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 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/Mexican border, self-portraits in the whorehouses of Ciudad Juárez, rephotographs from the pages of old, found pin-up magazines, and reflections of 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 currently show in a little gallery in Santa Fe and write for a local journal.
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 some 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.
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 and wonderment for me.
Anaxagoras said in 450 BCE (I am told) that appearances are a glimpse of the obscure, and it is that thought that is what I hope to capture. My photographs are intended to be equivocal. I portray subjects that might have more significance than how they appear. I strive for innuendo, not fact. I want my photographs to ask as many questions as they answer. Some do; some don’t.
I have read countless books and articles about photography, engaged in passionate and endless discussions about it, taught and taken workshops about it, taught it at universities, written about it, exhibited and curated the work of others, and generally given the subject a great deal of thought. I’ve read enough critiques, opinions, interpretations, quips and “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 during my youth. I am aware of subsequent developments in photographic thought, and the technology I employ is different than I learned on, but I believe I am 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 am not so presumptuous to entertain any expectation or desire that my photographs will contribute to social change. I try to be an intelligent observer of the world which, I believe, is the primary task of an individual with a camera.
Updated June 2017
More of my writings will be posted soon.