The Early Years

Daniel Grotta, young photographerDaniel’s foundation disciplines were philosophy, history, music and photography. Throughout his life, these four areas of study carried him along very different but often converging paths.

I imagine Daniel as a studious child with a wicked but quiet sense of humor. From the moment he picked up a trumpet in elementary school, he was committed to music, not just playing it, but understanding it within the context of history and personalities. Eventually, he received a music scholarship to Temple University. But a motor scooter accident that incapacitated him for several months put an end to his formal college education. After that, he gave up the idea of a career as a trumpeter, though music remained an abiding passion. (“I realized I would never be first trumpeter in a top-tier orchestra. I decided I’d rather do something I could excel at.)

That accident was a defining point, because ever after, he hungered to study, learn and understand, filling the void through his own investigations, omnivorous reading, intellectually-challenging mentors and friends, and when appropriate, forays into traditional institutions. The latter included “post-graduate” research in philosophy (phenomenology) at Cambridge University, a number of courses at Philadelphia College of Art, and the Publishing Procedures Course at Radcliffe College (which at the time was the only academic program on publishing).

Daniel’s lifelong involvement with cameras and photography also began in elementary school. When he was about 11 years old, he sold his first photograph — of ice floes jammed against a Schukyll River bridge — to the Philadelphia Inquirer. Starting so young, cameras and photography became instinctive, almost part of his DNA.

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