“Working on photography is working on oneself.” --Irving Penn

I took drawing classes as a kid. My mother tells this story: After about a year of working with a pencil, I demanded of my teacher that I be allowed to work in color. When he refused, I left the drawing class and turned to pottery.

The first photo I remember taking is the one that’s now on my website home pages. I was 13 years old when I took this picture of a plastic model of the Apollo 13 landing capsule. We lived in the suburbs, and our yard was a patch of gravel. I placed the model on the gravel and took this black-and-white photo with my dad’s camera.

My first memory of a darkroom is of walking into a friend’s dad’s red-lit room and seeing wet prints in the chemistry trays. Wow. I was mesmerized by this new form of magic.

A few years later, I saw Antonioni’s Blowup. I remember vividly the amazing scene with David Hemmings in the darkroom. As he’s enlarging photos that he’d shot of a couple in a park earlier in the day, he discovers what appears to be a dead body hidden in the trees.  

I was 18 when I first went to India. My father asked me if I wanted to borrow his camera and take some pictures. I said, “I don’t need a camera. I will remember everything.” Little did I know. Years later I returned to India on my own. I took so many pictures—probably as overcompensation for my first visit.  

The first time one of my pictures was published: it was a black-and-white photo—not much larger than a postage stamp—printed in a local newspaper. I was so excited! I was still in photography school then, and my aunt, who had an antique store, had asked me to take a picture of one of her rare fabrics. I styled the fabric on a chair, took the chair outside the store, and took the picture in the bright sunlight. Kind of what I do to this day.

I came to New York late in 1985. My goal was to shoot for American Vogue and have a show at the MoMa. I always loved magazines, and I was baffled by the process that transfers a photographic image to the printed page. The who and how was a source of magic to me. I ended up shooting for Harper’s Bazaar instead of Vogue, but did shoot for Japanese, German, and Spanish Vogue for many years afterward.

The first shoot in my first studio was in 1989. The studio was on 11th Avenue in Chelsea—a no man’s land then. Now of course it’s home to most of the city’s important art galleries. That first shoot was of the film director Michael Moore. He had just finished “Roger and Me.” I’d just moved into the studio, and all I had available was one light and grey seamless paper—that was it.

In 1994 I designed a promotion piece, the only one I’ve ever done, with the help of my friend Noam Murro. The piece was a folding post card with five or six of my photos printed on it. We mailed it out and in return got about 150 phone calls and an invitation to meet with and then shoot for Harper’s Bazaar (when Fabien Baron was the creative director there).

From then on I’ve been keeping busy.