Paul Shatz

"I was very fortunate to be raised in the Hudson Valley of New York State. The four distinct seasons of the year provide a constant change in the landscape. My early years in the 1960's were spent exploring on a Schwinn bicycle that had baseball cards in the spokes. I probably ruined a valuable Tom Seaver or Reggie Jackson rookie card, but all I cared about was discovering the woods, creeks and riverfront.

As I got a bit older, my parents would take my sister and me on wonderful family vacations around the region. We went to Pennsylvania Dutch country, the Catskill Mountains, Vermont and the Massachusetts shore. Mixed in between were many trips into New York City, where I was exposed to museums, theatre, ball games and some darn good pastrami sandwiches.

After high school I headed up north to the State University of New York at Plattsburgh. It sits between the magnificent Adirondack Mountains and majestic Lake Champlain. I majored in Geology with minors in Chemistry and Photography. My intention was to become a petroleum engineer and have a hobby of taking photographs. Little did I know how much my intentions would change. When I wasn't in class or the local tavern, I would invariably be wandering about the countryside shooting photos and admiring Mother Nature's handiwork. It didn't take long for me to realize the destruction of the Earth and the life it supports, caused by a desire for fossil fuels. Wouldn't conserving and preserving the natural world be easier with a sustainable lifestyle?

After college my desire to see more of the world drove me out west. This would be the trip of a lifetime. In the fall of 1986 a friend and I packed up my car and ventured west. 44 days and hundreds of photographs later, I landed in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The next 16 years were spent enjoying the Lake Tahoe Basin. When not earning a living as a Craps dealer in a casino, I spent my time photographing the natural landscape, skiing, mountain biking and hiking. The mountains were a source of recreation and inspiration. In addition to the casino I began another career in teaching. For three years I was on the faculty at Lake Tahoe Community College as an instructor.

2002 proved to be a critical year in my life. I decided to make a major change. I left the world of big mountains, deep lakes and wild crap tables to pursue a full time career in fine art photography. I guess I felt a nice salary, job security, good benefits and a retirement plan were all overrated. Being a struggling artist was the way to go! I know, nuts. So, I sold my home, quit my job, bought an RV and began packing.

My best friend and faithful pooch, Jed, jumped into the RV and off we went. Over the next 9 months I visited 40 states. Everywhere I went I saw beauty in the natural landscape. One particular day would prove very pivotal. This was an afternoon spent at an open house event in the studio of Clyde Butcher. Here, on the Gulf Coast of Florida, was a man continuing the important legacy of artists such as Edward Weston, Ansel Adams and Eliot Porter. His incredible talent and dedication to conservation and preservation is extremely inspirational.

It was at this time I remembered some advice my father had given me many years earlier. "If you want to learn how to do something well, go to work for someone who is the best at it." Several months and a phone call later, I was Clyde's darkroom assistant. From the summer of 2004 through the summer of 2005, I assisted Clyde in many facets of his operation. By the end of my tenure, I had learned the fine art of crafting a silver photograph. This mentoring by one of America's great photographers gave me the skill and inspiration to continue the legacy of capturing the beauty of Earth's natural world. To this day, Clyde and his family continue to provide me with guidance and support in my endeavors.

I currently reside in Charleston, South Carolina. It is here that I am focusing my efforts to preserve and protect the wildness of our natural places. My journey has been an amazing series of experiences. It all began with a precious gift from my parents. They blessed me with travel, culture, freedom and love. Best of all they gave me a Schwinn bike. I miss that bike".