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When The Work Doesn"t Come August 16 2014, 0 Comments

There are times when the work flows freely. The ideas overflow from within and there are hardly enough hours in the day to capture the images in a particular body of work. There are also the long term projects created over a period of months or even years. These projects can be inspiring and motivating as the visual progress comes to light and the tangible, physical photographs can be organized and shared as en exhibit or book.

But what about when the work doesn’t come? Occasionally, happily it has not been too often in my career, there are times when I am suspended in my work. Perhaps a photo shoot did not work out well, too many sand storms in the desert! Or perhaps a photo shoot was cancelled due to war breaking out in a country where I had planned a photo documentary shoot. Time passes and a sense of urgency rolls over me as I become concerned about not keeping my skills sharp. I realize it is somewhat ridiculous given my years of experience and knowledge of light. But never the less, the concern exists.

Although the art shows have been plentiful this year, the new work has been hampered indeed by sand storms, and trip cancellations due to war. Long term projects fill in a great deal of time but I have thrived on the creativity that comes with capturing new bodies of work.

So I offer to you a few substitutions that help fill in the gaps while I rework schedules, funding and ideas for some of the work that I have had to postpone. First, I tend to review all of my collections on hard drives. I often find “new” images that I have never printed. In the process of trying to limit a collection to 12-24 pieces, I sometimes chose one over another for the sake of not making a collection too large. Adding these “new” images or swapping one or two out can keep a collection fresh. After twenty some years I have thousands of pieces of work just waiting to see the light of day.

Secondly, I find substitute photo shoots. These are usually shorter trips but are on my list of eventual shoots. Substitute shoots often turn into beautiful collections of work. The unintended often does.

Finally, I try to visit art museums or if that is not possible, the art section in a book store. Studying someone else’s artwork helps give perspective even if it is a different art form from your own. Take it in and find the inspiration.

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The Next Photo Shoot January 14 2014, 0 Comments

January. I sit with my calendar in front of me and an endless list of places to photograph. I look at the pile. The pile is a group of projects that I have been working on, some projects requiring time and attention for years. I try to calculate how much time I need this month to get my taxes to the accountant, how much printing time I need for an upcoming competition and art show on the east coast. As I do these things, I think on a comment I have heard from my art friends for years, “This stuff kills my creativity.” I want to groan.

Even eight weeks after my return from Cuba, I mentally walk the streets of Havana in the quiet early hours when one has time to be still, the time before the sun peaks over the horizon and the world once again invades our lives. I think about my return there. I wonder when that will be. I wonder how such a place could grab hold of me so completely.

I relish the time in which I wait, sometimes for hours, for the light to reveal the lines I now seek to photograph. I live to do this work surrendering myself to know no time or day, just the images slowly showing themselves to me as if to share a secret. The light changing form from moment to moment enticing me to chase it, capture it. Slowly a timeline emerges… Show on the east coast, early spring. Late spring, Valley of Fire and Death Valley. By late summer, long term project #1…finish first draft. Dropping into an entirely different culture and losing myself completely in my work, early fall.


Texas, Mexico and The Bridge Btw Them July 31 2012, 0 Comments

 

I have wanted to photograph both the San Antonio Missions and the El Paso Missions for a long time. So, I decided to head out a few days ago. The brochures of El Paso show it off as a quaint western city just a short drive, about an hour or so, from New Mexico. I love New Mexico. So my plan was to photograph the El Paso Missions, a bit of west Texas and then head into Southern New Mexico…One should always have a backup plan!
I arrive in El Paso mid-afternoon because of the time change. El Paso is on Mountain Time. I see a sign for the “Historic Mission Trail” so I turn off onto a side road and head about 15 miles into an area that may as well be Mexico. All of the shop and restaurant signs are written in Spanish. Bars are across the store doors and windows. Not a very welcoming sight. I trudge on because it is a beautiful day and my gas tank is full. I don’t speak Spanish, something I truly regret actually, but it doesn’t look like I am going to have to speak with anyone as long as I follow the signs.
I arrive at the first of the three missions. A light bulb goes on. I have often wondered why this mission is always pictured at an angle. The photos are awkward and cramped. Now I know why. There is a solid wall about ten feet from the front of this mission. There is no way to back up and get a complete photo of the front of the building. There is something like yellow crime tape hanging out the front door and the door is locked. This is not a good sign! I don’t have a pair of scissors to cut the tape so I get back into my car and head to the next mission. This mission is also closed but wow! What a fabulous view of this perfectly kept building. The sky is blue, the clouds are puffy and white and when the sun ducks behind them, I get a photograph with perfectly even light! On I go. The third and final mission is open but I take photos in between folks coming out and going inside.
I hadn’t expected to gather those photos that quickly but given that I did, I head further into El Paso to find a place to stay for the night, grab dinner and make a quick stop at the shopping mall! I hop onto the interstate where I am cruising along listening to a fabulous rock station, when, I am all of a sudden no longer near any shopping, hotels or restaurants. But I think I am still on the interstate. I glance over to my left and there is a VERY tall wire wall. If I didn’t known any better, I would think that I was driving next to a federal prison. Then it dawns on me that that is the border wall between the US and Mexico. Border patrol cars are everywhere. I slow because I have somehow gotten onto the bridge that goes into Mexico and the concrete barriers prevent me from turning around. I have either a sheer look of panic on my face knowing that I have no passport with me or a deer in the head light look because a border patrol car pulls up behind me. Out of the car comes an officer who looks like he could bench press 250lbs without any effort whatsoever. He asks me where I am trying to go. Completely embarrassed, I tell him that I was trying to go to the shopping mall. “Oh.” Then nothing. He busts out laughing. “The mall is about fifteen miles back. You didn’t look like you wanted to go to Mexico. Just go up about a quarter of a mile and you will see a sign that says, ‘open exit’. Turn there and it will take you right back into town. You want exit twenty-five.” Dying of embarrassment, I thank him and press on. After a short trip to Dillards where I did not find what I was looking for, I check in at a Hampton Hotel, order in and spend the night watching the Olympics.
The following morning I have my sights set on the Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico. I head out this time in the right direction. The sky is beautiful, mountains rising in front of me, the same great rock station blaring and coffee in my cup holder. I am about seventy miles down the road when I see flashing lights and a sign that reads, “Border Patrol Check Point”. Now I KNOW I am on the right road but every car and truck is required to stop and show that they are legally in the country. I am no-where near the border so I am a bit irritated. A U2 song has started playing on the radio and I am probably going to have to lower the volume. I approach the border agent and we chat. Turns out we were both born in New York so we get to talking for a minute and out of the corner of my eye, I am watching four other agents hand cuff a woman about 40 years old while drug dogs are in her SUV going crazy over something!! She doesn’t look particularly upset about being in hand cuffs, although the guy she is with standing ten or so yards from her does. I look at the border agent and say, “This isn’t the America we grew up in is it?” He assures me that it isn’t and waves me on. I begin to rethink this little trip. At first opportunity, I make a U-turn and even though I am hundreds of miles away, I head home where no address is required…and no proof of citizenship is needed!


Traveling On February 27 2012, 0 Comments

 

The wide, vast lands of the west have been pulling me toward them for years. The images of the desert running for miles in front of me as I drive the western highways with the mountains rising behind, are too numerous to capture even with the frequent trips I take to New Mexico, Texas and Arizona. It is the quiet, the solitude, the simplicity of a not at all simple landscape that will not relent in its desire to pull me close and keep me there, if only for a time.

I have been living and working in the Low Country for the past seven years. Actually, this is my second rendezvous with the beautiful South Carolina coast. In the spring, there is no other place in the country that allows Mother Nature to show off all her fine glory, as the red, pink, lavender and white azaleas bloom. The jasmine scents the early morning air with its light, sweet aroma. It is truly an extraordinary event for the senses.

Yet, there comes a time, and it always comes, when a yearning to move on sweeps over me and a call to see what I have not and to photograph an unaltered landscape replaces the certainty of the home, and the life I have built in the customary tradition of “normal.” Such a time is again upon me and I grapple with the uncertainty of yet another move but am unable to dismiss the realization that I have seen so very little. For the thousands upon thousands of photographs I have taken, there are thousands more I have not. For the many ways I have learned to live, there are many more I have yet to understand.  And for the cultures of people I have been blessed to know, the solitude of a speaking landscape summons me so that I may know it. For some, roads lead them home. My roads lead me forward.

Farewell, sweet Charleston. You are steeped in an era gone by. But life must be more than about the past. Oh great west, I am in route. Your land open to me like loving outstretched arms which now hold my future.