I was born in Plattsburg, New York September 4, 1956. My father was in the Air Force, we moved around quite a bit. We settled in Freeland Pennsylvania where I graduated from High School in 1974.After several years of working in factories, I moved to New York City in 1981
I’m a self taught photographer. After picking up my dads old Minolta SRT-101 when I was 14 and mastering it, I was taken by what one could create through photography. Throughout the years I bought better equipment, studio lighting and darkroom equipment. I learned to shoot, process and print my own black and white photographs.
Upon landing in New York City, I worked with several wedding studios and built up a list of clients and had steady work. I met Randy Northup in 1981, we moved in together on East 14th Street. We were together for 7 years. His death from AIDS was incredibly difficult. Not only for the stigma that accompanied it, but by the loss of someone I loved so much. I think that for as bad as it was, we were lucky. At that time People with AIDS were dying from opportunistic infections, suffering from dementia, blindness and many other horrible effects of the virus. Randy, over time, lost much of his weight, but when I asked how he was, he would only say, “I feel ok, just very tired”. He passed away peacefully at St Lukes Roosevelt Hospital in Morningside Heights in Manhattan in 1988.
His death was difficult for me to deal with. I began going to the Gay and Lesbian Community Services Center to have my health monitored at the Community Health Project clinic. There, they would check your blood work every 3 months, checking t-cell levels, a drop in those was an early indication of AIDS.
When I began this project, Hal Haner was the first person to volunteer to be photographed. After the shoot we became friends and he would come to my studio for visits. One day, he came by after a radiation appointment at Beth Israel Hospital. He had AIDS and was suffering from Kaposi Sarcoma, a type of cancer. He told me that they would only treat three lesions at a time because so many people were waiting for the same treatment. I knew that I had been lucky to get into the Community Health Project clinic, and that there were many people in line to get into the program. After this particular visit from Hal, I thought it was time see if I was HIV+ or not. They didn’t pressure you into getting tested at CHP, but I thought if I was taking up a slot when someone else who needed it could be admitted, then I should be tested. When the results came back negative, I was relieved. But I had already became a member of ACT UP and knew what was happening to my friends. I could not walk away, I stayed and joined the fight against AIDS.