I’ve been around photography my entire life. I was in the darkroom when I could barely reach the countertops. My very first job as a kid was cleaning for Eva Briggs, the first woman to receive her masters in photography. By the age of 18 I was an apprentice for the nationally recognized photographer -Elaine Cousino - from the black and white era of the forties. Most of my young adulthood was spent doing commercial photography - weddings, products, business portraits, etc. I attended the Winona School of Professional Photography studying advanced commercial photography. I photographed Henry Ford II’s home, debutant balls, and high end weddings. Free-lancing for half a dozen studios in the Detroit area I had many contacts. Later I worked for two other studios in Montana. I hated photography so much I wouldn’t even take a camera with me on vacation.
“Photography concentrates one’s eye on the superficial.
For that reason it obscures the hidden life which glimmers through the outlines of things like a play of light and shade. One can’t catch that even with the sharpest lens. One has to grope for it by feeling.”
As far back as I can remember I have had a deep desire to interact creatively with the world – to live fully, naturally, and help others do the same. I suppose that is why I got my degree in Human Services. But it wasn’t until I was in my 40’s that I realized photography was my best way of interacting with the world. Not just as a professional, but as a human being. It is my way of being a philosopher, a poet, a writer, an activist, an architect. It is how I am best able to communicate what I think, feel, and see. I photograph without concern for what may sell. I am more interested in what may tell something about life, about the unknown, the mystical, or romantic. What started out as just a way to make a living turned out to be a way to live.
“One who meditates sees a dark void when they close their eyes. Light is seen when attention is focused in the center of that darkness.”
I’m very grateful to sell my work in fine galleries and at fine art shows and to have mature individuals buy and love my work. But I am just as grateful to interact creatively with the world, and in the words of Wynn Bullock, to “live with more integrity, to live more in peace with the world, and possibly to help others do the same.”
I am not interested in telling visual stories about people or events – I’ll leave that to others. I prefer to explore the hidden roots of mankind that are embedded in nature. I prefer to explore the mystery that is life. I disagree with the belief that human beings are the center of the universe. Everything is connected. If humans are not linked with the rest of nature then we cannot understand our place in the universe. My earthscapes are a way of understanding our relationship with the earth. The more knowledge we accumulate, the further we delve into who and what things are, the more mysterious we and they become.
“When I photograph, what I’m really doing is seeking answers to things”
—Wynn Bullock, F-64 group photographer 1902-1975
I recall back in the days of my childhood that I was always squinting and looking at the light. It was at one portrait seminar by Sherman Hines, a Canadian photographer, that I was introduced to ‘the light’ in a conscious way. I began perceiving the light, absorbing it. Since then I have watched the play of light on faces, mountains, mustangs, and forests. I am a very right brain visual person, not a left brain verbal person. I’m usually looking at the light on someone’s face while we interact more than I am conversing with them. I don’t ‘spray and pray’ when I photograph. The current fad with – at least amateur - photographers is to take as many images as possible and then go back to the computer and see if any of them can be salvaged. In fact, I take very few images when I photograph. I don’t photograph if there is not some light that fascinates me. It saddens me to think that we are beginning to think that technology can replace our own visual sense. And that the perceptual training I received as a young commercial photographer is being lost.
“It is a terrible thing to see and have no vision.”
I photograph intuitively. I respond to light. I react to action. I feel the life of a tree. I empathize with the individual I am photographing with the desire to capture their inner self. Only after I feel or see the inner emulsion of that which I am photographing do I put it on film.
“Beauty is an image you see though you close your eyes and a song you hear though you shut your ears.”
As an artist I use film because I think it relates closer to our visual and perceptual senses than one captured digitally. Perhaps that has to do with the nature of the process. It has less to do with a machine than with my hands. Digital has its place in commercial work, which I did for nearly 20 years. But it requires an entirely different set of tools than does doing art, which I’ve now done for over 15 years. Just capturing an image, either on film or digitally, does not, in itself, mean it is a work of art. Art is not just the chase of sensation, to pursue something new at any cost. It must involve both the heart and hand. Czech photographer Frantisek Drtikol said, “Art is something much, much more profound, something that issues from the depths of a soul where everything directly touches God.” Digital does not require the use of the left brain technical side for exposure and development because it is done for the photographer. Nor does it require a right brain visual process since the photographer can instantly assess whether or not the image ‘turned out’, and later they can salvage the image on the computer, without ever having ‘seen’ the light.
“It is a hard truth, but it is better to be straightforward and call things by their names; a mechanical copy of nature will never be a work of art. Only once can the photographer show his personality and that is during…composition (and choice of) subject. And with apology to the majority of photographers… (that) is not enough. After this he is a slave of a stupid machine that lies and blunders… I believe it is useless for a man to attempt art through purely mechanical means…for there can be no art without the intervention of the artist in the making of the picture.”
—Robert Demachy bromoilist 1859-1936
I prefer the bromoil process because it bridges painting and photography and therefore, somehow, it is a richer, more fully human process. I have been called a relic by people who fail to comprehend that my goal is to be more fully human, to live a natural life, and to engage aesthetics. It isn’t that I am against technology but that I am for being human. The final goal should not be the technology itself, but how technology can help us be better humans, to be more connected with our own aesthetic. The passion should lie in the realm of art, not in machinery.
“There is usually a photographic rush to get into shows and I won’t try to get in, and if they forget about me nothing will happen but if I should be part of the crowd that doesn’t matter either. So let’s wait and see. If Mr X regards me as an antique nothing can be done – that’s how he sees me and you won’t be able to talk him out of it. You see, to know anything about the present is not so easy. Maybe it’ll come to him after he has thoroughly bumped his head into something ‘modern’.”
—Josef Sudek Czech Photographer 1970 in his seventies
Contemporary is as relative as time and space.
I use film because it is where my passion lies. I would not be a photographer if I hadn’t spent my childhood in the darkroom. I love the process. It’s a place to be wholly involved with the aesthetic. I will let others decide if that same experience can be felt with a machine in photoshop. It’s not for me to decide. I have found my place in the dark, and it has shown me the light.