Photography was never a lifelong dream of mine or anything like that. When I was little I wanted to be a rock-n-roll astronaut stuntman who wrote spy novels and amazing cookbooks, and who of course dabbled in archaeology and the paranormal. I still want to be that, actually. 

 

I also knew early that I wanted to explore the world. Maybe it was my parents’ subscription to National Geographic that did it, along with James Bond movies and adventure books. I don’t know. As far as photography is concerned though, I didn’t get “into” it until I was 16 and started messing around with an Olympus OM-1. This was my first proper camera.

 

I moved to California at this same age and started attending college at night while still in high school during the day. I took some photo courses, mainly just to have access to the darkroom. For a while I spent whole days in there making magic and missing out on all that famous California sunshine. I volunteered weekly at the Museum of Photographic Arts in San Diego and worked as a photographer for the school newspaper,  The Telescope.

I headed back to Philly around four years later and somehow got the weird job of principal photographer for the Spirit of Philadelphia, a dinner cruise ship on the Delaware River. My duties were somewhat similar to those of Ted McGinley’s character “Ace” Covington from The Love Boat, although I swear I wasn’t that lame. Not the most artistic of assignments, but I did get to earn a living with a camera. My official job title was “Funtographer” if you can believe that. (I have trouble believing it myself.) I saved up for a trip to Thailand, and this changed everything.

Since then, if one adds it all up, I have spent about ten full years on the road exploring and photographing Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Asia, the Americas, and Antarctica. During these trips and over the years I have had an assortment of odd jobs, including the following: apple-picker, janitor, welder, cook, courier, hotel review writer, mover, stagehand, meatpacker, desk clerk, movie extra, picture framer, guinea pig, blogger, and songwriter-bassist-guitarist-vocalist in a few bands and several music projects. Currently I "make a living" with my photography, regularly exhibiting at art fairs around the US.

I continue to travel and recent adventures include walking over 4000 miles across France, Spain, and Portugal between 2013 and 2020, walking hundreds of miles around Ireland, and a great little trip from Mexico to Costa Rica overland in late 2019. The treks through Europe will be the subjects of my first photography books, which are an ongoing project.

Oh, and photography is not the reason I go places. It’s just a wonderful side effect of the drug that is exploration. I travel out of curiosity, because I had itched to do it since I was little, because I love the newness of every day away. And of course, while I'm on the road, I take pictures, and I think the basic recurring theme is a simple one: the extraordinary nature of ordinary life.   

Many of my images were taken with Kodak and Fuji slide films. In 2013 I gave digital a whirl, and now both film and digital are used. I mount, mat, and frame everything myself. At the very least I would like my photography to show how interesting life is, and if I can be successful at it, maybe I'll give that whole rock-n-roll astronaut stuntman thing a go. Maybe.

-gene 2021

Syria, 1999

E. F. L. pembroke

photographs from here and there