Photo of Robert Barnhill

About Me (a brief biography)

I was born in Kansas City, Missouri, in 1940, and lived there until I was eleven. At that time my mother remarried, and we moved to the Cleveland area where I went to the Shaker Heights, Ohio, schools. It was not a happy time.

Escaping from that, I went to Miami University (Oxford, Ohio), where I completed a BS degree in chemistry. I remained to take an MS as well, but after securing employment with IBM I left my thesis project uncompleted in favor of my first real travel photography adventure, which was much more interesting.

Along the way, I had also earned an AAS degree in electronics from Capitol Institute of Technology. Electronics was also more interesting than chemistry, and provided a greater benefit to my life and career as well.

In the summers from 1964 to 1968 I worked as research assistant to a biophysicist, Dr. Rita Guttman, at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Massachusetts. We worked in "squid axonology" -- study of the physical and electrochemical properties of nerve cell membrane, using the giant nerve axons of squid (Loligo pealei). My work was in the design and construction of the experimental apparatus (primarily electronics). It was the most fun job I ever had, but it wasn't a career. If you are interested in published papers on this work, google 'guttman barnhill'.

In the spring of 1969 I accepted a job with IBM, to commence in September. This presented a dilemma: I could spend the summer in non-air conditioned Old Hughes Hall, working on my dreadfully dull MS thesis project in electrochemistry, possibly but not necessarily completing it. Or I could join two friends for a six-week adventure driving up the Alaska Highway to see and photograph British Columbia, Alaska and the Yukon Territory. IBM didn't seem to care if I had a masters degree or not, and I felt certain it would be a very long time before I could put six weeks of vacation together once I started work. By this time I was hooked on 35mm photography and yearning to travel. So I bought 30 rolls of film and joined my friends for the Alaska trip. It was more or less the beginning of my travel photography.

In those days there were virtually no computer science programs in universities, so IBM had a very fine in-house training curriculum for the people it hired, which I enjoyed and greatly benefited from. Starting as a systems engineer in Cincinnati in 1969 I worked my way up the field technical ranks to become a regional tech rep, and then was promoted in 1979 to senior systems programmer in Boca Raton, Florida. I became a manager of programmers a year later, then moved on to managing special bids in Custom Products. That was the most fun job I ever had at IBM.

Alas, by the early 1990s IBM had become bloated and financially distressed and began abandoning the principles and standards originally instilled by the founding Watson Family. Mismanagement flourished, panic-driven financial controls froze just about everything (including Custom Products), many jobs were shed, and an outsider (Louis Gerstner) was brought in as CEO to rescue the company. The rescue was ruthless (to everything except his executive compensation) but successful (if that is the correct word) in turning IBM into what it is today.

Seeing little future in hanging around IBM, I took the first available opportunity to get a retirement incentive package and left IBM in 1993 to found a technical consulting company, Cognitive Concepts, Inc., after which I relocated to the Chicago area. Through Cognitive Concepts I worked as a technical consultant in broadband networking for about ten years before retiring in late 2002.

I continue to live in Lincolnshire, IL (a northern suburb of Chicago). In retirement there has been more time to travel and take pictures, and I have made use of it. That is why this site will be "mostly about photography".