My father, a professional photographer, gave me my first Nikkor stainless steel developing tank as a birthday present when I was eight. Photography has been a part of my life ever since. In the 1960s, my hero was Cartier-Bresson and I saw decisive moments all around me; some of the images included here date from that time. I believed so strongly in the power of photography to affect social change that I dropped out of a Ph.D. program in Anthropology (where I also studied photography with Henry Holmes Smith) to come to Chicago. I thought I would join a community photography center, only to learn that none existed in Chicago at that time. So I started one, establishing the Inner-City Photo Workshop on the Westside. I taught high-school dropouts in a storefront alternative high school, designing and building the facility; raising the funds; teaching the classes; exhibiting and publishing the work.
I then was offered a grant to establish photography programs in recently desegregated schools. That project resulted in a small book Photography in the Classroom, now available on-line:http://k12photoed.org/readings/Teller/part4.pdf. At about this time I began collecting and selling vintage photography with Jerri Zbiral. We founded an on-going business The Collected Image providing fine art photographs to collectors and museums: http://www.thecollectedimage.com. Next, I became the photographic researcher for the Field Museum, combining my academic interests with my love of photography. I spent two years locating and researching photographs for a massive exhibit on Northwest Coast and Eskimo native peoples. Having discovered the possibilities of exhibits, I left the Field and began a museum exhibit planning and design company:http://www.tmexhibits.com. We’ve done about 100 exhibits nation-wide over the past 20+ years.
In 2008 I was hired as the Executive Director of the Adlai Stevenson Center on Democracy, working with Senator Adlai Stevenson III to develop programs honoring the legacy of his late father, the former governor of Illinois and two-time presidential candidate. The Center is located at Stevenson’s former farm near Libertyville, on the DesPlaines River. I had never committed to a long-term project until the opportunity arose to spend time with this landscape. I worked onAdlai’s Woods for the next two years, photographing the same places over time. Several of those images are included here. Design has always been a strong element in my work, reflecting an appreciation of the subjective order that framing imparts. After years of working with others’ images and telling others’ stories, as both teacher and exhibit designer, making images has regained its proper place in my life.