People sometimes ask me who has most influenced
Often when photographers are asked such a question,
they respond with a list of famous photographers such as Ansel
Adams, Alfred Eisenstaedt, Art Wolfe, Walker Evans, Dorthea
Lange, Irving Penn, Richard Avedon or Philipe Halsman.
I, however, credit my path in photography to people
I've been close with over the past 30 years of growing up: Malcolm
A. Nicholson, Robert Dixon, Conroy Taylor and Jean Paul Vellotti.
Malcolm A. Nicholson
Also known as "Dad" (or, in earlier
years, "Daddy"), he's been an avid amateur photographer
since shortly before I was born. A longtime Minolta user, Dad
has in recent years begun to realize the wonders of digital
photography (in this regard, he's clearly ahead of his oldest
child). Likely to photograph anything interesting, Dad is especially
drawn to peaceful landscapes and images with unorthodox perspectives
(such as reflections in water).
|Butterfly. © 2001 M.A. Nicholson.
When I was in college and finally decided to seriously
learn photography, it was Dad who taught me about how aperture
affects shutter speed in equivalent exposures. He also gave
me my first "real" camera, a Miranda with a 35mm lens
that he'd bought in the 1970s. And it was his love and appreciation
of nature and of capturing that nature on film
that inspired me to photograph landscapes.
Also known as "Uncle Bob" (because he's
my uncle), he was the man who had a camera aimed my way for
most of my childhood. Uncle Bob was a photojournalist who worked
for the New Haven Register, the New Haven Journal
Courier and the West Haven News, and I was perhaps
his most common subject. By the time I was 10 years old, my
photo had shown up in those three newspapers dozens of times.
Sometimes the photos were related to holidays, sometimes to
weather or a season, and sometimes to me just acting like a
kid (a tendency I've yet to outgrow).
My favorite photo of me from my whole life was
taken by Uncle Bob. It depicts me sitting on the steps of the
house I grew up in, holding a bun-less raw hot dog (my favorite
meal at that age) while my dog, Takis, reaches over my shoulder
to share my food (I didn't mind sharing). The photo, of course,
appeared on the front page of the newspaper.
|Me as a child, with Takis. © Robert Dixon.
My uncle had a darkroom in his basement that I
was always fascinated with. I wasn't allowed in there without
him, so I'd often just look at the door in awe of the wonders
of chemical photography, wondering what magic lay in that room.
Conroy has been a wedding photographer for about
half a century. He was also one of the adults involved with
Boy Scout Troop 16 in West Haven, Connecticut. I was in Troop
16, and Conroy taught me about his art and how to use a darkroom
while I was earning my Photography Merit Badge. He also once
let me come on an assignment with him, which at the time I thought
was one of the best experiences of my life.
I lost touch with Conroy in my late teens, though
he's still working, documenting the nuptials of New Haven County
Dad, Uncle Bob and Conroy had, by their nature,
exposed me to photography from as early as my first memories.
So it's obvious how the seed of photography was planted in my
But the person who fertilized that seed was:
Jean Paul Vellotti
Also known as "J.P.," he's the person
who helped bring me from "interested" to "avid,"
and who encouraged me when I decided to try "professional."
We met in college, where we worked long hours together on the
student newspaper, the Spectrum. I eventually became
editor of the newspaper, and J.P. served as my photo editor
for a year, a tenure together that led to us building one the
most important friendships of my life.
J.P. helped me buy my first professional camera,
and for a few years helped me with lens purchases, film choices
and business decisions. He taught me how to develop film, how
to print photos, and that the Sunny-16 exposure rule is worth
trusting. He's also been my travel companion on countless occasions
of photographing stock travel photos across the United States.
If not for J.P.'s help and influence, this
website and my life as a photographer probably wouldn't
exist. Because of this, I was saddened when J.P. gave up
photography in the mid-1990s. Fortunately, though, he returned
to the craft in 2001, and in June 2002 graduated from the
International Center of Photography in New York City. JP
is working as a freelance photojournalist based in Long
Island (New York); his wedding work can be seen at HanlonMeade.com.
Have I been influenced by famous photographers
like Ansel Adams, Alfred Eisenstaedt, Art Wolfe, Walker Evans,
Dorthea Lange, Irving Penn, Richard Avedon or Philipe Halsman?
Of course I have; no photographer could reasonably say that
he or she hasn't.
But my most important influences were Dad, Uncle
Bob, Conroy and J.P. They're not famous photographers, but they're
the ones who were part of my life, who helped me hone my interest
and my skill, and who inspired me to pursue my love for making