This will be the only page on this site where I will toot my own horn and pat myself on the back. I promise.
Stephen Douglas Dunsford
My Early Beginnings
My beginnings with media go way back. My father was a professional photographer specializing mostly in weddings. My mother was an artist working mostly painting with oils. Though they both denied it I suspect they were just coming out of the Beat Culture and were still very much "groovy, hep cats".
My first photography related memory was around 1974- I was four- my father was getting ready for a shoot. He was getting all of gear ready by cleaning, dusting and loading his cameras. The cameras were a pair of Autochord Twin Lens rigs complete with Autochord strobes and heavy battery packs worn over the shoulder. He had handed me his light meter (I have it in one of my bags and it still works fine) and explained how it worked.
Several years later I would go with him to weddings. I would sit in the last pew with the bags and keep his cameras loaded and ready. As I watched him work I somehow learned a few things. Eventually, I would leave the pew and be more of a help. I would help with posing and wrangling family members. When Dad purchased his new Hasseblad 500C one of the Autochords became mine. I would become a second shooter. The Hasseblad became mine when he switched to 35mm SLRs. Soon after I was doing more at more at weddings. In my thirteenth year I had 35mm cameras of my own and I had my first solo wedding without Dad's help.
Meanwhile, my mother's artistic influence was having an effect on me. I was an active member in the local 4-H Club and it was the crafts that held my attention. Not long after, I was nearly an expert in macrame, needlepoint, painting, wood burning, cooking and cake decorating. I had even won a few awards!
Photography awards were the most prominent on the shelf. At fourteen I won a cash award held by The Missouri Botanical Gardens. They had moved my image to the adult class and I won a gift certificate to City Photo in St. Louis! There were numerous awards, most in young classes though.
It was around 1983 when my dad bought our first video camera. It was a real beauty of a camera- a Canon with the new-fangled, state-of-the-art Novatron tube! I could even deal with lugging the VTR around over my shoulder. My photo work continued, but my interest was video. I would shoot video of weddings alongside Dad as a special package deal. Soon after I was doing even more on my own. The Canon was stolen, but I still have the GE portable VTR. Since, there has been a lot of cameras as we would get the new updated model as soon as it was released.
At fifteen I was the youngest director with the local government access cable station. I produced my own programming. I even worked part-time at the station as playback technician a few years later. In high school I also ran its cable channel and produced original programming. I had even won a scholarship with a truly horrible video! All before I could legally drive!
I cannot imagine how dull my life would have been had my parents not nurtured my creativity. I have done a lot of cool things, been to many cool places and met some cool people. And I made some coin in the process!
Many pictures of me exist in the family albums of me with toy cars. I had a favorite spot in which I would play for hours with wheeled vehicles of varied scales, designs and scope. One photo in particular (on right) would drive new mothers into a frenzy these days as my favorite play spot was on the landing at the top of the stairs.
I never once took a tumble as I was careful for four reasons:
1.) I was told to be careful. If Mother says so. You do.
2.) The punishment for disobeying her would be worse than any injury
3.) Any injury from a fall or punishment could hinder my playtime considerably.
4.) I wasn't stupid.
I would not even speculate that my love of cars was not based on the orientation or biologically intended use of my genitalia. I do not think it is a gender based or biased. My parents would have naturally considered during their Christmas shopping that since I was a boy I should get cars, trucks, motorcycles and metal, prone-to-sharp-rusted-edges Tonka toys. (It is easier to give a tetanus shot than keep a headstrong boy from the top of the stairs.) I do not believe the toys were very influential as I also had the "Operation" game and I have not even considered anything related to surgery or the medical profession.
The automotive passion was not taught or nurtured by any means. My parents, who in their child rearing years were smack dab in the middle ground between the Beat Generation and the Psychedelic Seventies. I am thankful neither of them were too much into either craze. I prefer Stephen to some of the other popular naming fads of the time. I am content with the fact that I am not signing this "Fuzzymelon Sky Dunsford" or "Peppermint Moondoggie Dunsford". Although "Gonzo Dunsford" does have a nifty ring to it. I do not suspect in any way that there was any drugs involved during pregnancy, but my brain does tend to wander a bit when writing. Neither my mother or father pushed me to cars outside of gift giving. What they gave me and cultivated in me was the passion for art and photography. That explains half of my drive for creating Area Rides. But not the passion for cars.
My brother, on the other hand, eat, slept, worked and lived cars for as long as I can remember. After he turned sixteen there was always a car "in the works" in the driveway. I helped him work on the cars from time to time, but most of what I can remember they were dreadful times. I did the work he could not or would not do. I distinctly remember lying inside the trunk of one car mounting the shocks. I was the one holding up a transmission while it was jacked up to the engine.
It was days like those, having just plumbed the Firebird's heater core I swore I'd never work on another Pontiac ever again. I am surprised this did not compel me to swear off cars completely. I can say that my brother's interest in cars helped my parents attempt to dissuade me from cars. By the time I turned sixteen neither wanted any more "in the works" cars in the driveway.
When I recently asked my mother where she thought my passion for the automobile could have been borne she said she did not know. She seems to think I may have been born with a die cast car in my hand. I do believe this is not only biologically improbable, but I am strongly of the opinion her thought is from some deep psychological scarring due to the pain and trauma of childbirth. It was not a scale car that may have causedpain, but of an eleven pound four ounce baby with an abnormally large head popping out during natural- drug free- birth. I am surprised she harbors no grudge. But for as long as she and I can remember I have always had cars. I always played with cars. I always photographed cars. I always drew cars. I loved cars.
My Adult Career
With the exception of one job, I have always worked in photography or video. My first "real job" was at a local photofinishing chain. It happened to be the one my dad frequented so he got me the job and I gave him discounts. Other jobs were more or less the same with video production, photo finishing or both. This afforded me great pay while honing my skills and learning new ones like web design and graphics.
Cars & Media
It was inevitable that I would combine my two passions. It was around 2004-2005 when I was asked to assist a fellow photographer on a car shoot. When finished we invited the models to hang out with us at a car cruise. We shot a few photos of guys' cars with the models. It was all just for fun really. When one owner offered us money for a photo we had just shot, my photographer friend and I instantly recognized the opportunity and decided we should do something about it immediately!
A couple years later and we still hadn't achieved anything.
In 2007, I was bored and went to a car show not far from my house. I really only wanted to do some creative shots as I was toying with the idea of starting up a car photography website. At the show I met a show organizer and he asked what or who I was shooting for. I told him a brief account of my plans.
"Don't do it," he said bitterly, "There will be nothing but troubles. First you need to find someone to build and maintain the site. Then you need photographers. Then you'll need people to update the site. You will need to find real professional photographers. If you are wanting to do video then you'll need to find video guys and editors and people who know how to talk on camera. It's just a pain. Don't do it."
"Thank you," I politely said, "Now that you've said all of that I wont do it."
At that point I was determined to build a local car site.
It took a couple years of planning and tweaking to initially get Area Rides going. It was a rough start. I had to balance a career and do a startup site in my spare time. I enjoyed doing it fortunately. The site had many photos and videos and they began to get noticed in its first two years. On October 29, 2010 I decided to take a gamble and work on Area Rides full time. I quit trying to get more gigs and told my family they wouldn't see me on weekends in the summertime. I gave it three years. If it had no success by then I would give it up and go back to the real job daily grind. In September 2013, one month before the three year deadline, things finally paid off. There was success. Area Rides is here to stay.
99% of the content on Area Rides is done by me. A few photographers have contributed over the years. Some videos were collaborations with others. The website, though a CMS, was designed and built by me. The artwork is all me. The designs, the articles, the legal mumbo jumbo, the site maintenance, public relations, advertising, management, updates, announcements and more are all me. I am so glad I did not take the advice from the show organizer. As a rule, I like to hear from naysayers as I always do the exact opposite of what they suggest. There are a lot of others who have helped make the site and its continuing success possible, but I am still doing most of the work.
My greatest compliment comes from the public. Some have asked for my "Crew" to come to a show and shoot. Others have commented about how much they like what "we" do. "We" should keep up the good work they say. Though I am the size of more than one, I am still only one guy.
Yet as much as I am touting myself and my work none of it would be possible without the support of the community. It is continuing support that will keep Area Rides going. Even when I begin to get a bit burnt out, it is the overwhelming support that gets me (all of "us") back into the game.