Carter Dow
Nikki Pratchios

I first developed an interest in photography during those awkward years between finishing college and trying to figure out what I was going to do next.  As my photography got better and my interest in photography became more of a passion, a good friend mentioned that advertising photography had always sounded like a fun business.  Creative, glamorous, exotic, travel, fame, and it didn’t seem like it would be all that difficult to do.  That was enough to plant the seed and I have never looked back. Thank you Wayne Craig.  That was a long time ago, back in the mid ’70s. 

I opened my first studio in Sacramento a couple of years later, without any training, experience or clients, and only a strong desire to make it work.  And it did work out very well.  A couple of years later I moved everything to San Francisco for a bigger market and now our studio is located in the little town Brisbane, and this job is still fun. 

In all the years between then and now, both photography and the business of photography have completely changed.  And I have had a front row seat to watch that entire transition from a simple camera and a roll of film to the amazing high-res digital cameras and computers that we use today.  It is all changing so fast that it is hard to keep up.  What I try to keep in mind is that it isn't the equipment that makes a beautiful picture, but the photographer who does.

For this new website, we’ve included a number of images from our archives of years past.  I hope you enjoy images we’ve chosen, and we will be adding new images as we go along, so check back often.  Contact us if you have any questions about the images, we don’t have any secrets. Throughout my career, I have always been fortunate to have the greatest people to work with including my clients, crews, vendors, suppliers and my friends.  I could not have done any of this without their help. 

And special thanks to Leslie Bull who managed the studio for me in the early years.  And then there is Nikki, who is the glue that holds this whole adventure together.  She showed up at my studio one day years ago and, lucky for me, she keeps coming back!

BTW, in case you are wondering, I am not that guy holding the armadillo, he was an actor.  But I was the guy behind the camera that day, where I usually am.  And the armadillo recovered nicely.

I have been taking photos since before my teens when I had an old Kodak instamatic camera I would drag around with me. I met Carter at his San Francisco studio in Dogpatch in 1995, while I was working a temporary office job for an inventor friend. She needed to get some professional images and brought me along with her to the shoot because she was aware of my love of photography. I had no experience with studio lighting, and always had a bit of a phobia regarding technical devices. I watched in awe as Carter played with lighting equipment and foam core to create just the right highlights and imagery magic.  

Since I lived close to the studio, Carter extended an invitation not only to come by and watch anytime I’d like, but to put me to work as an assistant, if I was interested. I spent the next several years learning how studio photography works from the bottom up, and taking courses on my own so I could master what I was learning at the studio. 

We were using large format cameras, film and polaroids in those days, and would often spend the entire day on one single shot. There were years when I left the studio to explore other endeavors, college and family obligations but Carter always remained a constant source of encouragement and support. 

After many years away, I returned to the studio to find that there had been a digital revolution and the new way of doing things left me completely baffled. Always ever generous, Carter sent me to workshops to learn what I needed to catch up on the digital front, including Photoshop and Capture One. I eventually mastered those technoligies and moved beyond my initial phobia of all things virtual. 

It has been 20 years since, and we are still going strong, learning as we go and making the necessary changes. I have been blessed to find a job I enjoy, that has also allowed me to grow and learn and eventually rid myself of my own fears. I still love shooting film and spend my personal time working on collaborative projects with various musician friends and editing music videos whenever possible, and I am looking forward to many more years of creativity and friendship.  

Through photography, I seek to discover the essence of my subjects and then translate what I see and feel into the images.
Photography for me is not only a profession but a necessary way of observing and processing life.