, I took a job selling cameras at Carhart Photo. It gave me some money and allowed me to keep an apartment in Rochester while I continued to look. In June of 1982, I interviewed, and was offered a position as the medical photographer for the Charleston division of the W.V.U. Medical Center. I moved to West Virginia in July with Laurie where I worked for almost 2 years. I loved this job. I was the only medical photographer in the state and I provided all photographic services in-house. The facility had fantastic equipment there as well as in-house color slide film developing equipment. I was making pictures daily in surgery, in the clinic, and in the studio. I produced slides from hard copy as well as all the other services I had been doing since my days in the AV dept. job at Bradley.

In May of 1983, Laurie and I were married.


During my time at WVU, I became board certified as a biological photographer or an RBP. This certification program was supervised by the BPA allowed me to become a registered biological photographer and I won several awards for my scientific photography from the Nikon Small world competition and the BPA. While in Texas attending a BPA meeting, I met Michael Sarnacki, who was attending from Detroit, Michigan. Before going to Dallas for the meeting in August of '83, I had accepted a position at Henry Ford Hospital offered by Larry Koffer, my former supervisor from JHU. Larry had left Hopkins in March of that year and was reorganizing the HFH dept. Since we had worked together in the summer of 1981, we already had a good chemistry and the chance to move to a very large metropolitan teaching hospital was exciting. I found it to be an incredible coincidence to have met Michael who lived in Detroit while in Dallas a mere 2 months before I moved to Detroit. Sometimes I think life is a series of events that are governed by some bigger plan. My life has seemed to be full of very fortunate coincidences.

Coordinator of Medical Photographer
In September of 1983, I moved to Detroit and started at Henry Ford Hospital where I was the supervisor of the medical photography department. I worked with Larry Koffer who was the director of the large department of photography, graphics and medical television. The dept at the time had an operating budget of $700,000 and 15 employees. The photography section, produced more than 125,000 slides and 65,000 prints for educational and research applications. The department was located in 2 places, one lab was in the hospital that produced all the patient pictures while the production lab was housed in another bldg where all the lab services were handled including E-6 processing. We also had a student training program where students could learn on the job and work towards their certification(RBP) exams. While at HFH, I had the pleasure to work with some exceptionally motivated and smart students where I experimented with teaching. During this time, I made several presentations, and continued to win numerous awards for my scientific photography.

While in Detroit, Laurie and I remained friendly with Michael and Jeanne Sarnacki. Michael and I were similarly dedicated to photography. Michael had founded the Michigan Friends of Photography, he ran a photo gallery in his own home and was very active in the arts. He worked a day job as a medical photographer at Oakwood Hospital and in the evenings, he did his art. Michael introduced me to the who’s who in Detroit photo art community and soon I was participating in local art projects, shows and festivals. One summer I was in Art festivals in Ann Arbor, Birmingham and Pontiac Michigan as well as the Cornhill Arts Festival in Rochester, N.Y. I still stay in touch with Michael who has stayed very active in his own business as well the serving as executive director of the Detroit Focus project.

In January 1986, Nile Root , my former RIT mentor, wrote me a short note sharing there was going to be a faculty position in the imaging and photo technology dept at RIT. He thought I should apply. In late March I traveled back to RIT where I interviewed in front of the same faculty that just 5 years earlier were my teachers. It was strange to say the least and rather intimidating. Later that month I received an offer to be an instructor in the IPT department which I accepted. One month later, Nile announced his plans for retirement and I was a little disappointed in that I could not be in the Biomed dept. The director of the school, Tom Iten would not discuss the idea and that was that. In the summer of ‘86, I again participated in the Cornhill Arts festival before moving to Rochester and I ran into Martin Scott from Eastman Kodak. Martin was the director of scientific imaging at Kodak and an important advisor to the school. I shared my small frustrations at not being part of Biomed.

As we were preparing to move to Rochester in mid August, the phone rang. The call was from then Biomed dept head, Bill DuBois asking me if I would consider transferring to his dept. Without hesitation, I was on board with the idea. In August of 1986 - without interview - I was transferred as an instructor into the Biomedical Photographic Communications department.

Professor
This chapter is still being written. Teaching at RIT has been an extraordinary journey and one that has not been easy nor what I expected. Teaching has been a challenging - yet very rewarding process - and I have found no two teachers operate the same way. During my first few years, I was consumed with the basic activities that all new teachers go through as well as being terrified that I would make a mistake. Developing new courses and the required teaching materials seemed like an impossible chore. Concurrently I was working on my masters degree in Instructional Technology. The job was harder than I ever imagined. I was very lucky to be befriended by some valuable friends who helped make the path easier and I am forever grateful to them for their constant help, guidance and contributions during my formative years. These special people would include Martin Scott who was a frequent benefactor and guest lecturer to my classes; Roger Loveland whose vast knowledge about the microscope was truly inspiring was freely shared when I was just starting out; H.L.Gibson whose help while producing a manuscript for my first chapter in a technical book established a new confidence I desperately needed; Jack Vetter’s invitation to write the Close Up and Photomacrography Chapter in the Biomedical Photography book he edited was an incredible coup in my new career; Sally Robson constant offering of encouragement, guidance and resources as my career evolved; and Leon LeBeau and Michael Coppinger who visited my photo 2 classes for more than 14 years sharing their passion for laboratory photography as well as ophthalmic photography respectively. I was in awe of John Delly and his writings and the Biological Photographic Association was also an important organization for me because of the contacts I made. It was also place where I could really practice presenting and publishing. Teaching at the Annual Rochester workshop, speaking at the annual BioComm meeting and publishing in the Journal of Biological Photography were valuable actvities in my professional development back in the late 1980's and early 1990's. Dick Norman was maybe the most helpful person of the first phase of my RIT career because he helped me fabricate imaging devices necessary to photograph my projects.

Dr Leon J LeBeau @ RIT, 1991 Michael Coppinger @ RIT 1992
In 1988 my son Jonathan was born and in 1990, my daughter Leah followed. Similar to all the important changes in my life, these 2 beautiful children have given me perspective and helped me be directed and to be the type of father I wanted to be. There has not been one dull moment in our house with all the various activities we have experienced with them. Soccer, dance, floor hockey, scouts, religious school, running and basketball are just a few of the extracurricular events beyond the normal activities associated with their schooling. And now college has begun for them as well. It is a great source of pride of mine to watch them and see them evolve in the next phases of their lives.

During my career at R•I•T, I have completed a Master’s degree in Instructional Technology along with so many other important benchmarks. In 1989 I was appointed department chair and in 1999, I was promoted to the rank of full professor. It has been quite a ride and you can read more of my professional history in my CV if you are interested.

Being professionally active has been a very important component of my career and that influences almost everything I do in the classroom. I feel being active is a core component of my job responsibility to the field and my students. I have authored numerous publications, presented many oral papers and conducted a lot of imaging related workshops in locations such as Canada, Sweden, Tanzania, Germany, the Netherlands, Autstria, the UK, AUstralia and all over the USA. I have been a member of Bio-Communications Association, formerly the BPA since 1978 and I am a member of the Ophthalmic Photographer's Society. In 1996, I was invited by Staffan Larsson and Jonas Brane to create and deliver a one-week hands-on course for PhD students in Stockholm Sweden investigating photography through the microscope. The workshop was to be modeled after the BPA workshop. This course is still running some many years later with the generous sponsorship of the Karolinksa Institute. This course helped position me professionally in a new way and provided a greater international visibility which has lead to many other new opportunities. I now also teach at Umea Institutet. In 1997, I was invited to serve as the Chair of the Lennart Nilsson Award Nominating Committee, which has been a fantasy. To work with Lennart is beyond words. The only analogy I can think that is appropriate is that I get to play along side of arguably the world’s most famous biomedical photographer. I also serve as one of the Co-Coordinators of the annual R•I•T Big Shot(www.rit.edu/cias/bigshot) project which continues to amaze me. Started in December 1987 as a way to teach Biomedical Photography students how to solve complicated probelms using simple equipment, it has become a signature RIT event. In October 2003, Big Shot photographed the Royal Swedish Palace as part of the Lennart Nilsson Conference and in April 2007 we photographed the Pile Gate in Dubrovnik, Croatia. March 2013, Big Shot focused itself on Cowboy Stadium in Dallas Texas. Visit the Big Shot page

In 2001, I was interested in developing and producing an exhibition of pictures made from science along with my mentor Professor Andrew Davidhazy. This idea turned into a 4 color book and a web site that to date has had almost 100,000 visitors. This exhibition was hosted by 23 venues in 9 different countries and in 2008, Images from Science 2 was launched. In April(2003), I was selected as one of the Eisenhart outstanding faculty award recipients, an Award given for outstanding teaching at the University. Winners are chosen through a rigorous peer review. I was the co-recipient of the R•I•T 2003 Paul Gitner Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Graphic Arts for my work with Professor Davidhazy on the Images from Science project. and the journey continues. One of the most remarkable accomplishments I have had was the editor in chief of the Focal Encyclopedia of Photography - fourth edition. This project, which took 4 years to complete, was one of the most challenging and rewarding opportunities I have ever experenced on any level. In some ways the experience was like taking another degree.

The years that have followed from the initial phone call I received from Bill DuBois to join the Biomed dept have become one big blur. There has not really been one dull moment and I usually cannot wait to get to campus every day. Each day is full of new adventure and my students provide an ever present opportunity to learn. I feel a huge sense of satisfaction watching the lives and careers of my former students find their way in life. I am forever grateful for the privilege to have been their teacher. They in many ways are my real heros. In all the years of being a teacher, many students have come to RIT and it would be impossible to list all of them. Many have left their mark on me in different ways. One very special person who touched my life was Mary Frantz. Mary passed away in 2003. Mary touched so many of her classmates with her passion and love of life and her smile. I will always remember her commitment to excellence and learning how to load her film reel in bed with her husband Bob while under the covers.

I am sure as I approach my 30 year anniversary, this story is not finished.
Updated March 2014.