I bought my first camera when I was 12 years old.
That sentence is absolutely true. That sentence was also the lede of my entry into the 2000 Pulitzer Prize for Photojournalism competition. I didn’t win, (thanks to Elian Gonzalez – another story for another time) but just having the Chicago Sun-Times editors believe I had a chance at the Pulitzer was certainly one of my career highlights.
The reaction of people when they find out what I do for a living ranges from jealousy to starstruck. It’s so funny – I am almost embarrassed sometimes to admit that I have this crazy, fun, amazing way to make a living.
But truthfully, it is the only job I have ever had.
My dad, my grandmother and my grandfather all loved to take photos. Grandpa Lachat favored Kodachrome, and boxes of his slides are still in my aunt’s possession.
My dad didn’t buy that first camera – a Kodak 126 that I saved $12 to purchase. But he did buy my first real 35mm camera – A Canonet QL 17 – for me. That camera got me through a couple years shooting for Inscape, the student newspaper at Mother McAuley High School, until I was able to save enough money for a Canon AE-1 Program from Able Camera on Kedzie in Mt. Greenwood.
So, the photography bug runs deep and wide on both sides of my family. And I caught it at a very young age. Gram used to let us kids take photos with her camera. It was magical and fun, and all these years later, it still is.
Why do I do what I do? The joy that great photography brings to the people who entrust me with documenting their families, their children, their weddings, mitzvahs, birthdays and anniversaries gives me my own joy times ten.
I do this because it is magical and fun. I do this so that my own daughters see that passion should be a part of what you do to make a living. I do this because it is joyful and important to those I serve.
I can’t imagine doing anything else.