Kirkland's earliest days in photography were hardly glamorous. "I did developing in my bedroom at home and I just took pictures of anything. If there was a parade I'd run out with my simple little box camera and photograph it. I'd be jockeying for the position and trying to get the camera low or in some special position," he remembers. "And I would keep learning and reading and talking with people and then eventually I got a job after school at the Fort Erie Photo Studio. And that's where I really started to do exciting things -- like take passport pictures, photograph babies, and if I was really lucky, have a chance to photograph the hockey game for the Times Review."
The local paper may not have been Life, but to Kirkland it was nearly as exciting and it provided the drug that addicted him to photography forever. "I cannot express to you what my feeling was when I would see those images in the paper," he says. "I was living on another planet. I mean I was so ecstatic. It gave me a sense of great importance and that's really what it kind of came down to. It took me away from just being the next guy. I felt like I was really the equivalent of the football hero for that week."