20050817_paris_augustin_0002 copy

St. Augustine Church, Paris, FR 2005

“Some people walk their dog; I walk my camera.”

I believe the power of photography lies is its connection to the real world. Photographs can move us unlike no other form of artistic expression. How many times has someone handed you a photograph of a person and said, this is so and so? Of course it is not really;  it’s a piece of paper. We know that cognitively but at the same time there is a visceral connection constructed between the person photographed and the viewer.  Susan Sontag  in her seminal work On Photography, said, “Whatever the limitations (through amateurism) or pretensions (through artistry) of the individual photographer, a photograph — any photograph — seems to have a more innocent, and therefore more accurate, relation to visible reality than do other mimetic objects”. 

With today’s technology, it is possible to make photographs into whatever one chooses. My photographs are reality based. However, I do consider myself a cook. When a chef takes a piece of raw beef and cooks it in his or her own special way, it is, after cooking, still a piece of beef.  Similarly, I make raw camera files and “cook” them my way. 

My work is “project orientated” in a effort to create a narrative with a series of images, usually made over time on the same subject.  I call these series interpretative documentary projects. They have their own life, to which I surrender and follow. (The universe has rudely taught me not to resist.) I am never quite sure where I will end up. I’m a flâneur (wanderer) and an expert at getting lost. What I find most fascinating are the incongruous aspects and the surprises I find along the way.  For example, one of my series is centered around Pére Lachaise Cemetery and another around Joan of Arc. Pére Lachaise is a place to put dead people in the ground for the living to visit, but at the same moment it has a forlorn sensuality that argues for romance and reproduction. Nothing is romantic about being dead.  Furthermore,  Joan of Arc was an uneducated-sixteen-year-old-peasant girl: nevertheless, she rallied a nation on the brink of extinction to defeat the invading English army, thereby creating the modern map of Europe. Large armies are not often led by a woman and heretofore never by an uneducated militarily untrained sixteen-year-old female. Furthermore, I know of none since. 

Like everyone, I have preconceived notions about subjects I find interesting, but what I find most often upon investigation is that I was wrong. I think if I found my opinions correct, I’d stop making pictures. It is not the destination.   When I get interested in a particular subject, sometimes triggered by music or lyrics of a song, I have a tendency to become obsessed. Being a child of the sixties, I want to “grok” my subject. I use my camera to investigate, learn and portray my feelings about what I see. I read everything I can find about my subject before and during the making of my photographs.   I think of my images as if they were chapters of a novel. The images themselves are “documents” because  they are reproductions of what the camera recorded when I tripped the shutter. However, they are — at the same moment– my beliefs, feelings and understandings of the subject filtered through my editorial mind’s eye using camera angle, exposure,  lens properties,  shutter speed,  F-stops and a bit of “cooking”.  I don’t claim they are “the truth” or unbiased. Roland Barthes said that all pictures are always two things at the same time:  What they are of and what they are about.  My images are “of” a subject but they are “about” my beliefs, feelings and understanding of the subject. In the end, all photographs are as much or more about their creator than the thing photographed. 

The project that reveals the most about me is Le Flâneur. It is not a novel-like similar to other projects. It is  more like a series of  essays. It reflects my interest in culture, cities and my sense of  humor. I’m an unapologetic city boy and my camera is my dog. For me walking has a higher purpose than its salubrious benefits. A stroller, loafer or saunterer with a camera would be more descriptive. For me, experience, consumed slowly, is the essence of the good life.