My first love and a proper job were as a photographer, and my first camera was a Vivitar.

I bought it with the money I earned as a babysitter working mostly for one family, who would ask me to babysit their daughter, Sarah Hoffman, so they could help me buy my first 35mm camera.

During my senior year in high school, I had developed a talent for taking candid and attractive portraits of my classmates.  My classmates were my first customers and were happy to use them for the senior yearbook.

The first time that I took a year off college, I was hired as an Au pair for an Upper West Side single mother who was, unknown to me at the time, a member of The Sullivan Institute. I had a very positive experience while living with this progressive and usual group of people.  I benefited from their shared knowledge philosophy. My best darkroom technique class for printing black and white photos came in the form of very small private class taught by a woman in the group who was a previous student/apprentice of André Kertés.

Printed using techniques learned in private photography classes
This photograph was printed using techniques learned in private photography classes

My desire to be photographer grew, and so I enrolled in a photography evening class at the New School for Social Research. The French professor of the course, who I believe, taught me how to “see photographically,” and I was inspired to apply to Parsons School of Design.

The following year, I enrolled as a full-time student at Parsons School of Design. It rather quickly became apparent that an autodidactic experience suited me best, and so I took the next year off from Parsons and traveled to Europe, turning 21 in Berlin. While living in Stuttgart, Germany, I was able to experiment with different photographic processes and work for the gallerist, Tanya Grunert.

I am forever grateful for the trust and generosity of Fritz Barth, who offered me his Hasselblad camera, with which I was able to photograph the artwork of such artist as Tony Cragg, Sigmar Polke and other up and coming, German artists.

A few of the artists were the very people who helped design my first hat boutique, Galerie de Mode that I opened in Berlin in 1988.

It seemed like I lived in Stuttgart forever. It was not all photography and travelling. Yes, I did go to Rome, Castel Gandolfo, Vienna and Venice, but I also had a bit of an identity crisis, ran out of money and ate too much cake. This so-called “New Yorker” was not accustomed to strangers sending invasive stares her way, every day. It felt like an invasion of my personal space.

I was invited to a party in Berlin one weekend. It was an incredible experience travelling through East Germany to reach West Berlin.  We stayed at an apartment in Kreuzberg, next to the wall, and just a few steps from Checkpoint Charlie. The relaxed mood of the city was so refreshing, and I quickly felt free of the insecure feelings that I had experience in Stuttgart.  Berlin was ‘lebendig‘ and I liked it.

The next week, a few weeks before my 21st birthday, I moved to Berlin, and within a year, an associate and I had secured film funding to turn my uncomfortable Stuttgart experience into a short film.