Photosophy
 
 
 
 
 
 
PHOTOSOPHY
 
As a teenager, excited about cameras as toys, I stopped on the side of a road one night, accompanied by no one and certainly free from any well-defined artistic notions.  Compelled for some reason to shoot what seemed so commonplace and ordinary just for the doing of it, I found that the resulting photograph challenged me to reconsider my thinking about these magical little machines.  It was certainly not the object of the camera now that excited me most, and not even the object of the photograph.   It was the idea that images were capable of escaping the mundane and powerfully communicating with the viewer, and the image I produced that night continues to impact those who see it in ways that most cannot quite express.  When I recently presented a copy of it to friends as a housewarming present, however, the wife, and art lover to her core, softly responded to it by saying “How lonely...”
 
It’s taken many years now for my thoughts about photography  to coalesce into something resembling a philosophy, and I’ve struggled mightily with the transformation that began back when that image served as a kind of midwife, but I’ve never really questioned whether photography was an art form.  Not that I knew anything about Alfred Stieglitz or much about the history of photography, but I never questioned photography as an art form because it was just so patently obvious that it was.  It was one of those “the thing speaks for itself” kind of certainties, and even though my exposure to fine art was beyond limited, I now felt like I knew what was possible in my own work, and I was becoming increasingly aware that there were an awful lot of photographers out there, and they didn’t all produce awful work.
 
So I continued to shoot at night for years, entranced by the many structures and surfaces that had been built and lit simply so that our modern need for travel was made as convenient as possible.  Buried within the varied but largely utilitarian forms were sculptures, I knew, and could see them best at night when the forms were lit in a way that displayed the amazing happenstance of how a panoply of politicians and engineers, contractors and construction workers could all go about their work without concern for art, yet the results were sometimes stunning.
 
It still amazes me that people drive in and past and through and over and under any number of incredible installations every morning, noon, and night, yet it’s only when you show them a photograph of a slice of it do they even entertain the notion that it’s beautiful, but this returns me to my point.
 
It’s the loneliness that’s communicated by the photographs that touches them, I believe, because that feeling of how one can be lonely even when surrounded by evidence of how we are not alone is what’s at root here, I believe.  The series began to branch out into that brief but special time when day and night merge, and eventually I began to “see” loneliness in the daytime as well, but, for many years, it was not so difficult to find loneliness in my work because people were so rarely included in what I considered my “real” work...
 
Of course, I’ve photographed commercially as well; weddings and the like.  Never enjoyed it much, this being expected to dumb down your vision to fit the mundane.  Even on their “big day”, people tend toward mundanity and sameness and repetition, but the lives being lived at those times are still real.  Sometimes it seems unreal, but I think the way those times are the controlled and mediated makes it seem that way.  All the posing and pursuit of some hyper-perfection in the photography strips it of any of the qualities that make it real, but I have been allowed to photograph twice when dear friends were in the process of getting married, and each time they gave me explicit permission to go where I wanted; to shoot and show what and how I wanted, within reason of course.
 
In those two bodies of work, loneliness exists, as well as joy and bonding and celebration and conflict and confusion and doubt, and this tells me that the portfolios deal with real life, even if they’re made at in situations when most photography attempts to rebuff and reject any notions true to our actual lives and existence.  Part of me feels like these friends (and their families) will never know how grateful I am to them for opening their lives to me because they see the work as me giving them a gift, and it surely is, but I, too, feel blessed to be so honored and trusted as to be given such deep access to such precious times...
 
 
ABOUT FACE
 
It’s not just a bad play on words...  
 
It’s a DOUBLE bad play on words...
 
A lot of photographers have this disease of language when it comes to their images, I think,  but I could not pass up this title because it gets at my experience of shooting this work as much as it does the work itself on the simplest level...
 
After years of photographing landscape, I began to open up to my own version of portraiture; people in the ever-varied environments of our lives, and this transition has been a great source of growth for me.  In some ways it felt like an “about face,” but then again, it was really just about photographing the folks who populate my world.  You know, family members, friends, complete strangers stopped at a gravel intersection in their pickup truck in backwoods Mississippi at dawn...
 
The faces of those who love me, the faces of those who don’t know me, the faces of those who wonder why I subject them to my selfishly stealing their time and souls with the incessant click, click, clicking...  No, I have no doubt that I have crossed the line more than once as I’ve gone about this business of photographing folks...
 
I can only hope that the preservation is accepted, if not embraced.  It’s not a posed face, for sure, so I know that there’s a certain vulnerability involved when someone insinuates their camera into your life in much more than just a casual way.  It does feel a bit like stealing something, I admit, and I feel the same way when a camera is pointed at me...
 
 
WOMAN’S WORLD
 
Why do I choose to look at the experience of women in this way...?  I didn’t mean to...  It’s just that I’ve been photographing for a long time, and the images have continued to multiply, and I’ve begun to see connections between some of them, and, finally, one day I realized that I could assemble a body of work on the topic of woman’s experience in this world, from my male point of view, of course...
 
Why did I want to do that...?  I don’t know, exactly, but my life has been so steeped in women.  In the neighborhood where I grew up, the only other kids my age were girls, so I played less violent games, perhaps.  And my mother offered me security and love in an environment that men sometimes made quite unpleasant.  And I’ve watched friends give birth to girls whom I’ve watched grow into young women.  And I’ve spent the better part of my life falling in and out of love with women who have, along the way, allowed me to photograph them, and sure, sometimes those images have been overly romantic, but sometimes not, and now I’ve rambled another paragraph away and I’m still not exactly sure about this body of work except to put it out there and let it live.
 
I’m sure I’ll add to it.  I have plans to, actually, so if you want to check back in, new work will reflect how my life has continued to be steeped in women, and I’m quite ok with that, because I can honestly say that for a very long time, I’ve wondered just how our world would change if women had more actual influence, and not be forced to assume what positions they might so long as they go along with the premise that you gotta be male to be strong...
 
 
COMIC VIEW
 
It’s been suggested to me that these images do not constitute “serious” photography, but I’ll say this: it’s seriously enjoyable shooting in the “illustration mode” of a digital point-and-shoot that’s always with me.
 
Yes, these images are MASTERED this way, and I never cease to be amazed at the standard reaction of “Wow...!  That’s so COOL...!  Can I see it ‘normal’...?”
 
No, this is “normal” for these images, and there’s no going back.  Call it commitment or have me committed; I don’t really care.  Sure, I could take “normal” shots and PhotoShop them later, but an amazing thing happens when I’m shooting in this fashion...  It’s as if the circuitry of the camera has had my desire to “see” run through it, so the way I view of the world changes, and it’s not so different than shooting black and white in the world we perceive in color, really.
 
Even more to the point, the images generate a certain amount of meaning from the very way they are created.  We are, after all, living in a time of transition, and I, for one, am not interested in either grousing about how digital does not measure up to film, or trying to force it to...  Digital is no better or worse than the artist’s ability to use it to communicate, and I am quite delighted to have The Duke appear at The World’s Only Corn Palace in the Heartland of America, because it is a bit cartoonish and touching; this clinging to a time that was so decidedly analogue...
 
Go ahead, tell me I’m not serious about what I’m saying.  I don’t care, and I’m enjoying photography as much as ever...
 
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