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 I withdrew when drawn instead to the romance and excitement of photographing the streets of the city.
I took workshops with Lisette Model, David Vestal, Lee Friedlander, Ralph Hattersley, and others, and 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 and insufficient 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, was an editorial researcher at Magnum, taught workshops at Hunter College, and printed for many other photographers. I was published in all the photo magazines, I was reviewed in AfterImage and in the Arts Section of The Sunday New York Times, 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 bordellos of Ciudad Juárez, rephotographs from the pages of discarded 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 in which I remained active in various capacities, including director, on-and-off for 16 years. In 1990, I had a 125-print “mid-career retrospective” at DiverseWorks in Houston during FotoFest.
In 1991, 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, curated an exhibit for the El Paso Museum of Art titled “Shot In El Paso” of works by a selection of national and international photographers, and wrote on cultural affairs for local and regional magazines.
I moved to New Mexico in 2006, actively re-engaged 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. When I received a liver transplant in 2013, I stopped shooting that project, and in 2014, the New Mexico Museum of Art exhibited sixteen prints from the series. 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, two days before Hurricane Harvey hit, and where I am still finding my sea-legs. On March 1, 2018, a selection of my Texas photos opened at the El Paso Museum of Art where they will stay on display through the end of June.
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 a few other places.
I’ve worked professionally as a photographer and I’ve read countless books and articles about it. I’ve engaged in passionate discussions about it; both taken and taught workshops about it; taught it at universities; 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 artist statements to make my head explode.
Though largely informed by the black-and-white street photography prevalent in my youth, I am not a documentary photographer. I have nurtured an approach to my work that is unique unto itself—non-narrative, reductivist, iconic—I am more interested in the image than the thing itself, and I work in groups of photographs to give context and meaning that are not otherwise self-evident. I seek sharp delineation of the obscure. My work is neither editorial nor pictorial.
I do not make photographs to illustrate a theory or ideology. I entertain no expectation 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 images are moments of passion, revelation, and joy, and that is what I hope to impart to viewers.