I grew up in the town of Richland, Washington, and lived the first eighteen years of my life in the same blue split-level house. After graduating from high school in 1984, I left Richland and never looked back. Since then, I’ve lived in five states (Minnesota, Ohio, Idaho, Hawaii, and New York—in that order), as well as in the Philippines and Vietnam.
I started college thinking I would be a medical doctor, but that changed after my first Chemistry exam. Instead, I graduated with a B.A. in Psychology from the University of Washington. After spending two years as a Peace Corps Volunteer in the Philippines (where I met my wife, the writer, Anne Panning), and another year working various temp jobs in Minneapolis, we went to Bowling Green State University, where I received my M.A. in American Culture Studies.
The next step was supposed to be teaching in China, but that fell apart, so we ended up managing a ramshackle resort in Spirit Lake, Idaho. That was a stopgap move, and the next year we moved to Honolulu for more graduate school. In 1999 I graduated with a Ph.D. in American Studies.
We moved to New York in 1997 when Anne was hired to teach Creative Writing at SUNY-Brockport. In 2000 I started the American Studies program at St. John Fisher College, which I’ve chaired ever since. My main area of research and writing is the social uses of photography in the United States. I’m co-author of 1000 Photo Icons: George Eastman House (Taschen, 1999), and author of Through the Lens of the City: NEA Photography Surveys of the 1970s (University Press of Mississippi, 2005). My most recent article, “Arcadian Visions of the Past,” Columbia Journal of American Studies 9 (2009), is a critical look at the uses of historical photographs in local history books.
Anne and I live with our two kids, Hudson and Lily, in a big old Victorian house in Brockport.