Neil… the short version

My life with a camera began when I borrowed a neighbor’s Yashica 35mm rangefinder to take black & white photos at my mom’s family reunion. After that, I had a couple of versions of Polaroid cameras and a Kodak Super-8 movie camera my uncle gave me on my wedding day. Nothing fancy early on. Passed up on a Canon 35mm in favor of a portable typewriter while I was in the Navy over in Vietnam, but was intrigued by all the fancy cameras guys were buying for dirt cheap prices overseas. Shoulda, coulda, woulda…

When I returned from military service, I worked a while with my father-in-law, Ernest Ertzberger, as a block mason for about a year before going back to college in Gainesville to earn an Associate degree in Journalism.  I was handed a camera by my media professor and told to go take some photos of a visiting politician running for the US Senate. I got help from a fellow student, Lanier Griffith, on how to load and shoot the camera. That led to a good friendship and a path to a career. After a night course in photography at Quinlan Art Center, I discovered that I could earn a degree in photography at the University of Georgia, where I had studied art for a couple of years after high school and before the Navy. Lanier and I started up a little home studio photo business partnership until we transferred to UGA in Athens in 1973 when my wife and son and I moved there to earn my BFA in Photographic Design a couple of years later.

I have been in the photography business, in one form or another, since 1972.  After college, I took on freelance assignments part time while I worked as the Supervisor of Audiovisual Services at Georgia Power Company.  In 1979, I left Georgia Power and have been a full-time professional photographer ever since, operating both portrait and commercial studios in DeKalb County, Atlanta, Lula, and Gainesville, GA. Since 1985, I have specialized in Team & Individual Sports photography, servicing the metro Atlanta and Northeast Georgia markets from Conyers to Woodstock to Gainesville. I’ve taught photography at various times over the years, starting with adult evening courses at Clayton Junior College (now Clayton State) and adult enrichment classes at the Ford Assembly Plant in Hapeville for Georgia State University in the 1980’s. Most recently, from 2009-2010,  I was an adjunct professor of photography at North Georgia Technical College in Clarkesville, GA.  I still do some tutoring on occasion and am still active in youth sports, events, portraits, real estate, corporate headshots, and other kinds of photographic sessions, with an occasional wedding thrown in from time to time.

In my life without a camera, my first job was as a car washer at Hoyt Pinson’s Texaco on Athens Highway and since then I’ve been (not necessarily in this order) a gas station attendant, a truck driver, a fireman, a rescue and construction scuba diver, a carpenter’s helper, a block mason, an engineering apprentice and a US Navy file clerk, a factory worker, a sign painter, a pottery worker, a handyman, a photo equipment rental business owner, a city councilman, a newsletter editor, a mayor, a husband and a father. I’ve even done a little restaurant cooking and bottle washing.  I’m sure there are a few other things I’ve left out along the way, but all these things have led me to where I am today and I’m grateful for all the experience it has given me… especially being a husband and a father, and most recently, a grandfather.

Born in Dahlonega, GA, I was raised in the Riverbend neighborhood of Gainesville, GA and graduated from East Hall high school in the middle 60’s. I’ve been married for over 49 years to Jane Ertzberger Copeland and we’ve lived in the Lula area since 1994. We have one son, Brett, who is married and lives in the Sardis area with his wife, Jeannie, and their son, Evan.  Brett still works occasionally with my company, and I occasionally work with his, Natural Juice Cafe, an award-winning healthy food eatery in the Limestone Parkway area of Gainesville, GA.