"Are you related to Diane Arbus?"
That was the question posed to me in 1980 by one of the most respected photo educators in the country, Angus McDougall at the University of Missouri. At that time, McDougall had more graduates in positions at leading newspapers and magazines than anyone else. So when he spoke, people listened.
"Are you related to Diane Arbus?" he asked. Of course, the answer was no; I'm not. He wondered because of my photos being "quirky" sometimes almost to an extreme. I didn't have a style like most other students. It wasn't typical American photojournalism. It wasn't entirely European either. It was some strange conglomeration he couldn't put his finger on so he related it to the only thing that made sense, the odd, sometimes uncomfortable, work of Diane Arbus.
While I'm not sure he meant it as a compliment, but I took it as such. My style isn't "the Missouri way," or any other teachable way, but it is my way. It's how I see the world, sometimes paring in odd ways.
I've often looked back to my time at Ball State University and am thankful I found a teacher and mentor in Joseph Costa who allowed me to be me, for better or worse, rather than a prescribed formula for how an American photojournalist should see.