In the summer of 1998 I arrived in Chicago straight out of graduate school followed by a massive pile of debt. Finding a place to live was easy - my partner had already been going to school there for some years - I just moved in to her place. Finding a job was a little more difficult. I had never had a real job before.
Of course I had done part-time work, mostly employed by the various schools I had attended: the service desk of the library, darkroom monitor in the art department, and in graduate school I taught beginning photo classes. After I left home, the majority of my funding through those years had come from scholarships, financial aid loans, and family. I was 27 years old, and I hadn't ever once earned an honest living.
All through school, going back almost ten years, I had studied photography, and like a lot of art majors I didn't have any practical skills or experience. I also didn't really know what sort of jobs were out there or how to market myself to get them. People always say to do something you enjoy, to work at something you love. Figuring that was good advice, I applied to every photography related job I could find : adjunct college instructor, mini lab operator, camera store sales, photographer for a lakeside tour cruise ship. I would always get called in for interviews, but either I didn't have enough experience with commercial photography or was considered untrainable. I simply had too many weird arty notions in my head.
For weeks I spent numb days puttering away as an office temp, learning my way around a copy machine, applying my knowledge of the alphabet, and wondering if anyone would ever notice I wore the same tie everyday. I had nearly given up on pursuing photography related work, when A-1 Photo Services called up for an interview. They said they needed a printer and I knew my days in collared shirts were over.