My most successful photographs, the ones that I have found most satisfying, have been more intuitive than conceptual, more poetic than narrative, more pictorial than formal, more imaginal than documentary. Yet I’m not sure that I would or could always exclude each of those words on the other side of “than”. How, for example, can you completely exclude description and documentation from a photograph? Would I even want to? These are open questions.
More than anything else I have found the greatest energy in my work when I approach a threshold between ordinariness and an underlying mystery. I like it when my photographs resonate with images that may arise in memory, dreams, or around the edges of ordinary waking life. Often I look for the passing of things or ephemerality in things, people, places. Of course I have to start with what’s in front of my camera - but it’s not primarily what or who is there, not the solid-seeming thing itself that especially intrigues me.
I don’t believe that a camera ever captures anything - not a person, gesture, place, or thing. No landscape, light, nor movement. All that stuff is utterly fugitive. Light and time simply leave energetic traces in the film emulsion, or in the electronics of a digital camera.
So when I photograph, I want to be present, connect with, feel what is passing before my lens, and let it leave its traces on the medium and in me. I don't previsualize my photographs - rather, I like to allow time for the remembering and ripening of the traces recorded both by my camera and by my mind. Then at some point, if all goes well, I will know what they mean to me and how I want to render them. It's not always a straightforward process, but it can lead me to discover what I hadn't expected.
These photographs originated in mostly natural places where I felt some intuitive affinity or attraction, most being near where I lived for some years in southeastern North Carolina. In making these I was exploring that affinity, in which I found a threshold joining the visible world of trees, water, and lonely places, to an dark and fertile other-world.
Certain things that I find especially seductive are commonplace features of our world. Paths are traces that people and other animals have made since the very beginning, and as I’ve grown older the archetype becomes even more compelling. Water - streams, seas, swamps - is the element where the strongest spirits of a place dwell. Trees speak to me about the human as well as the natural history of a place, and they are richly mysterious beings in themselves.
Upaya is a word from Mahayana Buddhism which refers to skillful or expedient means used to bring one to realization or awareness. I have for a long time been interested in the upaya of sacred spaces and art from various traditions which practitioners employ to remove themselves from daily preoccupations and to open to deeper understandings. Judging by the archaeological record, human beings appear to have always had a propensity for creating such spaces, objects, and images - perhaps the oldest preoccupation of art.This series of photographs derives from visits to a small, rustic Catholic chapel and the Upaya Zen Center, both on the outskirts of Santa Fe, New Mexico. As different as they are in respects, they resonate with my personal experience, having been brought up Catholic but later being much influenced by Buddhism.