When I was five, I refused to go to kindergarten. I declared it was for babies. I already knew how to read, but what really bothered me the most was that the kids mixed up the paintbrushes and colors at the easel so there was never true blue, red, yellow or green. Every time my teacher turned her back, I left the room and headed to the first grade class diagonally across the hall. Luckily, I had a friend there who happily shared her desk with me until the teacher noticed and sent me back to kindergarten. After many successful escapes, a trip to the principal and some testing, I was officially moved to that first grade class with beautiful autumn leaves painted on the door.
Now you would think I was heading in the direction to be a great painter showing these early signs. Two eventual realizations- I never could draw or paint very well with the exception of one piece that my Mom thankfully saved. And now I’m back in kindergarten! My book audience is kindergarten kids. I even taught kindergarten for a year!
So five was a big year for me! Besides the kindergarten ordeal, my Dad gave me my first camera. He was the designated family photographer and I became his assistant. I grew up having our family life documented in photos, stereo photos, and even 18 mm film. Once I started taking pictures, I never stopped.
At Syracuse University I studied photography at the Newhouse School of Journalism and spent my last year in Amsterdam working on an independent photography program. I spent a lot of time in art museums and taking photos documenting my travels. Eventually returning to the states, I worked at MIT and studied with Minor White. I still embrace that era of black and white photography.
Although I loved photography, I thought it was time to pursue a “real” career. I moved to NYC and received master’s degree in elementary education and museum education. At the Natural History Museum I designed interactive exhibits using photography. I also won the grand prize in Natural History Magazine’s photo contest which affirmed and validated my love of travel and photography.
My link to photography continued to be as strong as ever. During this time, I started working at the International Center of Photography as a teaching assistant, spending time with many diverse and great photographers- including Cornell Capra and Henri Cartier-Bresson. I also worked as a U.N. photo-researcher and traveled the world on photo missions for the U.N. and UNICEF documenting women, children, education and health.
It was only after my daughter, who at three years old developed a passion for books, that I had an epiphany. Instead of going to galleries and museums I spent hours in children’s’ bookstores (they still existed back then) marveling at the form and the beautiful art. I found a way to blend my love of photography with my interest in early child education. One book idea led to another. I taught myself to write. I have over 30 award-winning children’s books that I have authored and photo-illustrated. My books explore self-discovery and awareness through observations and diversity. It is my intention and hope that these books act as a catalyst to generate conversation and help children express their thoughts and feelings.
In addition to this work, I have kept up with my photojournalism. My work has been published in Time Magazine, Conde Nast Traveler, National Geographic’s World Magazine, Outside Magazine, Boston Globe Travel, Food and Wine Magazine and the online travel site Gonomad.com.
Currently I am working on a collection of large hand-painted black and white photographs that capture beautiful and sacred places that I call “Spirit of Place.” I guess I’m finally a painter too! I’m grateful to be passionate about my work and to have diverse applications to my first love- photography!