Waterbury was born in Flint, Michigan on November 24, 1953. His father, while working for the company Universal CIT, moved his family five times over the next four years before settling just outside of Detroit. Waterbury’s childhood was spent watching countless hours of old black and white movies and reading tons of super hero comic books whenever he got grounded (which happened a lot).
Then on Christmas 1965, Waterbury got a Kodak Brownie Starmite camera from his uncle. Over the next seven years, making pictures was one of the few things that motivated him. The Polaroid Swinger that he received on his thirteenth birthday could break the ice in just about any group situation as Waterbury would have friends make silly poses and faces for the camera. Everybody loved taking home a picture. Then at age fifteen, he got a hold of his Grandfather’s Kodak Retina II and a whole new world opened in taking control beyond just framing and pushing the shutter. For Waterbury, processing and printing began. His Daily Tribune paper route made just enough money to feed his addiction to film and limited darkroom supplies.
By 1970, totally bored with school it had become something to be avoided whenever possible. Getting caught for not attending class, sent to the office, and suspended was something he became a regular at. Waterbury was still making his photographs in the basement (while trying to stay out of the way of his father).
A young art teacher at Waterbury’s high school offered to let him use the brand-new darkroom that had just been installed, since Waterbury was working on the school newspaper. Just imagine a fully stocked darkroom that he could work in away from home and to his heart’s content. It was like heaven. Not only did he find using the darkroom a great opportunity, it was the first time anyone had taken an interest in his photography. The art teacher took on Waterbury as a student in the middle of the year and showed him art! It would be the best, lucky turn in the seventeen-year-old’s life. Lucky - that the art teacher was Norm Stewart, terrific teacher, artist, and great contemporary screen printer, Best - Stewart managed to get it through to Waterbury that "its not how you did a work, but why."
Waterbury went on to work as commercial advertising photographer in Chicago. First in the catalog studio system that Chicago was so well known for and where so many incredible photographers found their start. After that, he opened his own studio, Waterbury Creative, where he says “I had a bang up time.” Working as a professional photographer and having his own place with access to just about anyone and anything for the business allowed him to continue his artwork as an avocation. Commercial photography kept the lights on and the phone from being disconnected. Art kept his sanity in check.