Photography became my primary skill in the visual arts when I was sixteen. I've learned from mentors and teachers: Lamar Philpot, Wallace Wilson, Evon Streetman, Randy Batista, and Laurie Hitzig. Alfred Stieglitz's vociferous defense of photography as an art form in itself appeals to me, though Stieglitz's subjective and sometimes vindictive determinations of who was in and who was out of serious artistic consideration does not. I prefer a mode of photography that puts most of the effort in up-front, before the shutter snaps, and reserve the use of many of the techniques Stieglitz approved of as manipulations to exceptional cases. The primary manipulation of the photographer is to concentrate the attention of the viewer to the same subject as attracted the photographer. The fewer distractions from that aim, the better, or as Evon Streetman once told me, the photographer is responsible for everything in the frame. Just as different patterns of brush strokes or their absence is normal variation in painting, use of elements that may normally be considered flaws in a photographic ideal are simply a part of artistic expression in photography. These should be applied sparingly in my view, but my experience has been that knowing when they are appropriate is a talent worth fostering.
While I did earn my living via photography for several years (in photojournalism, then studio photography, scientific photography, and public relations work), I chose a primary career path with interdisciplinary science, combining organismal biology and computer science. I've been there and done that for a lot of things. In addition to the visual arts, I'm a master falconer, a SCUBA diver, and handle dogs in agility competition. I've worked in medical and veterinary research labs, programmed the fire control computer for F-16 fighter aircraft, programmed a mapping system for the USAF, done research with the US Navy Marine Mammal Program, advocated better science education with the National Center for Science Education, consulted with attorneys on a high-profile first amendment case, and co-created a group science blog that was recognized as one of the top science blogs in the world. I'm working on an automated acoustic data collection system to collect information on snapping shrimp activity. I like to keep busy. You can look me up on Wikipedia and Google.