There is beauty (and aspects of interest) in most everyday things. I am not a technically gifted photographer, however, I like to tease out unusual visual presentations of mundane things. Through my photography I seek to elevate the easily overlooked to pleasing “eye candy.”
I don’t rely on Photo Shop or other sexy photographic software. I do employ extreme camera settings for color saturation on my old Nikons. I often also use creative framing, severe shooting angles, and I enjoy a frenetic obsession with my over/under button (exposure compensation). I happily emulate the pioneer color work of wandering shooters like Ernst Haas, Fred Herzog, Stephen Shore, Bill Eggleston and Saul Leiter.
But I also keep firmly focused on the timeless axiom that “Some images are just made for monochrome.”
I am a combat photojournalist by my seminal training. I fell into this role by chance in Vietnam. There, I had the distinct good fortune to be mentored by four eventual Pulitzer Prize winners. They pushed me from being an inexperienced young infantry soldier to be a marginally competent combat photographer.
I am still shooting—maybe just subconsciously to honor the heroic memories of my wartime mentors. Most of these legends of the lens are gone now.
The images shown here all have backstories. I think all good photography should provoke questions on the part of the viewer. But the “unseen” can only be embellished so much in an image.
Take the monochrome entitled Armless Doll, Abandoned Hovel. Columbus, New Mexico. A sharp January wind all but froze our fingers to our cameras. I was shooting a near ghost town with Aussie ace lensman, Jim Provencher. Most of the working class residents had fled during the brutal cartel drug wars here along the Border from 2010-2012. Many innocent local bystanders perished in the deadly crossfire. Among the few remaining residents, there were scores of orphans whose parents died in the gunfights. We found the Armless Doll in a hastily abandoned family abode which had subsequently been tossed many times by vandals. The doll seemed to epitomize the bleak pathos of this place. Children had become victims again and again.
Some lingering residents now sold hand made crafts in nearby towns, donating the proceeds to the orphaned children. I feel this is one my most compelling images showing the lingering sadness of Columbus. But a few hardy souls were still holding on here. So there was hopefulness too.
My work is very eclectic. I am known to shoot most anything. I have quite a few images in my files of old mannequins and public bathrooms. As much as the everyday, I venerate funk. A bit amorphous to formally define, I always recognize it when I see it. Funk covers the “odd but cool” and the “really offbeat.”
The image of the sunset embedded with the Exit sign at the Motel 6 in El Paso is classic funk.
The irony here is the shot actually captures “exiting America” across the Border into the twinkling lights of Ciudad, Juarez. Funk, as in this instance, can often effectively juxtapose two simple elements of the every day in a highlighted frame: a sunset and a commonplace building sign.
My work is also distinctly minimalist. For my images, less is always more. The tiny Dried Brown Leaves offers simple, strong natural beauty. I often follow the notion that Mother Nature creates compelling sculpture purely by chance.
The Technicolor Front Door is also minimal. Bright colors with repeating geometric forms replete with attractive reflections is also an oft repeated theme in my work. Such simple subjects often exude considerable beauty and visual allure to me.
Nowadays when I lift up my camera to compose a random new frame, I am sometimes curiously transported in my mind back to another venue. An armless doll lies amid the tangled debris of a wrecked old home site. A howling January wind freezes my Nikon hard to my numb fingers. I strain to hear cartel gunfire off in the distance, praying to just reap silence. A baby offers up a plaintive cry. And I mourn for the orphaned children of Columbus, N.M. My life in photography brought them to me. I will always be the better for it.
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