Photography, which began as a hobby to fill a void when I left behind a woodworking shop in Eufaula, Alabama and moved to the Florida Panhandle, has now become a passion and the creative outlet that I constantly pursue to balance with the technical side of my profession.
Unlike many photographers whom I know or study, I did not grow up with a camera in my hands. Instead, it was usually a shovel, a hoe, an ax, a baseball bat or a fishing pole. I was raised on a small farm in rural north Mississippi, the first of two children born to Robert Edward Lee McCullar and Zelma Murley McCullar. I didn't choose farming, but losing my father to cancer when I was twelve meant that I had to become a farmer. I had no choice. That's how we made our living - growing five acres of cotton, some gardens and truck patches, a few chickens, a dozen or so cows, and enough hogs to put meat on the table throughout the year.
We were poor, but I didn't realize it - even though my shoes always seemed two sizes too small before I got new ones. In actuality, they were not new, only new to me; they had become two sizes too small for one of my cousins, so I got them, or at least I was in the lottery for them. I was an adult before I understood why anyone had to "break-in" a pair of shoes; I thought they came that way. Most of the families we knew were no better off than we were; therefore, I never felt any shame or sorrow about my situation, although at the time I was a little envious of a couple of my friends who lived in town (p. ~500) and ate "light bread" instead of cornbread and biscuits.
After finishing high school, I shunned college for a few years, went to Memphis, and got a job making enough money to put gas in my '57 Chevy and take the girls to the drive-in movies on Saturday nights. I owned a couple of pairs of new shoes, two or three really cool shirts, and with my Elvis-style pompadour, I felt that all was right with the world.
By the time I was twenty-two, I had gotten two educations - one from the farm, and the other from my time in Memphis, but I knew that wouldn't be enough to take me where I wanted to go, so I took a few classes at the University of Memphis (Memphis State back then), and at Northwest Mississippi Junior College, then transferred to Mississippi State University where I finished with a degree in accounting.
Upon graduation from MSU I had job offers from the Big Four accounting firms, but instead, I took a position as a Junior Accountant with a CPA firm in the Mississippi Delta. Why the Delta? Perhaps it was the thought of serving Delta farmers in the Land of Cotton that beckoned me to go there, or perhaps it was the great fishing opportunities the Delta offered, but for whatever reason I chose the Delta. It was a questionable decision, and after four and a half years I found new opportunities awaiting me in Eufaula, Alabama, and so I moved to the eastern boundary of Alabama with my wife and infant son, who would grow up there.
First, I served as controller for a company that manufactures fishing lures, but after a little more than two years in industry, I joined a friend and fellow-CPA, Martin Coates, to start a public accounting practice; a partnership that would last twenty-five years.
While living and working in Eufaula, I was fortunate to have an office overlooking Lake Eufaula and directly behind The Tavern, Eufaula's oldest structure and the studio of Earl Roberts, far and away the best photographer I have ever known. Grumpy Ole Earl and I became very close friends, and throughout my years in Eufaula, and up until his death, I spent many hours in his studio and darkroom. He shot with film in his Hasselblads, never switching to digital, but even so, I learned invaluable lessons from Earl about lighting, composition, dodging and burning, and what it took to be a professional photographer.
Thank you, Earl. You ignited in me a passion for photography that continues to grow long after you shut the door to your darkroom. You are missed, but I feel certain you are taking some heavenly pictures. You always did.
Wanderlust overcame me once again, and at the urging of my son, Lee, I moved to Florida in 2003; to County Highway 30A in Santa Rosa Beach. I live here to this day with Piper, my Boxer, and I continue to practice accounting and take pictures. You will get to know Piper and this wonderful area of Florida, if you don't know them already, through my website. I am glad you are here.
Please contact me if I can assist you in the studio or on location with personal or family portraits, corporate brochures, or commissioned photographic art.