It’s been many years since I was obligated to re-design and re-format my life via web browsers. But such is life in the digital world. And so, therefore, in 2013, I introduce this new, newer, and now newest look at some of my best work from over these same many years.
What is most difficult for me to do is to attempt to persuade anyone that I am not just the guy who for years ran around the world seeking the perfect classical images with a piece of Belgian linen as a backdrop secured on a wall in some isolated village and popped up a single light source: my "SOCIAL STUDIES" series. And then echoed that style for magazines like Time Magazine (for Presidential covers), Rolling Stone (Mick Jagger, Jerry Garcia, Neil Young, and George Harrison Covers), to advertising agencies like Goodby, Silverstein + Partners (HP), Weiden and Kennedy (Nike), Arnold Worldwide (Titleist), JWT (Rolex), and for corporations like Johns Hopkins University Hospital, Issey Miyake, Morgan Stanley and Merrill Lynch. No. I won’t do that.
I am not in the business of Persuasion….. I prefer to believe I am in the business of Communication, not sales.
So, having said this, I would have always thought that my photographs would speak to the viewer regardless of what was in front or behind the subject, whether or not there was a backdrop or a scene. I was always more interested in what my eyes could record along with some hopeful accompanying insight. i was sure i didn't want the work to be disposable. i wanted it to endure and last for a long time.
When I first started in the late 70’s I had a lot of energy ~ enough, in fact, I felt I could easily photograph the entire world. Afterall, it didn’t seem that big at the time. i started photographing the Punk scene in lower Manhattan then and from there it all went global. i had to see for myself how the world spun. how they ate, how they walked, how they slept, how they danced, and how they raised their families. the world could be an odd place, and other cultures have remarkable ways of adaption and interaction quite different from the environment i've known being raised in suburban America. the "SOCIAL STUDIES" project was a series of comparitive portraits of culture and sub-culture from an American point of view.
along the way i photogarphed Rock Stars to Athletes, Presidents to Prostitutes, Authors to Actors, Farmers to Prince's, and CEO's to Surfers.
But i didn’t have any overwhelming desire to photograph the "Known Stars." – I would be happy to leave that up to others who found it so desirable. I wanted to photograph the commoner, and I identified in some ways with the ordinary. I wanted to find the allure in the ordinary and keep them human and bring out strengths in those considered more invisible. Of course, street scenes and street life in foreign places look out-of-the-ordinary, perhaps even exotic - but perhaps to us. Not to those who live in them. We live in the world of note, a world of branding. And you also have to make a living doing this thing called Art ~ that can be a challenge on its own. So, with my work I was asked to photograph for Rolling Stone, Time, Esquire, Playboy, Fortune and countless others internationally – and whether or not they could sing or make loads of money on a recently listed IPO really wasn’t important to me. What was important was to make them look good, important, "interesting" and "saleable".
I think I succeeded, and that invovled difficult balances. When I was a child in middle class America other places seemed so exotic and curious. But it is all relative, isn’t it? This entire process involved a certain amount of obsession and a great deal of compromise. for those people i wasn't interested in the art of the sale and i always found that refreshing and new. i loved the way that the old rolleiflexs handled ~ sweet and discreet. a great travleling companion. i also loved the SX-70 Polaroids, and giving my subjects one made all the difference in the world, and helped to break down and de-mystery anything which could bring anxiety to them
however, at the end of the day, it comes down to the "Art of Seeing." its much like music. we can play all day and at the end of that day you might have a tune people want to hear and share. like music, photographs have time signatures. if one is lucky, you may have 7 photographs that stand the test of time, seven tunes . those are the photographs you are remembered by. the hope is that they live on forever. you can never practice enough seeing...
In any case, i do know that i got off to a pretty good start photographing everyone in the world. i also khow that although i did get off to a good start, it appears that i have a long way to go. it has been far more difficult than i had first anticipated.
Music on the Homepage from City: Works of Fiction: Mombasa by Jon Hassell