In 1991 I took a career break to record personal histories. Initially I met with older New Englanders, asking them if there was one lesson they had learned that was worth sharing. And I asked them to write about it. Once they had I would return to photograph them and create a framed piece combining a b&w portrait with their story.
Two things became quickly apparent: people would not write, and no self-respecting New Englander would be so brazen as to suggest that they'd ever learned a single thing of significance. But what would happen in the process is that people would invite me into their kitchens, maybe offer me a cup of tea, and tell me in wonderful detail about how things used to be. It was clear that I was asking the wrong question.
So I started asking people to tell me about their early years. I recorded our conversations and I photographed them as they spoke. 30 or 40 of the finished pieces were exhibited in a number of venues, one of which caught the eye of a designer at Hewlett Packard and I was soon traveling around the country gathering stories that were reproduced as murals for HP's corporate offices; murals featuring success stories in the use of their line of medical instrumentation. That work led in turn to a grant from a Rockefeller foundation to document the work of a west coast non-profit medical organization that was sending cardiac teams to Russia to perform life-saving open heart surgery on children in St. Petersburg. It was the very best of work.
Good things, however, do not last forever and ultimately I was drawn back to the business world from whence I'd come. But all those kitchen conversations, the heartwarming connections, the incredible stories, the photo shows, the flights cross country, and the trips to Russia marked the highlights of my career. Now that I've moved to Asheville -- and have finally separated from the corporate world -- I turn back to the work that has been calling me so sweetly, and so patiently, for so long.