IN THE BEGINNING I was given a camera for my birthday. went outside, had my sister pose for a portrait. put my eye to the viewfinder, pressed down on the shutter. And something clicked.
I knew then and there I wanted to be a photographer. If it wasn't destiny, I would make it that way.
The picture came out as I had hoped. I was off and running. Literally. I was on the track team and started taking pictures of my teammates. Soon, I became my high school yearbook photographer.
1974 - Artist in art school
I got into my first choice in college. Good thing because I got rejected by my second through sixth choices.
At Rochester Institute of Technology in New York, every photo student was their high school yearbook hot shot just like me. It didn't take long for us to realize that most of us were not going to make it in the ever shrinking job market for photographers.
The optimistic "Go where you wanna go, do what you wanna do" '60s were ending, and some were already cutting their hair and "going straight," meaning becoming part of the establishment. Heaven forbid!
I transferred to the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, where I concentrated on improving my graphic design. I graduated with reading, writing, and photography skills but no clue what to do with it all. Nothing clicked, except my camera, of course.
So I took off. First I began a long slow tour across America, a warm-up trip before attempting a bigger tour around the whole wide world. I worked various odd jobs, and naturally, took pictures along the way.
Throughout Scandinavia-Freelance lecture on freelance wandering
INTO THE REAL WORLD
After an extended 18,000 mile journey throughout the USA, I headed off to Europe with a backpack, camera, two lenses, film and several boxes of slides to show around if anybody was interested. My budget back then was US$10 a day, with a goal of holding out at least 90 days.
Maybe it was my karma, but I kept running into good luck. Newfound friends offered me places to stay. Ninety days had come and gone, and I was still financially solvent to seek more adventure and hopefully figure out a plan on what to do next.
One adventure led to another, and by the end of the summer, I was making a living as a guest speaker throughout Scandinavia, giving a slide show of my American tour pictures and talking about wandering around looking for things to do and people to meet. I had an apartment, and was making more than I was spending. That lasted a year before moving on to the next chapter in my life.
Even after 50 years, 500 byline feature stories, shot three documentaries and three books, I'm basically still doing what I was doing back then.
I wander around producing stories with photography, video and writing. Of course, I've added a few more selling skills like email marketing, website development, and online advertising.
But as far as I'm concerned nothing has changed since the dawn of civilization. Everywhere on earth, people are still looking for good stories, and good story tellers.
FEATURED IN PRINT MEDIA
Sometimes, my lifestyle itself becomes the feature story.
Harris from Paris and his feature storytelling expertise has been featured in a wide range of print publications.
QUOTES ABOUT HARRIS FROM PARIS
American Photographer Magazine, USA: "Gaffin's work, with its dark tonal range, and it's disquieting cropping, owes much to Toulouse-Lautrec and Degas, two French impressionist painters ..."
E! Magazine, Greece: "We just have one question for you, Harris from Paris. On your next trip, can you please take us with you?"
Friday Magazine, United Arab Emirates: "He always comes up with incredible stories that keep his audience as well as himself a good distance from boredom."
Portrait Photographer, China: "Harris from Paris pictures are more than portraits. They tell a story."
FEATURED ON TV
I was in Oklahoma doing my thing, creating stories on the people I'd met, when I ran into the senior cameraman for Channel 9. He suggested doing a feature on my lifestyle of doing features. Oklahoma City, OK (3:10)