There are many spectacular landscapes on this planet, but to me the greater American Southwest is one of the most hauntingly beautiful. It can sometimes take getting used to after being in a wet, green, environment, but still, it exerts an influence far beyond its actual space. Maybe because it is still relatively empty its possible for a person to connect with something besides him or herself. Some of the most profound human experiences have come from similar desert environments. We obviously need cities, but we also need places like this too, and there is a limit to what it can and should provide without losing itself in the process. Some places are mostly better left alone. This is one of them.
This work is from 2003 in the botanical garden near my former home, Descanso Gardens. My intention was to document this space throughout one entire year, to simply be in the present moment and discover what presented itself. Mostly, because I'm used to traveling a lot, this was a new experience, a challenge to renew my perceptual awareness on a frequent basis. Looking at the same thing over and over again is very different than seeing something for the first time, when the obvious pops out. When you've already looked at a scene fifty times, its much more of a challenge to expect a new perspective on the 51st try.
Roughly 200 miles east of San Francisco Bay at almost 7,000 ft elevation lies Mono Lake, a large, salty, ice age Pleistocene remnant known for the tufa formations which line certain parts of the shoreline. Although nothing has erupted in recorded human time, the area is volcanically active, and as a result there are numerous hot springs in this part of the Eastern Sierras. When these bubble up underwater, the dissolved calcium carbonate precipitates out of solution and forms the tufa formations, which are now visible due to the other notable thing about the lake. Beginning in 1940 the City of Los Angeles diverted some of the feeder streams, a story illustrated in the movie Chinatown, eventually causing the water levels to drop up to 40 ft. thereby exposing the formations which were previously mostly underwater.
These formations are not only fragile, but they weather easily, so that these images taken in 1989 and 1990 are historical records of what no longer exists, either in this form, or to this extent. In 1994 the City of Los Angeles was ordered by the courts to modify its stream diversions and maintain a higher water level. This varies by year and season, but the water level is now much higher than it was in the early 90's. It's still magnificently beautiful, attracting millions of migrating birds, but there are now many fewer exposed tufas.
These images of water surfaces were taken over the space of a month of almost the exact same spot from the end of one dock on a small lake in Upstate New York. It took me over 30 years of observation before I felt confident enough to photograph and capture what I always knew was there. This lake is alive, with different moods, one just has to become aware of its attitudes. These images incorporate several layers superimposed on each other: the actual water surface, modulated by the wind/breeze, and sometimes by the interacting boat wakes bouncing off the shoreline; reflections of the sky; reflections of the hills on the opposite shore; and occasionally the lake bottom visible through the very clear water.
In traveling around Arizona and Utah, somehow I gravitate to the edges of things, mesas, buttes, cliffs . . . Strange that in an area known for wide open expanses I should find myself captivated by the vertical dimension, but that's what happens. Is it the contrast, the unexpected, the sense of magnification in 3 dimensions? I don't really know. It just happens. From high vantage points on clear days you can almost see forever, just enough to realize how much visual information is normally missing and already lost due to atmospheric pollution. Even now there are fewer clear days than there were only 20 years ago and the “normal” visibility is a lot less than it used to be.
Plants, and in particular trees, shrubs, and grasses, make earth's life cycle possible not only by providing food and a living space for many animals, but also by utilizing sunlight to convert water and carbon dioxide into the oxygen that we breathe. Trees actually use so much carbon dioxide that in the non tropical northern latitudes, the CO2 level varies from a higher point in fall and winter to a lower point in spring and summer when the photosynthesis cycle is at its maximum. For us humans plants take the rough edges off our own hard surfaces by their amazing variety of sizes, forms, colors, and textures. Those variables create patterns that are endlessly fascinating, wrapping us in nature's enfolding arms.
I've always been fascinated by the concept of change. We think we live in a static environment, but in fact things are always in flux. We change. The land changes underneath us. What we observe at any given moment is simply a point in a larger continuum of things shifting. Each of these images, in its own way, reflects the illusion of stability, yet at the same time exemplifies the changing nature of our universe.
My work has evolved from a compulsion to record what I see in the world around me to an extension of my own spiritual practice. Beginning in the 1980's with large format panoramic cameras (6 x 17cm) and today with a medium format digital camera, their creation still requires eliminating distractions, letting go of preconceived ideas, opening up to possibilities, a willingness to make mistakes, persistence, and lots of patience. These bodies of work stand as examples of what is eternal, outlasting all our human foibles.
1963 – 1968 Attended University of Hawaii, Honolulu, HI. Graduated 1968.
1968 – 1971 U. S. Naval Officer, served in Vietnam
1972 – 1973 Attended Rochester Institute of Technology, Rochester, NY, one of only 3 professional photography schools at the time.
1973 – 1975 Studio Manager and photographer at Lewis Studios, Fairfield, NJ, a 20,000 sf room set studio
1975 – 1976 Freelance photographer, Denver, CO
1976 – 1989 Personal photography projects
1989 Assisted photographer Stephen Wilkes, introduced to iconic panoramic photography
1989 – 2005 Uniquely photographed many parts of the American West, Alaska, Mexico, & Canada with medium format panoramic cameras, selling to clients internationally.
1989 – 2017 Contributing stock photographer to Panoramic Images, Chicago, IL. Images used in ad campaigns for companies that include General Motors, National Geographic, and Delta Airlines, among many others.
1994 – 1997 Traveled extensively, primarily in South East Asia, photographing golf courses on assignment for architects, advertisers, magazines, and developers
1999 Self published Tufa & Moon, Mono Lake poster to accompany gallery showing and 12 ft print installation at Mono Lake Committee building.
2001 Acquired one of the first very large format professional inkjet printers and over the next year taught himself how to use it.
2003 Intensive year long photographic study of Descanso Gardens, a botanical garden near Pasadena, CA. Work praised by Anne Lyden, Associate Curator of Photographs at the J. Paul Getty Museum who compared the images to Gustave Le Grey’s 1849 images of Fontaineblue outside Paris.
2003 Began several year assignment documenting the City of Anaheim, CA, for their corporate publications.
2004, 2005 Authored two annual panoramic calendars consisting entirely of own images distributed nationally by Shearson Publishing Co, Minneapolis, MN.
2006 DESCANSO: An Urban Oasis Revealed published by Balcony Press, Los Angeles, CA (not self published) and distributed by Chronicle Books and Princeton University Press.
2007 – 2014 Primarily devoted to residential spiritual community, Ananda Ashrama, La Crescenta, CA, where I developed a series of photographs for the ashrama’s 100th anniversary calendar and contributed to their publications. Also produced stock images for Panoramic Images, Chicago, IL, from the US, Europe, & India.
2015 Moved to Santa Fe, NM, to continue and expand photographic career, with studio/gallery in home.
2016 Successful member of the Santa Fe Studio Tour with high sales volume.
2007 PX3, Third Prize, Professional Nature Book
2007 USA Book News, Best Book – Photography:Nature “DESCANSO: An Urban Oasis Revealed”
1993 Stan Stevens Tours, Alaska Photography Contest, 1st prize, $5,000
1990 Sierra Club photography contest, 2nd place, Horizons
2006 Descanso Gardens, La Canada Flintridge, CA. In addition, video of garden images continues on permanent exhibition of the work.
2003 Earth & Water, Susan Spiritus Gallery, Newport Beach, CA
1999 Mono Lake Committee Gallery, Lee Vining, CA
1992 National Audubon Society, Playa Del Rey, CA
2016 Transitions, EditionOne Gallery, Santa Fe, NM
2014 ASMP Member Exhibit, Photo LA, Los Angeles, CA
2014 Portraits of the Garden, Sturt Haaga Gallery, Descanso Gardens, La Canada Flintridge, CA
2006 Wiford Gallery, Santa Fe, NM
2003 & 2002 Wiford & Vogt Gallery, Santa Fe, NM
1998 Ansel Adams Gallery, Yosemite National Park, CA
2002-2006 Wiford Gallery, Santa Fe, NM
1991-2001 Craig Krull Gallery, Santa Monica, CA
1994-1998 Ansel Adams Gallery, Yosemite National Park, CA
1992-1994 Photography West, Carmel, CA
1991-1995 Vision Gallery, San Francisco, CA
Santa Barbara Museum of Art
Gibson, Dunn, & Crutcher, Newport Beach, CA
Trust Company of the West, Los Angeles, CA & New York, NY
Union Bank of California
LA Cardiology, Los Angeles, CA & Palmdale, CA
Descanso Gardens Guild
2007 Landscape photography intensive, Descanso Gardens, La Canada Flintridge, CA
2007 Vroman’s Bookstore, Pasadena, CA
1998 Photo Expo, New York, NY
1997 Golf Asia Conference, Singapore
LA Times, Home Section, May 10, 2007, “Descanso, seen in a singular light”. Book review written by southwest author and explorer Craig Childs.
KCET Television, Life & Times public television feature interview by Val Zavalla, May 2007, Los Angeles, CA
DESCANSO: An Urban Oasis Revealed, hardcover and softcover book published by Balcony Press, Los Angeles, CA, 2007. A year long intensive panoramic study of a botanical garden, with essays by Anne Leyden, Associate Curator of Photography at the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles; David R. Brown, former President of Art Center College of Design and Executive Director of Descanso Gardens; & Robert Smaus, former Garden Editor of the LA Times.
Camera Arts Magazine, Finding the Spirit of the Scene, October/November 2004, an article self written describing personal printing process.
Golf Vacations Magazine, photography column, spring 1995 to July/December 1998
University of Hawaii, Honolulu, HI, BA Asian History, 1968
Rochester Institute of Technology, Rochester, NY, Professional Photography, 1972-1973
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