When I was little, my mom would let me take pictures with an old twin-lens reflex camera. I had no idea what I was doing, but I had fun doing it. Then one year for Christmas I got my own 110 Instamatic camera, complete with flip flash. I was ready for the big leagues. I recently found an old photo album from my elementary days, and I’ll be the first to tell you, I really sucked as a photographer back then.
One day during my sophomore year in high school I was walking down the hallway and saw the instructor who was in charge of the school darkroom. And without giving it any advance thought, I asked him if he show me how to develop film. He said, “Sure,” and asked me if I would like to shoot photos for the school yearbook. And I said, “Sure, why not.” My first experience with a “real” camera was shooting with the school’s Olympus OM-1. I was a shy kid growing up (still am,) but having a camera with me was my security blanket. With a camera in my hand I could approach anyone. The camera was my gateway to adventures.
The following summer, when I was 15 years old, I begged my mom to let me buy my own real camera. A Canon AE-1. I was off and running and burning up film like crazy.
I started college at Iowa State as a biology major because, well, I was a science nerd in high school and I hadn’t given a lot of thought to photography as a profession. Until I found out that photographers at the University yearbook and newspapers got paid. Once I learned I could make a living with my camera I eventually wound up changing my major to Journalism and Mass Communications.
My photography career snowballed quickly in college. It started with the student publications, then eventually freelancing for area newspapers and wire services, then photography internships in Wyoming, Florida and Colorado. After college I did a second internship in Florida, followed by short stints in South Carolina and Nebraska before winding up in Minnesota for 5 years, and then back to my home state for a long photojournalism career in Iowa.
I enjoyed my career as a newspaper photographer, but times can and do change. I’m now in a new career but pursuing my love for photography on my own terms. I don’t have a set direction at the moment. I may still occasionally do some photojournalism work, but most of my time with a camera is spent looking for new ways to love photography.
This website is my new showcase as I continue my passion with photography. I do have some of my old work on here, too, but my photo blog, Visual Ramblings, will showcase my current work. There may be no rhyme or reason about what I shoot or why. My main objective, for now, is just to have fun with my camera.
— Jim Lee, Photographer