How about this: a group of photographs connected by geography, day, time and year, proximity, mindset, intellect, experience, ambition, a sense of irony, and perhaps humor.
Hm.Too much? Incomprehensible?
Let me see if I can unpack this a little. (Note: this won't work very well if you are casually passing through this post. To get where I am going you'll have to open the links to look at the referenced series. Apologies, for I am a career teacher. Perhaps you'd allow me to place you in my classroom for a short time.)
I was visiting friends who are down a peninsula aways in rural Maine in mid-summer. Off I go with my friend and we come across Small Point, Maine about 7 a.m. on a late July morning. Walk and photograph. Just as in countless times over a now-long career. Look, point the camera, acquire frames like stacking cards, one influencing the next, the previous conditioning what next to look for over 30 minutes or so.
The pictures are about where I am but also what I think and what I am selecting and making. Sequencing and juxtaposition playing a key role at the same time as light, color, texture and form.
In my work, I have always been interested in sharing why I make a decision to make a photograph and also in what I do to it to own it. My pictures have seldom been just about the thing itself, even though I am as reliant as we all are for great content.
The morning had great content.
Back to these new pictures, with a disclaimer or acknowledgment that my sense of what a series is and what it takes to make a series has changed definition throughout my career with now being no different. In early days, pretty rigid, as in Nantucket and Yountville: flat light, wide lens, close in with dense content that is urban. Later, as in Grain Silo or Salton Sea: unfolding interest in color, spacial depth, making internal statements while working with a far more open landscape. Embracing digital tools and inherent quality and flexibility. On to late mature works like Field in 2016, very pure black and white and all the traditions that embraces, but with some very contemporary concepts contained within. Or San Jose Squares in 2018, with consummate photographic quality aligned with truly unusual ways of seeing an ordinary city landscape.
To now, the concept of series work having percolated and morphed through a physical move to a new home, a family in crisis, some deaths, a pandemic, and a country in real disarray over three years or so. How could the pictures I make not change? Well, they have. If our art is not a reflection of who we are and what we think and feel I would question the honesty of the art.
Yes, I am getting to the pictures.
First up, an arbitrary and manufactured interest in doubling up, to form a structure or containment, for we can't aimlessly photograph everything. Later this all fading out, going to triples and then that fading away too. Again: early days rules and rigidity. Today? In mid-2022? Not so much.
So, where does that leave us? Some new pictures and some sense that things are different, at least in intent. I believe there is less baggage in my photographing now. Freer from past positions and responsibilities, released from the effort to make "significant work" and free now to just photograph.
I would very much appreciate your thoughts. Is this a post that is clear and concise or garbled and meaningless?
The effort to imbue our pictures with meaning beyond just an impression of what is in front of the camera is one of photography's great challenges. We know people have done it and their genius is commendable. But one method that has traction is in sequencing, juxtaposing, contrasting, and framing. I learned a lot from Nathan Lyon's Notations in Passing and I suggest you would too.
Have I struck a chord in your efforts to be better or to make work that has staying power?
Let me know at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Or comment below.