I left the awesome job and mentor I had and headed to the Navy to pursue my dream of becoming a professional photographer. The Naval School of Photography was in Pensacola, FL. There I discovered that I was NOT a dummy like my school counselor and my grades had alluded too. I excelled in learning the way the military taught. I figured out I am primarily a kinesthetic learner and work best with hands on experiences. I had a great beginning knowledge of photography and a very strong work ethic, (thank-you Mom and Dad) when going into photo school. The school was self-paced and it was exactly what I wanted to learn and do. I was able to get through my first section of school several weeks ahead of schedule. Rather than becoming a maintenance guy for the months before my first duty station orders came, I talked them into letting me go through the next level of training. I finished that training right when my first orders came through sending me to Bolling AF base in Arlington, VA. I enjoyed my time in Arlington, the close proximity to Washington D.C. meant I could spend many weekends at the Smithsonian, take classes at the Pentagon and also to be a part of President Reagan’s inauguration crew where we processed and printed thousands of images. Cool experiences and my learning sky rocketed. I was hungry for knowledge so I figured that if I could learn to read faster, I could read more therefore, learn more. I took an Evelyn Wood speed-reading course at the Pentagon. During that course the instructor (I think it was Evelyn at the time) worked with each of us. When she worked with me for a bit she asked me to stay after to chat with her. In our discussion she told me she thought I was dyslexic. We tested. I am.
I was not even sure what dyslexia was initially, I had never heard of it. After her explanation and further research, it explained much about my k-12 education, I could not read well. I view words as images, the letters themselves move, dance, run and obnoxiously entertain my senses in a manner that prevents much meaning being derived from the words they form. My biggest fear at the time was that the Navy would find out and I would be medically discharged and no longer able to follow my dream of being a photographer. I worked on my reading extensively and throughout my time in the Navy continued to improve. As I have gotten older, I have realized that dyslexia is a gift, not a curse. There is nothing “wrong” with me but rather the education system is perpetually flawed.
After leaving Arlington, my next duty station was Norfolk, VA. I am not sure if it has the same title now but then it was called the Atlantic Fleet Audio Visual Command. It was here that I began to flourish as an image maker….also I made many poor choices that did not serve me well. I will talk about that later. I began taking night classes at the community college when I could. I focused on graphic design and getting through all of the gen ed requirements for post-secondary education. With the military I was working with optical animation and multi-media when the opportunity to join combat camera presented itself. While photo-journalism was not my chosen specialty I wanted the adrenaline buzz, I joined. I also started a small fashion magazine (more of a newsletter) and hooked up with a dance school and a fashion school. I wanted to be able to photograph models without breaking the bank. It was a collaboration between a photographer, dancers, dance instructors, fashion models and a fashion school. We shared common goals and shared our talents to move each other forward. I was continuing to grow with graphic art, publishing and photo-journalism and I still kept a daily sketchbook. I learned a great deal from this time frame; collaboration is more productive than competition. I loved the experiential learning from classes and workshops, and figured out you can do anything you set your mind to regardless of what others might think. From the outside it looked like all was well. Underneath a dark storm was brewing.