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In 1978 I went to school for television production at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock and in the process I learned about shot composition and lighting. I got a job shooting and editing in TV news out of my freshman year and thought I was on my way. However, as is so often the case, my dreams and God’s plans were different and He won.

I wound up in the concert and live event production world where I stayed for the bulk of my adult life primarily in the field of lighting. In 1995 I decided I wanted to get out of “the business” and become a graphic artist. But I didn’t have the money to go back to school.

I went down to the local CompUSA that had just opened and got a job under the pretext that I would figure out computers and graphic software on the fly despite the fact that the simple process of booting up a computer made me a bit nervous. I learned to find my way around the technology and grabbed time on machines whenever and wherever I could until the day came to hang a shingle as a “professional graphic artist.”

I got some good gigs and did some pretty interesting work but I never quite lost the live production itch. In 2003 I met Carolyn DeMeo, the woman I would eventually marry. In April of 2004 as we were making plans for a November wedding I dropped the bomb that I needed to get back out on the road or I was going to go crazy—knowing full well that this could be the end of our plans. To my undying surprise and gratitude her response was, “What took you so long?”

I bumped into my old friend Larry Boster who was Brooks & Dunn’s lighting designer, and we spent a day snooping around Nashville looking for a touring gig for me. We wandered into the offices of “Tour Guide Magazine” (a trade magazine in the mobile production industry) to say hi and see if they knew of anything going on.

The owner of the magazine is always trolling for salespeople regardless of their qualifications. So he and his partner sat down and sold me on the idea that selling ad space to the industry would at least get me close enough to the road to eventually get back in at some point.

After a couple of months I realized that I couldn’t sell ice water to a Bedouin nomad and even if I could, it wasn’t going to work in this environment because what little writing there was in the publication was coming from a complete lack of understanding of how production actually works.

I convinced the guys that the magazine needed a writer who had actually done the work we're supposed to be critiquing so that the content could be written from within the industry. Hey, it sounded good to me. Apparently it sounded good to them as well because they took me off the sales hook and made me their Chief Writer. I also got them to put a camera in my hand.

I had been writing for a long time but no one had ever read any of it. Additionally, I didn’t have much experience with still photography, but my college training came back pretty fast and now it was just a matter of learning the particulars of the gear. I got the company to buy a Nikon D100 upon the discontinuation of the model and off I went shooting the shows about which I wrote.

My writing was rough as was my photography. But as time went by I was able to scrape the barnacles off my hull and before long I was able to acquire the respect of my peers in the business for my writing and my photography. More importantly, the people in the industry came to trust that I would execute the requisite discretion needed for such a position. Since then I have switched over to Canon and purchased my own gear.

I’m not one who believes in false modesty as long as you always bear in mind that talent and true success is nothing more than a gift on loan from God. The success I have achieved has come from the grace of God, the support of the best wife a man could ever have and access to the subjects of my writing and photography provided by an industry that is normally quite skittish about letting writers and photographers into its inner sanctum. With that kind of wind at your back you have to really try to avoid getting good at your work.

I have since left the magazine and struck out on my own as a photographer. I will always cherish the time spent, friendships made & rekindled, and lessons learned during my time as a writer. While I will always write as a hobby, writing for and about the live entertainment industry was a season of my life and as all seasons do, it has passed. I anxiously look forward to the countless photographic opportunities that lay out ahead of me now that I can spend all of my attention on shooting.

From time to time I am asked what advice I would offer to people who want to become a writer or photographer and my initial impulse is to warn them to find another star to follow, as there are probably only two or three professions on earth that are more difficult to get into. And of the people who are allowed through that door, only about one percent of one percent can actually make a living at it.

However, I was once told to keep my creativity as a hobby and get a real job. To date I can't recall a greater or more disheartening insult. Had I followed that advice I would have missed the incredibly rich (albeit moderately profitable) life that I have had. Indeed, I would have missed my wife who, apart from Jesus Christ, is the most important part of who I am.

So I have three pieces of advice: A) Know that a creative career is a jealous mistress and make absolutely sure that you and anyone else in your life are prepared for that kind of myopic focus. B) Charge at it with all you have. Don't let anything or anyone get in your way (within ethical bounds of course). If you hit the wall make sure that you hit it with enough force to plow through it leaving nothing but a hole the size of your desire to make it. C) Know that you are the only true competition you will ever have. If you pay attention to what others around you are doing, you will fail dismally.
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