Blue Earth
Glazer's Camera

Dr. Stuart Green: Photography as a Second Career

Whirling dervish, Ankara, Turkey. Whirling dervish, Ankara, Turkey.
© Dr. Stuart Green

A look at a successful surgeon who shifted gears to follow his passion for photography.

It wasn't long ago that most people spent their entire working lives in one career and often one company. But times have changed.

As the average lifespan increases, seemingly in inverse proportion to the average length of a typical career, many successful professionals are finding more time to gravitate toward other activities — secondary vocations that may not be their chief source of income, but that are demanding enough to be called careers.

Photography, an inherently creative and usually solitary pursuit, has proven to be a popular choice for many businesspeople with a need for self-expression. Although there is no shortage of weekend warriors with autofocus SLRs and basement darkrooms who think they are the next Annie Leibovitz, a select few have been able to become nearly as successful in photography as they were in their initial professions.

We spoke to five people who were at the top of their fields — a software engineer, a surgeon, a forensic pathologist, a financial advisor and a business executive — before taking on a secondary career in photography.

Today, all have received high praise and recognition for their photography via published books, touring exhibitions or both.

Together, their successes are proof that creative and motivated people no longer have to decide between the careers that they love and the careers that they need to pay the bills.

Surgeon to Photographer

Stuart Green is not ready to give up his day job as an orthopedic surgeon just yet. In the meantime, however, he's content to have dual careers as a surgeon and a photographer. After all, his interest in photography preceded his career as a physician.

"My father had a darkroom in our house when I was growing up," says Green. "I started developing pictures when I was six years old." He even processed his own film for many years, starting with Anscochrome, a transparency film from the 1950s. He later used E-6 processing and now works with digital photography.

In his medical practice, Green has authored or contributed to 15 books and more than a hundred articles. He specializes in correcting limb deformities, and his lectures and articles feature professional-quality photographs made in his own darkroom.

"As an orthopedic surgeon, I long ago realized that professional-looking before-and-after photographs would dramatize the improvement," he says. "I permanently bolted a neutral gray background roll to the clinic's wall. I bought a Novatron 550-watt-second studio lighting setup with two flash heads and two silver umbrellas. The images made me a popular speaker on the lecture circuit."

 Green is also a successful flower photographer. He sells images that are converted into needlepoint and cross-stitch by Rishfeld Designs and are available at needlecraft shops around the country. His interest in flowers  grew after giving a lecture on Benjamin Franklin at the Huntington Library and Museum in San Marino, Calif. After becoming a museum contributor, he was given free rein to shoot the gardens. "Fellows are permitted use of reflectors, shaders, flash equipment, stands and tripods without hassle from security," he says. "For a photographer, this is about as close to paradise as one can get."

Green is constantly improving on the art of photography by learning as much as he can about Photoshop. He enjoyed two week-long seminars in British Columbia with Barry Haynes, author of "Photoshop Artistry." He also attended two more week-long workshops on Corel Painter with artist Fay Sirkis at the Lepp Institute in Los Osos, Calif.

His book about Benjamin Franklin, "Dear Doctor Franklin: Emails to a Founding Father about Science, Medicine and Technology" (which, at press time, was to be released in January 2008), is illustrated with numerous portraits. "I did so using a combination of Adobe Photoshop CS3 and Corel Painter X to create 71 digital oil paintings with techniques I learned from Fay," he says. The cover, he adds, "depicts Franklin as I imagine him, sitting in front of a laptop reading my e-mails."

Green is now focusing on travel photography. On a recent cruise, he met a couple who are prominent travel shooters. "They liked my work very much, and we talked about my joining their stock agency," he says.

His advice for anyone who's contemplating giving up their day job for a primary career in photography: "Wait until you earn at least 50 percent of your income from photography, because it takes a while to get established."

Marilyn Morgan
Story Author: Marilyn Morgan

Marilyn Morgan is a Seattle-based freelance writer and photographer.

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