It's been observed that men tend to form adolescent attachments that may stay with them for life. Whoever said this mentioned specifically jazz and science fiction. I'd like to add photography to that list. At least that's certainly been the case with me.
All these diversions share a certain aura of macho swagger whose appeal to the adolescent is irresistible. Both jazz and scifi held my adolescent interest for a while, but photography has never lost its allure. I don't know what that might say about my temperament, but that's the case, for better or worse. I am definitely one of those people.
I began taking pictures when I was roughly twelve, starting with a box Brownie, back in the fifties. Part of the allure was definitely ease of use. I, like anyone, could make a recognizable image with barely any thought, and for a long time that was enough. It's a nearly-magical power that's hard to resist. I kind of wonder, though, why so many photographers list their equipment in their promotions, as though the camera did all the work.
Later I experienced the hair-raising thrill of watching an image swim into life in a tray of developer, and I was hooked. It probably was lucky for me that this happened just as I was starting to discover how heart-breakingly hard it can get to make a really evocative picture.
There was also a macho element--photographers are supposed to be tough and brave, and the romance of that image was a definite plus.
Somehow I began to discover what the masters could do with a sophisticated sense of their medium, and the attachment became permanent. I studied their work, bought their books: Atget, Adams, Callahan, Evans, Kertesz, Weston. I tried to imitate them all, though small-town New Hampshire life offered little in the way of the glamor that appeared to imbue their work.
But photography was one, maybe the only, thing that stayed with me through all the years since. I went to college, spent years (the sixties) trying to act--definitely a glamor victim--spent most of the seventies as what's called an adjunctive psychotherapist in a private hospital. I looked for advanced education, earned a Master's degree in communication from Penn, and was persuaded to branch out into a study of folklore, where I earned a Ph.D. in 1987.
As the nineties approached, it became apparent that a lot of people were enthralled with world-changing ideas of apocalypse and millennium, and I set out to track them in a newsletter. As these movements began to explode and implode--remember Heaven's Gate?--I was, for a little while, a talking head on TV, and published a book based on my experience (A Doomsday Reader, NYU Press, 1999) but interest waned shortly after, and I was getting old. Time to return to that first and eternal love.
Still untrained, aside from a couple of courses at University of the Arts, I reviewed the thousands of images I'd made over the years, found a few that could still stand, as it seemed to me, and went on making more. What I found in this culling was that I do best in what I call intimate landscapes: small, ephemeral marks we leave on the world, perhaps without much notice. They offer a kind of nearly-subliminal everyday weirdness that eludes us nearly all the time. The whole range of our lives can appear in these little epiphanies. Now, I think I've found a way of looking that's more or less my own. I present a few today, in hopes they will give you pleasure.