How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Photo Assisting

Mr. Negative

1998 Minneapolis.

After a string of random jobs (janitor, deli cook, house painter, darkroom printer) I fell into freelance photo assisting. Up to that point I’d been shooting black & white film with small and medium format cameras. But that’s about it. That’s all I knew.

Photo assisting became my technical education: large format cameras, color transparency film, strobe and continuous lighting, portrait and still life, on location — or in the studio. And best of all: free lunch.

Above is a photo of my assisting van, aka Mr. Negative. I bought it for $600 from the Gear Daddies band and glued outtake film in a pattern along the outside. The sliding door was bolted shut, there was no radio, heat, or AC. The windows were manual, and the ignition was hot-wired. No key required.

Voted ‘Best Black & White’ Art Car in the 1998 Wheels as Art Parade.

By David Bowman

I grew up in Chicago, studied writing in Madison, traversed the Australian outback via camel, and drifted to the Twin Cities some time thereafter.