handout from Philip Greenspun; revised May 2007

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Biography from

My interest in photography has waned and waxed over the years depending on the available audience. I started at age 10, in Bethesda, Maryland, with my mother's Brownie, guessing distance and setting exposure based on the printed instructions that came with Kodak film. My parents had received a Leica M3 as a wedding gift and I used that to take pictures for family slide shows, which was a challenge given that the selenium-cell meter on top of the Leica was very inaccurate. On our two-week annual vacation to a rented house three blocks from the beach in Harwichport, Cape Cod, Massachusetts, I used Uncle Ken's Nikon F and high quality lenses to take pictures of the beach and some leggy Canadian girls. As an MIT undergraduate, surrounded by remarkably unphotogenic classmates, I didn't haul out my Minolta SRT-102 too often, but I did take a photo class in which we learned to use the 4x5 view camera and darkroom.

In the late 1980s, I went through a period of using medium format and 4x5 cameras to capture landscapes. The big expansion in my photographic activity came with the arrival of the mass market Web in 1993. I had put up some snapshots with a book of letters to friends and family, Travels with Samantha, and it attracted a lot of readers to my site (!). Armed with the ability to scan slides and negatives to Kodak PhotoCD at the MIT Media Lab, I produced a lot more exhibits and tutorials.

Starting in 2000, I began to notice how few different things I was doing. Back in elementary school, I had written poetry, sketched art, created sculpture, played the piano, written prose, done science experiments, etc. As a 37-year-old, I was doing only those things that I could do at a professional level of skill: writing computer software, taking photographs, writing English prose. I resolved to spend at least a few years doing only things at which I was incompetent.

The most time-consuming and challenging of my new activities was learning to fly, which I started doing in late 2001. In 2005 and early 2006, I passed the FAA checkrides to become a flight instructor. Most of my typical week since then has been chewed up teaching people to fly helicopters and to fly airplanes through clouds (on instruments). In mid-2006, I took over at after a six-year hiatus and have been spending a lot of time cleaning up the company. My photographic efforts have been limited to experiments with aerials and also testing new cameras and lenses. I tend not to haul out the camera(s) unless I have a project.

Although I own a lot of film cameras (35mm and medium format, mostly) and I especially love my Fuji 617, most of my pictures these days are with a Canon EOS 5D digital body and the system of EOS lenses that I acquired starting in 1994.

Personal stuff: I live in Harvard Square in Cambridge, Massachusetts, which is a great place for walking a dog and meeting interesting folks. I keep saying that I'm going to get married and have kids, but never get around to it, which I guess has been good for my photographic efforts since there was never a wife to complain about the purchase of a 600/4 or a Robinson R44 helicopter.