A VISUAL METHOD
The first real camera I picked was a Nikon FG with a basic 50mm lens. That camera made me fall in love with photography as a visual medium. While I took a long time to refine my method, the way of looking through the lens that I most enjoy was always about getting intimate with a subject, approaching it from a distance to become comfortable with it, and then moving in close, whether through closing the physical distance or through increasing focal length. I’ve always wanted to explore details of shape and texture, to know a subject’s mode of existence.
My primary artistic and photographic influences were Aaron Siskind, Ralph Gibson, Gordon Parks, and Andy Goldsworthy. Siskind, who was one of the early practitioners of photography as an art, studied the abstract patterns he found in decaying architectural elements, like walls. Many of my studies of texture are attempts to understand Siskind’s method.
Gibson is also a genius of intimacy, focusing on lines and forms. I once heard Gibson speak at the opening of a show, and he said that it’s not the camera that matters, but rather the eye behind it. I think that’s true. It’s the process, the means of using one’s conceptional faculties that makes photography an art form, not the camera. While I trained to use a 35mm camera, develop and print my own pictures, I currently use off-shelf and basic kinds of cameras, simple point and shoot digital. That way the equipment doesn’t get in the way of seeing, but rather facilitates how I want to see.
Gordon Parks is nothing less than a modern renaissance man, Gordon Parks. I remember seeing an exhibition of Parks’s photos of leaves on watercolor backgrounds at the Corcoran Gallery in DC. I was astounded at the beauty of them. I went home immediately and started trying to create images like that.
And then there’s Andy Goldsworthy, who has an amazing relationship with the natural objects that he works with to create sculpture.
The documentary, Rivers and Tides, shows his process, how he attempts to understand nature by building objects, such as walls, or stacks of stones, or even just patterns on the forest floor using leaves.
When I walk through the forest, I want to be able to see the world a little like he does, to understand the nature of water, or rocks or sticks the way he does.