He was born and raised in Eugene, Oregon, and later earned degrees at Stanford University and Ohio University. Photo internships included stints at the The Kansas City Star., Florida Times-Union, and Charleston (W. Va.) Gazette newspapers before he returned to work as a photographer and photo editor in Kansas City. Erik moved to the Anchorage Daily News in December of 1984.
Half-Latvian by birth, he speaks his mother's native language. In 1990 he spent a month in Latvia tracing family history and documenting the drive for Latvian independence. He also presented an Alaska photo exhibit while there. The Daily News published a five-part series from his visit, which Erik wrote and photographed. He has had many memorable assignments including the Exxon Valdez oil spill, several Iditarod races, a drive up the Dalton Highway and a trip down the Yukon River by barge.