As a small child in Paris in the mid 1950s, I went to the Louvre with my mom two to three times a week. The Winged Victory was my jungle gym (literally!) and I spent hours lying on the floor, looking up at a ceiling full of Titians. My exposure to art was early, direct, and continuous.
Having discovered photography as a means of self-expression in my teens, I found myself in Gary Winogrand’s photography courses at UT Austin in the 1970s, listening to and being critiqued by Walker Evans, Lee Friedlander and John Szarkowski, who came to lecture. The sense I gained from them, that photography’s highest use is to document the human condition, along with my own innate sense of empathy, has always informed my work as a photographer.
I honed my craft through 35 years of editorial and advertising assignments. Throughout, I’ve continually worked on my own projects, beginning with large-format ethnographic studies in South America and Indonesia, and landscapes informed by the relationship of man to his surroundings. Now retired from the commercial world, my interests have evolved. I started my fine art practice shooting large format still-lifes of industrial-age tools that reference the personalities of their inventors.
More recently I've become focused on abstract moments, concerned with the patterns, colors and compositions between the easily recognizable, and my practice has become much more technique driven. While embracing photography’s remarkable technological advances, I adhere to its philosophical underpinnings, giving me great confidence in my direction.
CODE-Visual Dialogues from the Lower East Side
During previous incarnations as an editorial photographer and even as a portraitist, I’d always been a documentarian of the human condition, taking on projects that involved the homeless, poverty and urban blight, as well as ethnographic studies in Central and South America, and Indonesia. But no matter what I’d photographed, my underlying intention was to connect — to create an understanding between my subject and the viewer, even if that viewer was only me.
I still shoot what is real and in front of me, but photographing people had become a reactive exercise and now I want to be contemplative--to slow down and give myself the opportunity to look more closely -- at everything.
I spend half the year near New York and go to the city once or twice a week. I’d lived there full time earlier in my career, but had lost sight of the minutiae, the fine details of life that were in front of me, and as that landscape slowly became background, what was unique became ordinary.
Now I have time to walk and see and hear and feel the rawness of street life in New York, without the weight of other agendas. As the city continues to grow, modernize, replace its core population, and become the center of world wealth, those who struggle to stay and survive rely on outlets of private communication that are in plain sight -- they are coded messages expressing frustration and anger, possession and loss, resentment and resolution -- encrypted for their own consumption.
This past summer, that minutiae became foreground, as amazing abstractions emerged in an ever-changing collage of arguments and proclamations about turf and the politics of the ‘hood. They inhabit bulletin boards of brick, glass, back doors and entryways, tucked between the new buildings of a city that’s constantly reinventing itself.
Derived from a historical context of earlier graffiti artists, the current wave of graffiti artists’ work doesn’t scream from the sides of subway cars. While the medium still uses spray paint; stickers, stencils, waybills and wheat paste have been added to the mix. These are visual dialogues.
I’m playing with the limits of the digital medium, both in capture and in print. I’m pulling all the information possible out of a digital file and shoving that data to the edge of its ability to record accurately, while attempting to honor the subjects with a more substantive voice in the process.
I feel I’m finally looking at the essence of these artists, though they are mostly anonymous to me. It’s a kind of faceless group portrait. I want these prints to have the vitality and cacophony of the urban street, and engage the viewer in that dialogue.
In my second exhibition at Conduit Gallery, while exploring the same locations, I've turned my attention to the more abstract moments, appropriating less graphic content and focusing on the patterns, colors and compositions between the easily recognizable. This is a photographic approach akin to genre painters. Several of the images presented here address daily absurdities, such as the use of netting at construction sites as a barrier from steel I-beams that might come crashing down on unsuspecting passersby. There are even multiple layers of different types of netting material at these sites, as if one type prevents I-beam accidents while another is more successful in stopping … oh, let’s say …a construction crane. My partner Catherine used the term “optical interference” to describe these plastic veils protecting the resident from the inanimate dangers they are faced within the urban jungle.
My freshman show at Conduit two years ago concerned documentation of the visual dialog of the New York street. I wanted the prints to exude the vibrancy and voice of the conversations plastered on the city’s doors and brick facades. I was attracted to the chaos that was present, and only now am aware of how it was both a metaphor for and deliverance from the chaos surrounding the illnesses that compelled me to rebuild my life.
I went back to shoot in the city and found myself veering away from earlier subject matter and becoming attracted to the more abstract. I wanted to appropriate less, a method I’d used to reinforce tenets of the documentary ethic, and which had been the core component of my history as a photographer, and instead invest in crafting a more visceral viewpoint.
I now live in Taos, as far removed from urban life as I’ve ever been; home to awe inspiring natural beauty as well as early American Modernism, and also home to the late artist Agnes Martin. Agnes applied the grid for the sense of precision, structure and order it gave her as a panacea for bouts of schizophrenia. I’ve applied the grid rather unwittingly; a grounding mechanism that has helped me rebound from the emotional chaos of illness represented in my first exhibit CODE. I even use an Amsler grid, a device to monitor the progression of macular degeneration in my left eye.
While the content is evolving, what remains constant is the obsession with contemporary printing processes and the ability to produce a vitally dynamic image, something that makes one feel they can pull the image off the printed sheet, or just dive into it.
STILL LIFES – Portraits of the Inventors
These are images of industrial age and earlier tools, imbued with the personalities, and maybe even thought processes of their makers. I'm interested in the workings of the mind that would have crafted these implements; a visual and task based approach far removed from the algorithmic constructs of the information age. My process involves both ends of the photographic technological spectrum. Starting with a large format camera and out of production instant negative film, I then scan the resulting negative and output an archival pigment print, bridging the gap between analog and digital in a fairly seamless manner. It is a wink and a nod to the disconnect both my and my parents generation have faced in the leap from an industrial and service based mindset into the present era.
I REMEMBER WHO I WAS – Portraits of the Traumatically Brain Injured
It has been said that empathy - the ability to understand and share the feelings of another - is at the heart of the photographic act. This portrait project, examining survivors of traumatic brain injuries (TBI), was inspired by interviews with returning war veterans, whose comments consistently touched on the frustration of their injuries being invisible, unlike the prosthetics and scars of their fellow soldiers. Their behaviors were often interpreted as laziness, lack of intelligence, or worse.
The concept for this project uses densely detailed portraits, intensely lit, to map the face’s imperfections as an analogy to the injury underneath - in effect, making their unseen scar "visible". Shot with a 40- megapixel camera, and printed at 29” x 39”, the images have a dramatic and immediate impact. They are psychological studies, enticing the viewer to get to know that individual. The intent is to bridge the gulf - create an understanding - between viewer and subject. I want to create a transformative moment in the heart and mind of the person who would normally walk away.
These series and individual images are available in limited edition, 100% archival rag pigment prints. I print all the images myself.
You may also contact me for commissioned children's portraiture. It's a craft I honed professionally and a discipline I truly love. My connection with the kids is genuine and it shows.