I don’t see the world with my eyes. I see the world with my emotions. I am visually impaired. I suffer from a genetic/environmental disease that has atrophied my irises, and which has taken away my ability to see color, except in near darkness.
Born in rural Connecticut at a time when truck farms stretched across the hills north of New Haven, I have lived a life more closely akin to Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath than to that of a modern person. The eldest of five, the son of an alcoholic, at seven I began what I have described as his “journey into hell,” a reference to the three years I spent working among migrants on a truck farm near the family home. Those brutal three years, framed by my own near-death experience on the farm, opened me to a side of human existence few ever see.
The same year I went to work on the farm, I read Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey. Coupled with my experiences on the farm, these works have shaped my life. At ten I went to work in the labs at Yale, where I remained until I was sixteen. I would eventually earn a PhD in Biblical Theology from Emory University. I attended Yale and Fordham as well. In 1998, I was awarded a Computerworld-Smithsonian Medal for my accomplishments in information technology. I was nominated by Michael Dell.
In 2002, my life-long struggle with anorexia brought me to the edge of death for the fourth time in six years. A few months earlier, I had bought my first camera – a digital camera. In January of 2003, JD Milazzo and I founded The House of NyghtFalcon. I had never worked with film. I didn’t just walk away from a corporate career in IT. I walked to my humanity. What makes us human, is not logic and reason. It is our emotional encounter with the world, what Heidegger called dwelling poetically. When we open ourselves emotionally to the world, we see the world again. For the first time. In 2018, I began using vintage lenses on my medium format camera to create still images that embody my emotional vision of the world. In 2019, I began using a vintage Pentax 6×7 film camera along with those lenses.
That emotional encounter with the world is the genesis of the vibrant colors that often characterize both my work and the work of The House of NyghtFalcon. The firm has pioneered the creation of digital images that have the look of several dozen vintage films. Often regarded as the “special ops” of photography, JD Milazzo and I are equally at home on the streets of any major city, or as has been the case, in the jungles of Central America, or in a military coup in Honduras. The House of NyghtFalcon has been sponsored by a number of firms over its distinguished history, including Pentax, Samsung, Profoto, Wacom, and DxO Labs.
In the Fall of 2002, Falcon and I were at transition points in our lives. We spent most of that Fall drinking coffee, watching old movies, and most of all, learning everything we could about photography. Despite being a low point in my life, it was the fulfillment of a life-long dream. Ever since I saw my first National Geographic, I wanted to be a photographer. As a child – and even now – I have spent hours in a Nat Geo studying every aspect of every image.
Why photography? There’s something about the freedom and the creativity that I find captivating – as captivating as challenging. There are times when I am definitely outside my comfort zone – whether it’s hanging outside a helicopter on a cold winter afternoon, or in a lift-bucket high over the city of Copenhagen on a windy and cold afternoon. As dangerous as all these experiences are, they are moments when I am free to create – free beyond limits.
Photography is as much an intellectual challenge for me as it is the focus of my creative energy. I thrive on doing the kind of research that often makes a difference when we faces serious technical challenges. Falcon has often said that we “live” at the intersection of artistic vision and the outer limits of what technology will allow us to do. That is so true. I constantly look for new ways to express my vision. That’s one of the reasons, I suppose, that I focus so much on the natural world.
As a trained anthropologist, I find I have an acute sense of the moment. I couple that sense of the moment with a deep commitment to precison and detail, to finding a balance art and process. Every image is an emotional experience and I am committed to living in the intensity of every moment.