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I found my first camera at my feet – literally. 

It was a cheap, beat-up camera abandoned in an Army exit center. I took it to college with me where, funded by the G.I. bill and stunned by the grim outcomes of war, I threw myself into Cultural Anthropology and decided to try Photography – both in hopes of understanding a baffling world. 

Among my first classes were Belief Systems and – no surprise – Introduction to Photography. In the former, I was assigned to observe religious rituals. In the latter, I was almost laughed out of class for my pitiful camera with its clunk-clunking mirror and soft-focus lens. I took extra hours at my night job and bought a used Nikon with a fast, wide-angle lens. It came just in time to photograph my first subjects: faith-driven snake handlers. 

The experience shook me to my core. I saw trembling men drink poison and kiss rattlesnakes. I heard a preacher tell the attendees that fear could cost them their last chance to be saved. I saw that same preacher killed when a snake bit him. 

I was horrified. But I felt driven, almost desperate, to understand that level of faith. Inspired by Minor White's words, "The external can be used to reveal the internal," I pointed my camera everywhere, exhaustively documenting all kinds of people and places – civil rights workers, nightclub denizens, Meals on Wheels recipients – in hopes of internal glimpses. I managed to find a few. 

But meanwhile, photography overall was changing fast: from film to digital, then from objective to abstract, and my fascination with documentary images began to expand. 

At the same time, my eyes began to change, not just in how they worked, but also in how I saw through them. More and more, common objects began to fascinate me – the more minuscule, the better. Even common dirt, shot in close-up,  became fascinating.

I moved to a Georgia barrier island and pointed my camera down. I dug my feet in the ground beneath and sensed it talking to me. 

I understood what William Blake meant when he wrote of seeing "a World in a Grain of Sand." At the edge of the ocean, where life began. eternal forces form endless images. The world spins, and the winds blow where they will, forming ever-changing patterns in the tidal pools and in the sands and in our minds. We too have been formed by the Earth, and in our ancient, animal brains, she speaks to us still. 

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