Someone once told me I could become anyone I wanted to be. They never said I had to pick just one. This site is about photography, acting, writing, martial arts, philosophy, faith, business, web design, and the discipline of unconventional living.
People are often surprised to hear that I dropped out of high school after my junior year and never went to college. “You’re so intelligent”, “How do you know so much?”, “Wait, you grew up in the south? Where’s your accent?” I’ve heard it all. As a child I didn’t feel that intelligent. School was a challenge for me and I didn’t feel a sense of connection to the generalized one-size-fits-all academic curriculum. Social structures felt awkward and confusing. 7am is a horrible time to ask kids to be awake, yet remain sedentary at a hard slab desk…. I was definitively NOT a morning person. I had ideas and ambitions – compulsory school got in the way of them… plus it seemed terribly unjust that we had to do all that “work” as unpaid employees of the state. It wasn’t that I disliked education (learning new things is what I thrive on), it was a system that dedicated how and what to learn that I felt at odds with. So I changed the odds.
When I was 13 I wrote, illustrated, and published my first comic book. It was your typical story of troubled heroes vs evil villains as they fight for humanity’s future. It was received well and had great local distribution. Story telling became an outlet for me. I wrote constantly and soon began adapting my ideas for screenplays. I got my first camera and built a rudimentary editing system when 14. That summer I shot half a dozen short films – all action genre complete with ninjas, car chase scenes, and cliche monologues. By the time I was 15 I had already found my passion in writing, film production, acting, and doing action/stunt work (I also received my first black belt that year). Prior to getting into film I had a very thick southern accent. It took a little over a year to train myself to speak without it, but I succeeded. My sights were set on Hollywood and nothing would stop me.
Something stopped me. Just before my 16th birthday I had an experience that forever changed the way I saw myself and the world around me. I’ll save the details of that story for my book (coming soon), but the change was that I became a follower of Yehsua, and my focus shifted from personal ambitions to humanitarian causes. I spent several months volunteering with a relief organization in Central America and when I returned home I began volunteering with an inner-city ministry that provided food, clothing, and support to one of the city’s poorest neighborhoods. I continued with my public schooling, but it seemed increasingly unnecessary. The material was often redundant and my social life was largely in the humanitarian community. I had absolutely zero college ambitions – I already knew who I was and the type of person I wanted to be. So after my junior year I rushed through an accredited correspondence program to finish my remaining credits and received my high school diploma. I spent what would have been my senior year as a community volunteer.
Volunteerism is awesome, but the pay sucks. I supplemented my lifestyle by coaching gymnastics part time (yes, I like to flip too), but it wasn’t enough to make ends meet. An acquaintance had recently opened a new technology consulting firm and invited me to join his team. I grew up during a time when personal computer technology was new and few people understood how hardware and software worked. I was one of those few and my experience made me a perfect fit for this hip nerdy startup. Within months I was leading a team of internet technicians and making more money than I knew what to do with. I ended up giving a lot of it away as I balanced my time between volunteering with the city’s poorest residents and helping more affluent residents enter the world of broadband connectivity.
I still did some acting on the side and had a reputation for martial arts and action work. Shortly before my 19th birthday I received a call from the president of a production company. They were beginning development of a new touring program – two stage shows traveling in tandem – one with a humanitarian/activism slant and one with a profoundly religious message. They wanted me to join them as a producer, choreographer, and performer. I said yes. Creating 2 touring shows is one thing, booking a tour is something completely different. We needed high quality promotional material and an amazing website to promote our new shows, so we looked inward. One of our team members had an extensive graphic design and fine art background, several of us were writers, and I was fairly adept with web technologies. The designer and I teamed up and created a plethora of marketing material, including one of the world’s first interactive animated websites. The effort was extremely successful and helped us book 3 solid years of tour dates. We had a lot of people ask about our marketing materials and if we could provide services for them as well. The designer and I worked very well together, producing material for other organizations and businesses… but we also had a romantic flare. So we got married. Shortly after, my wife and I opened our design agency, Selah Studios.
Our business quickly went from just graphic and web design to brand identity development and marketing strategy. In 2004 we restructured and changed the agency name from Selah Studios to Abrasive Ink (partly because a client once told us we were very abrasive and it’s what they needed to discover their brand’s potential). The company grew and we worked with hundreds of small, medium, and large companies across the US and Canada. In 2011 we stopped taking on new clients and I accepted an offer to manage a department at a Fortune 500 media company while my wife went full time with out non-profit organization, abrasiveMedia.
In 2014 I decided to return to my entrepreneurial artist roots, splitting my time between our non-profit work at abrasiveMedia as the director of Project Awake, branding and marketing work with The Hero Agency (formerly Abrasive Ink), and my work as a photographer (which is probably how you found this site to begin with).
And there you have it, a brief history of a photo-ninja-actor-nerd-writer-activist-business guy from Nashville, TN.