Some of the most influential people in my life have built their careers around helping others. Many of my favorite artists, whether they be visual, literary, or musical, use their work to advance humanitarian causes. As an abstract painter for 25 years, I had little opportunity to make a statement with my work, and, aside from the occasional disappointing charity auction, little opportunity to do good. I rationalized this, saying that by creating beauty I was performing a necessary role in society, but while that might technically be true, it does not satisfy my need to contribute, to pay forward what I have been given. Photography provides the opportunity I have been missing. I can help people travel the world through my images of Cuba, Southeast Asia, Jordan, and other locales I have been fortunate enough to explore. I can help people see their own neighborhood differently through my lens. I can record the lives of families for their personal memories, or performances of musicians for posterity. These things still feel superficial, however. I want to give something tangible. For the past several months, I have been photographing Tucson, Arizona artists at work in their studios with the intention of shining a spotlight, however brief, on their work. I hope to crowdsource funding for a book which will be a partial catalog of the Tucson art scene in 2015. The goal is not to make money. I will never recoup the hundreds of hours spent taking the photos, processing them, and promoting the book, but it will hopefully lift a few creative people into the attention of Tucsonans. I will be very pleased if I can accomplish that. Still, it is not enough. As I said, I want to be able to give something tangible to someone who needs it. This is where Guatemala, specifically the Mayan community around Lago Atitlan, comes in. I spent several months over three years studying Spanish in San Pedro Atitlan. I fell in love with the area, its people, and its culture. This is an area stressed by population growth and tourism, a people still living with the memories of a brutal civil war, and a culture in danger of fading away. The last time I visited, the germs of an idea took root. I want to photograph the elders of the community, the ones who remember the changes in their country and yet still keep the traditional ways. Then I want to make a book of these photos, combined with whatever each elder wishes to say to future generations. Again, publication will be crowdsourced, but all the resulting books will be sold in their cultural center, with the proceeds benefiting the community. A way to give back, tangibly. I hope you will all help me promote and fund both the Artists of Tucson project, and the Ancianos De Atitlan project when I put them forward.
I really should have brought a book. I had intended to, but ran late and forgot. So now I am stuck writing instead of reading. Interesting that Facebook is blocked, but this site is not. I guess that means WordPress is not “social”. Jury duty has always been a conundrum for me. Since I was a child, I have loved courtroom dramas, both on the page and on the screen. I’d love to be on every jury I could get the chance to, but I have to pay rent. The court will pay me something like $12 a day for my service, which is barely enough to pay for parking. I am self employed, so I can’t rely on an employer to pick up the slack. This calls in to question for me the quality of our jury system. How can one get a jury that is truly a cross section of one’s peers when only the unemployed, wealthy, and retired are able to participate, and the wealthy are not likely to do so? How likely is it that an educated person capable of critical thinking will be on a jury? I really don’t know. Naturally the lawyers don’t care, they will rig the jury as best they can to get the outcome they want. Looking around, I see a fairly good representation of Tucson’s population, so we appear to be starting out well. I wonder, however, how many, like me, will plead hardship to avoid service.
I’ve been playing with the often gimmicky technique of partial desaturation of images, looking for results that do more than just isolate one element of an image, trying to create a unique visual statement. Here are a few early attempts.
This one, taken in the hills above Bisbee, Arizona, is an isolation of a single element, as mentioned above, but the inclusion of the sky makes it more interesting for me.
A very simple, almost abstract image was created by desaturating all the cool colors in this one. I like the way the gold afternoon light is enhanced on the steel cable.
This is one of the earliest examples of what I am really trying to achieve. I isolated the blue of the graffiti, but touches of it remain in other parts of the image, especially on the fabric below.
One of my most recent, and also a favorite, this shot, unlike the others, was taken with the specific intention of manipulating the color. By using the narrow depth of field afforded by a macro lens, I was able to transform the small amount of color in this closeup of a saguaro into something more akin to a watercolor wash.
If you live in Tucson, I will be exhibiting images from this series at the Contreras Gallery, opening on March 7th.
As I have aged, I have grown more objective about human effect on the planet. Sure, I subjectively detest waste, pollution, and destruction of the environment, and I am saddened by human-caused extinctions, but I believe the planet and “nature” will do just fine. We are part of the system, after all. We are likely to kill ourselves off long before we stop all the mechanisms of life. All that said, I would like humans to survive, grow, evolve, and prosper, in ever greater harmony with our environment. For those involved in the debate over what we are doing and its effects on our environment, this is an interesting and informative article.
When I asked my moto-taxi driver if I could go inside, he turned off the road and drove me right up to where they were loading the boats. I took a bunch of photos, gradually working my way back to the gate, where the guard yelled at me “No photos!” I said “OK”, hopped in the moto, and we zoomed off.
and most of our future is contained within the science fiction of today.