Trusting Your Instincts

In 2013 I was working as a Photo Pro at a dive shop, teaching underwater photography classes, diving, and selling a few prints through the dive shop. I got an unexpected call from the person who oversaw artists at the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show—another photographer was scheduled to do a few seminars on underwater photography during the Boat Show and had to cancel at the last minute—would I be interested in filling in? And would I be interested in an artist/exhibitor space? HECK YES I would! (Of course, I knew nothing about putting together any kind of display, but I wasn’t passing up this opportunity).

I had a lot to figure out in a short period of time. I knew I wanted to be different—I wanted to trust wholly in the work I showed to people. I believed in my own vision; I didn’t care about showing the subject matter I saw so many other photographers duplicating. I’d always been told I have a “good eye”, and it was important to me nobody would confuse my images with someone else’s. It was also important to present my work uniquely. I first ordered aluminum prints for my own home in 2012 and when this opportunity came up, I knew I wanted aluminum prints. Other photographers in my area were still using canvas and I knew presenting my images on aluminum would make a big impact on anyone who saw them.

I bought some black metal gridwall panels and hardware to fasten them together, ordered a few aluminum and paper prints from a lab I’d used during my family photography days, and figured I was all set. Right? I was not at all set, but when a lady from Oklahoma was looking at art (while her husband shopped for a boat) ordered six pieces of my work…I was hooked! The feeling of someone buying my artwork was incredible!

I eventually started doing more art shows and over some years it became a major part of my business. I looked around and saw some artists who had their displays completely dialed in—and I saw some that showed me what I did not want to do. Over the years, I invested in and improved my display: taller panels, a professional tent, bigger pieces, lighting for my booth. I had a couple of misses, too—but I learned from them. And with those changes came a long line of vehicles to transport everything needed for art shows: I started with that SUV, then came the minivan with the seats removed that towed the 5’x8’ trailer, finally landing on the tall Transit van I use today.

In 2021, I also took a huge chance in altering my body of work. For years I showed/sold only my underwater images—and I was lucky to be successful. In 2020 I took a trip to Africa (because it was on my personal bucket list) and the trip was a wakeup call for me. I felt my images were truly unique from others I had seen, and I knew I could appeal to a broader audience by showing them. While at the airport in Tanzania on my way home, I called my wife and told her I wanted to change my business: it would now be called “Oceans and Africa” to encompass both my underwater and safari images. She was hesitant because what we had been doing was working…you know the old saying about not fixing something that isn’t broken. But it felt right, and I was excited! It was scary, and it worked!

I’m always trying to improve—whether it be improving myself, my photography portfolio, or my art show display. I’ve never sat back and thought “this is good enough”. I’ve built a loyal customer base (and continue to build one) because I never wavered from my instincts—whether it’s showing a new image, doing a new art show, or changing my body of work—and I never will.

Art Show booth today!
Why I do it!