Photo by Ed Landing
I began creative life as a teenager, as an aspiring visual artist, but instead became a published writer of poetry and fiction, later non-fiction, later yet an editor––all the while making photographs as a sidelight. I rationalized that my visual sense supported the imagery in my writing, and this was true, and it worked. I thought of photography as a burrow made by an underground animal, a long, continuous shape of forward motion visible from the surface but not emerged into daylight. I didn’t give it a conscious place in my creative life until I reached the end of my active writing life several years ago––and it was like meeting an old friend absent for years: familiar but different, finally present in form and daylight. Our conversation picked up immediately where we’d left off, and photography is now my primary creative practice.
I still want to tell stories, or chapters of them, but visually this time. I consider my photos metaphors, poems of the eye. Over the past several years I've been fortunate to exhibit some of them in galleries and venues in and around the Capital Region of New York––though there are photos here that don't necessarily translate to gallery walls.
Like an editor, the photographer should be invisible. (Note that I'm not saying anonymous.) But photography isn't about me; it's about the world out there. Or about you, the viewer of it.
I look for the here-and-now of the world. If I have a subject that I've returned to at length, it's photographing people engaged in collective dissent––part of my commitment to social justice, and part of my love for the “street” (definition fluid), where life happens with every step. Mostly I characterize my eye as eclectic (or democratic): every subject gets a chance to stand up and be seen.
Most of the time it’s the world that presents the complexity of elements necessary for a “good” photograph, but sometimes I abstract it from its conventional bones. Water and glass and their potential for mystery, mirror images, and shape-shifting are often general themes. Sometimes I use Photoshop to enhance, or achieve an emotional response, or make something suddenly beautiful (or abstract) that might otherwise be ordinary.
I mix black and white and color in portfolios. I like to break the rules. What I don't do: commercial photography, selfies. Nor apologize for realism, nor for seeking beauty. Nor do I consider photography a competitive sport.
This website is a gallery, an exhibit, a book, an artist's portfolio. Who knows when these analogs will occur again, or ever? Here, Collections focus on a common subject, while Photo Essays center around a narrative or theme.
Some of these photos date from the mid-1970s through the 1990s; I’ve scanned and rescued them. In most cases I haven’t attached dates to them because I want them to be part of my body of work to date and not distinguishable by time. “The feet can walk; let them walk. / The hands can hold; let them hold. / Hear what is heard by your ears; / see what is seen by your eyes." (Taoist poem)
A photographer directly engages with two fundamental elements of physical existence: light and time. It's an ongoing human dynamic, what the I Ching, the Chinese book of changes, calls "the function of light with regard to time." So I've found that all documentary photographs, which are supposed to show current reality, are themselves artifacts from the moment they’re exposed, since the existence they record has already passed once the shutter is released. Thus any print made from them is historical, and makes only one instant of time visible––not enough for a narrative, only enough to perhaps become what Dorothea Lange called a “second looker.” A photographer can never get ahead of this paradox; she can only react and render time through an individual vision, solidified in a print, guided by her principles and personal esthetic. Time then becomes the guiding factor in what and how she sees, and photographing completely in the present, in the moment, is the only way to proceed.
All is ephemeral, including pixels; thus all is timeless. Nothing lasts forever. Except when you press the shutter.
Henri Cartier-Bresson wrote in The Decisive Moment, "To photograph is to hold one's breath when all faculties converge to capture fleeting reality. It's at that precise moment that mastering an image becomes a great physical and intellectual joy."
I hope some of my photos will be second lookers for you.
Thanks for visiting!