Shop talk, answers to your FAQs, and a peek behind the scenes of an artist-run fine art gallery in Park Slope
My parents gave me a camera when I was 14, and I was immediately hooked. I loved the way the camera could select and isolate a particular moment and place. I got the feeling that this might allow me to express something personal. Soon afterwards, I discovered that there was a whole world of artists who were photographers. I began to study their work intensively, scouring photo books, museums and galleries.
I remember being stunned by my first view of a large Ansel Adams print at the Museum of Modern Art—it was “Moonrise Over Hernandez, New Mexico.” I couldn’t stop looking at it. I was also influenced by Aaron Siskind, the great modernist photographer, in the 1970s. He not only encouraged and inspired me, but he helped me to start exhibiting and selling work.
When I photograph, I’m in a special receptive state. I can usually just walk out the door and find images, but I explore all over the place. Sometimes I return to areas that have been especially productive for me, or I find new subjects while traveling.
My favorite photographs reflect my emotions, worldview and personality. There are many ways to work towards this goal, ranging from direct observation to visual metaphor to formal abstraction. When I’m photographing, I try to see everything: patterns, color, people, cultural symbols, light, etc. When I decide to take a picture, it’s because some of those elements come together in a way that resonates for me. The decision is intuitive, but it’s also based on previous experience.
Composition within a “frame” is essential to photography. Like a painter, I take full responsibility for what’s in the picture space; I want the photograph to be intentional, irreducible and self-contained. Usually my sense of composition is pretty formal. I try to make my photographs iconic, clear and precise. I’m interested in cultural iconography and the interpenetration of ugliness and beauty.
I’m also interested in the relationship between society and the natural world. I like to explore how things clash and combine in the dense layers of the city.
Humor is an important part of my work, although it’s sometimes linked to other emotions, including disgust or a sense of tragedy. I love photography’s ability to surprise. When I’m photographing, I’m sensitive to certain kinds of drama, metaphor and implied narratives that occur in the visual environment. Sometimes these things are easily overlooked in everyday life—they are literally hidden in plain sight. The process of uncovering them lends itself to humor, as well as other emotions.
I’m a dedicated printmaker. An image may succeed or fail based on how it gets interpreted onto paper. I spend many hours crafting digital files and making proofs and final prints, just like I used to spend many hours in the darkroom. I see my photography as a craft as well as an art.