I began photographing as a boy with a Brownie in the fifties but didn’t start calling myself a photographer until 1968 while an English major at UT Austin. In 1970, I moved to New York and enrolled at NYU Film School but withdrew when drawn instead to the romance and excitement of photographing the streets of the city.
Over the next dozen years I explored New York photographically. I shot editorially, publishing regularly at The Village Voice, The SoHo Weekly News, and occasionally in Esquire, The NY Times Sunday Magazine, Travel & Leisure, etc. Discouraged by irregular recompense, I spent 1975 in a day job, working in a small custom, commercial black-and-white darkroom, and I became a printer.
I began producing projects more concerned with the nature of image-making. I produced a series of iconic Americans shot from the television, the facades of corporate headquarters, the blurred scenery outside the windows of trains, and anonymous businessmen plowing the sidewalks of Wall Street.
I exhibited my work at galleries such as Foto, The Mid-Town Y, Nikon House, and Fashion Moda. I freelanced around town, worked as an editorial researcher at Magnum, taught workshops at Hunter College, and printed for many other photographers. I was published in all the photo magazines, and I received a grant from the NY State Council on the Arts.
In 1982, I returned to my hometown of El Paso and continued shooting projects including portraits at the US/Mexico border, self-portraits in the whorehouses of Ciudad Juárez, rephotographs from the pages of old, found pin-up magazines, and reflections of the sun on kitchenware I called The Creation of the Universe. I also became involved in the cultural politics of El Paso. In 1986 I was the founding board president of a nonprofit contemporary art center which I remained active with in various capacities, including director, on-and-off for 16 years. Beginning 1990, I forsook my personal photography and worked to promote and advocate for the arts in general: I taught art appreciation at the University of Texas/El Paso, owned a private gallery, and wrote on cultural affairs for local and regional magazines.
I moved to New Mexico in 2006, actively reengaged with my personal photography, and taught myself a little digital. I shot a series of people on cell-phones in New York while acquainting myself with new equipment and procedures; photos of fire while withstanding a blizzard my first Winter in Santa Fe; and, while increasingly ill from advanced liver disease, I photographed hundreds of anonymous graves throughout New Mexico marked only by the arrangement of rocks. Sixteen of these prints were exhibited at the New Mexico Museum of Art. When I received a liver transplant in 2013, I stopped that project. With renewed gusto, I now photograph portraits, still lives, and landscapes culminating in two series I call Geometrics and The Empire of Texas. I showed in a little gallery and wrote for a local journal in Santa Fe until just before my 70th birthday in 2017 when I moved to Houston where I am still finding my sea-legs.
My work is represented in the Sam Wagstaff Collection at the J. Paul Getty Museum, the Houston Museum of Fine Art, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and other places.
I love making straightforward black-and-white photographs. After more than fifty years, I remain amazed at how a tad of visual information—minute gradations of tone–can render the complexities of existence.
Anaxagoras said in 450 BCE (I’m told) that appearances are a glimpse of the obscure, and artists have been saying ever since that they seek equivocation and innuendo over fact. Me too.
I’ve worked professionally as a photographer and read countless books and articles about it. I’ve engaged in passionate and endless discussions about it, taught it at universities, taught and taken workshops about it, written about it, exhibited my own work, edited, curated and exhibited the work of others, and generally given the subject a great deal of thought. I’ve read enough critiques, opinions, interpretations, quips and vaunted artist statements to make my head explode.
I am largely informed by what’s often called “The New York School”—the black and white street photography prevalent in my youth. I am aware of subsequent developments in photographic thought, and the technology I employ is different than that which I learned on, but I believe my work is contemporary in outlook while remaining true to the artistic principles and pursuits I forged when I was young.
I don’t make photographs to illustrate a theory or ideology. I entertain neither expectation nor desire that my photographs contribute to social change. My methods are those of intuition, reflection, and discovery. Exploring the physical world with a camera, examining and selecting from among the exposures I bring home, and finessing the final image are moments of passion, wonderment, and joy for me, and that is what I hope I impart to viewers.