I missed eleven weeks of high school because I came down with mononucleosis. Needing to occupy my time with something while I was bedridden and enervated, I picked up my mom's old camera. My mother, Nan Simmons, owned and used a Canon AE-1 that she bought around the time I was born; it was one of the most popular cameras at that time. While the "AE" is for "automatic exposure," there isn't much that's automatic about this relic from the 70s: it has many numbers and dials and moving mechanical parts. As a math nerd who wanted to be an artist but couldn't draw, my interest was piqued. As soon as I discovered that all the camera's numbers and dials where connected through the mathematics of circles and the number two, I was hooked. By the time I returned to school I was on my way to becoming a photographer.
Well, not quite so fast. First, I suppose, I had to spend too much money on photography equipment that only now do I realize isn't half as good as my mom's old camera. And I had to get a college degree in something that my mother wouldn't object to; so, I studied physics. I see now that my interests in physics and photography were almost one in the same: photography made light more interesting, which made Einstein's theories more interesting, and likewise for optics, quantum theory, electrodynamics, and most of modern physics... which then all made photography even more interesting.
Ok, so that was more than a dozen years ago. I then studied art, philosophy, and the philosophy of art; and I churned through more cameras that weren't better than my mom's AE-1 (and I still hadn't realized it yet). I studied the history and social impacts of communication technologies (including of photography); I taught math, physics, and photography to high school students; and I also began shooting for both fun and for work. Still, I wasn't calling myself a "photographer."
Today, well ... I call myself a photographer. My camera is finally about as good as my mom's old camera, but that really isn't too important: there have been thousands of better photographers who have done more with less. It's the recognition of those who have done more that makes me comfortable with calling myself "a photographer," not because I "write with light" or "make a living with a camera," but rather because when I call myself a photographer it is an act of reverence for a respectable form of art and work: it is a nod to its incredible history that intertwines with the making of history itself, the defining of creativity, and the construction of the modern mind and our society... and it's only just beginning! It may seem like I know a lot about photography, but I don't: I know almost nothing -- it's an incredibly rich endeavor and discipline.
I do know, though, that wherever my interests take me I will see a connection with photography -- just as I did with physics in college. Currently it's with intellectual property law; privacy rights, identity issues, and the changing nature of human expression, emotion, and communication. I don't know what it will be in a year from now, and that's exciting.
Photography isn't always a heady and intellectual endeavor for me; usually, it's quite the opposite. I often use photography as a way to connect with others and to be social and active. And other times I use photography to just get lost in the process of making a photograph -- to take a vacation in a creative expressive moment. And sometimes I use it to take a deep dive into a pool of self-reflection. And sometimes I use it to help others. And sometimes I just want to play with my camera.
To summarize, "Hi, I'm Daniel and I'm a photographer."