Lately I’m been making quite a few experimental photo based images. The most recent works are composite images combining photos from my archive with various found textures using a variety of techniques. The results range from good to downright awful. Many people who see the resulting work find it quite annoying and without conventional aesthetic appeal. Guilty as charged.
For many years I constrained myself to making photographs in the predictable way most non-professionals work, which is of course to emulate professionals. I worked especially hard to learn digital black and white photography. It is fun and interesting to produce good black and white work that fits within that conventional niche. Making a good finished photo is still satisfying to me.
I have reached a point where I need to be able to exercise more creativity in my work. I still make black and white images but they are often interpreted into something more like photo based digital art. That is not a term I embrace but it makes the point that many of my images are no longer completely photographic.
I’m not giving anything up by doing interpreted images. It just means my practice has broadened to include other types of image making. Right now I’m only using digital techniques but I hope to start physically modifying paper based images with paint and tools in the future. I’m not a great artist, but I draw inspiration from Matisse who worked with paper and scissors in his last years. He had courage to continue making excellent new work. Maybe I can do the same thing.
It is with regret that I see my country closing borders and stopping immigration. I am a second generation American. My grandparents were immigrants who came to America after the First World War. When I was a child my older relatives spoke Dutch among themselves but only English to me. My generation was to be fully American.
Looking back I understand that I’m an American because my grandparents wanted a better life for themselves and their children. I’m grateful for what this country has given me. I hope other families will be allowed to follow a similar path to a better life in this country.
People who live near the border in the United States often have family and business ties on both sides. The border may be an exact line to some but it is also a region of cultural and economic exchange. We should be careful not to deprive citizens who live near the border of opportunities because others in different regions lack opportunity. We can and should address economic problems where they exist without depriving others.
We often choose to speak of the world using confrontational language. It is worth considering whether less divisive approaches might serve us better. There are ways to accomplish our goals and maintain security that are less fear based.
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I have long been fascinated with Mexican photographers, muralist and filmmakers. They seem to share a certain perspective on the world that is unique to their country. Maybe it is an expression of deep cultural roots or possibly a reaction to traumas suffered over the last few hundred years. There is nothing like the destruction of multiple civilizations to change the way you perceive the world. Whatever it is I am drawn to the imagery of Mexico.
At various times I have obsessed about what sort of photographic ‘style’ I should adopt. What constitutes proper technique and the constraints of craft? The answer for me is to stop thinking in terms of limits. Everyone has unique vision. That is literally true because our visual perception is based in DNA and life experience. I can learn from others but I can only express what I see and feel. The same is true for the image makers of Mexico. Still there is something shared in their work.
For many years I have lived in multi-cultural Texas and New Mexico. There are rich experiences to be found in places where people of different backgrounds choose to live together. My roots are shallow in the new world unlike my wife’s family. They have lived in the place now known as Texas for hundreds of years while the flags changed over them. I am influenced by the cultures around me.
I can never see photographically in the way anyone else sees. Let alone the photographers of Mexico. My work may be informed by the work of others but it is unique to me. There is no other way.