Architecture, to me, is about the enclosure of light so, having been trained as an architect and not being able to work outside one winter, I set about capturing light with paper. This lead to building paper sculptures that I would then light and photograph. It is the pure impact of color, light and form that drove these images.
49 abstract to semi-abstract images hopefully capturing the sense that hidden in the light reflected by walls and the shadows generated by them lie embedded secrets and emotions. My first mature body of work dating from 1976.
At the core of my photography lies the belief that “Everything is also something else”. When I look at anything through a camera, I sense another world, another reality beyond what I see. If the photograph I take is successful, that ‘other world’ comes into being almost by magic, a kind of alchemy. My aim is not to record something, it is to reveal a something else.
An acorn is also a planet in space, a wall in an architectural landscape is also the sky, an avocado seed is also a human organ. A Professor of Biology once told me that I had mislabeled an image “Avocado Seed” - it couldn’t possibly be that. He was shocked when I told him that I had eaten the avocado, dried the seed, then photographed it. Viewing an image from my series TEXAS RANGELAND, a woman said it looked like a giant wave in the ocean. She was incredulous when I told her it was the face of a Brahma bull. Another person was astounded to learn that light emanating from a fissure in a dome was not a birthing scene.
My work has always been about the experience I have when I look through the camera. My focus is on the form and composition of the subject, its placement in the frame and the light that defines it. Sometimes it is the quality of the light itself or the absence of it, such as a shadow, that seizes me. The focus may also be on the emotional quality of the form and light in their abstract manifestations.
Forms can take me beyond what they seem, to something that strikes a deep chord in me. It is as if the form were a portal into a realm where “Everything is also something else”. When the form, light and composition are synchronous, in phase, there is always a palpable feeling that tells me I am on to something, at which point I strive to simplify, to strip away unnecessary elements that distract from the essence of the experience. I am called upon to tell a story and convey a feeling with an economy of means. Economy is power and I am in its grip.
Painting, printmaking and other art forms have influenced me. I am inspired, for example, by such 18th century Japanese artists as Hakuin, Jiun and Sengai. Their ink drawings are awesome in their simplicity. The spontaneity and power of their execution manifests a force and energy that moves me, as do the 15th Century rock gardens of the Ryoanji Monastery in Kyoto, Japan. What is readily apparent on the surface is only one aspect of something. A brushstroke is not just paint, a rock garden is not just gravel and boulders. There is something else, another story. Within an object, be it a bird or merely a shadow of a bird, there lies something hidden and I try to bring the hidden to light, to make manifest the inner essence of something.
"To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And Heaven in a Wild Flower,
Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour"
“Auguries of Innocence”
All of my black and white photography is produced optically, on film, and then printed in a traditional darkroom. The color work is shot on color transparency film and then high resolution BetterLight scans are made. The images are then fine tuned in Photoshop and printed as carbon pigment prints on 100% rag watercolor paper, such as Hahnemuhle Photorag. None of the original imagery was created using digital photography.
In the late sixties I was working two jobs as an architect in San Francisco. Twelve-hour workdays in a city that was the center of those radical tumultuous times. I lived a few blocks from Haight-Ashbury and my landlord and neighbor was the road manager for Country Joe and the Fish and later Bill Graham's assistant. Which meant lots of free passes to the Fillmore.
In contrast, a friend lived in the mountains just east of Santa Cruz and I spent every weekend that I could visiting him. He had been working on a masters degree at Berkeley until an artist friend of his encouraged him to follow his desire to pursue art. So he dropped out and moved to an isolated cabin. His life was very simple. He would gather giant hunks of redwood from the surrounding forest and carve them into beautiful mythical birds. He grew a long beard and wore a loin cloth, cooked simple vegetarian meals and at night he would read and draw. When he needed money he would do odd jobs for the carpenter down the road.
I admired his life tremendously because there was a devotional quality to it. Mine was so totally different. I wasn't happy but didn't know why. One day when I was visiting him I picked up a pad and pencil for some unknown reason and started drawing. Later I started experimenting with my father's old camera. In the same way his friend encouraged him, my friend encouraged me to draw, sculpt, do photography, as well as go deeper into architecture. I haven't been the same since.
In the beginning I investigated all these disciplines as a means to delve into myself further. I was looking for something and art felt like the path to find it. After a short period of time I quit my two jobs and moved to the Redwood country of Northern California to begin my quest in earnest. No longer was architecture just a job or a career. It became an art form to me. I started a small private practice in hopes of carrying out my vision. Little did I know how difficult it would be.
I was inspired by Katsura, the 17th century royal palace in Kyoto, Japan, the rock gardens in Zen Buddhist temples, Rembrandt's paintings, Goya's drawings, the sculpture of Leonard Baskin, the architecture of Barragan and Scarpa, the photography of Ralph Eugene Meatyard and the late work of photographer Wyn Bullock. I also immersed myself in music. Everything from the Doors to Eric Dolphy and John Coltrane, Bartok and Beethoven. I was like a sponge, soaking up everything, looking for something. That is, until Pathfinder #14. Well, it wasn't titled that at the time. It was just a photograph that came up in my developer very late one night as a record of part of a house, a staircase, I had designed and built for a client. I knew what I was striving for in the design of the house, which was an experience of light. But here it was, taken even further, in the photograph. Suddenly, it became clear—that photography was THE path to investigate light. That realization gave me an incredible sense of freedom. Drawing, sculpture and architecture hadn't done that because photography, to me, was ONLY about light. Light seemed to be my motivator. This became a major turning point in my life. The thought of becoming a full time artist scared me and liberated me at the same time. Here was the perfect opportunity to devote myself full time to an art form.
Since that day, I've been exploring with the camera, which I see as a key to a lock in a door, not as a tool to record the physical world.
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