I was born in a community along the Mississippi that no longer exists. Other than the movies and dreams I had no escape. My view to the west was thousands of miles of flat farm land. The only warning of visitors was dust clouds drawing near.
With the help of my local library and a Los Angeles Phone Directory I called as many of the great cinematographers who would speak to me. In time I met them as they crossed the midwest. I spent every waking hour dreaming, observing, learning to take pictures and conspiring how I would beat the odds and get to Hollywood.
It finally happened by way of the Air Force and Vietnam. My commander saw how passionate I was and used his contacts to get me onto the sound stages and meet my heroes. When they were not available he kept me from government dishwashing by sending me to other photographers. During numerous of these excursions I helped Ansel Adams overcome his arthritic hands in his dark room.
By the end of my tour in the military I had met all of the living cinematographers, many of the most famous directors and producers. Ny master mentor was Harry Stradling ASC. I was able to watch him work from the late 50's until his death. Harry introduced me to Leon Shamroy, James Wong Howe, Arthur Miller, Joe Ruttenberg, George Folsey, and William Clothier.
Realizing that much of their wisdom would be lost unless expressed to someone in awe of their talent they allowed me to follow them everywhere, be a part of many of his meetings and on set conferences.
In the late 60's Wagner became a director of photography. He has been honored by becoming a member of the American Society of Cinematographers and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. Soon he received several Emmy Awards (Beauty and the Beast - pilot and 'Quantum Leap' - pilot). He has been nominated three other times, won and been nominated the ASC Award, He is still very active with motion picture and still photography.