As I found myself becoming a visual artist rather than a casual documenter, a goal emerged. I want people to feel an intimate connection with the images I place before them. I want to produce pictures which can influence their values in a positive way. Ansel Adams said, “A photograph is usually looked at – seldom looked into.” I want people to think and question my images. My hope is that my pictures will start an inner dialog with individuals that will move them in a more sustainable direction.
I enjoy working with cameras because of the sense of versatility I feel they give me. Film will always be my favorite. There is just something about the whole process that I enjoy, perhaps it is the nature of how hands on it is. It’s still a magical experience for me to watch my prints develop in the chemistry. Lately, I have chosen to work more with digital cameras. I feel that by working digitally it has increased my versatility. Working digitally allows me to make larger prints more easily. I have the option to print on a much wider range of surfaces and it has given me a significantly larger arsenal of editing tools.
I enjoy coming up with new and engaging ways to present my work. Just because photography is my chosen concentration, doesn’t mean it all has to hang on a wall. I want to engage my viewers and if it is at all relevant to my project and physically possible, I work to involve as many of our five senses as I can into the end result.
I throughly enjoy and embrace technology, therefore, I do not want us to regress. However, I believe there are practices that would better suit us and our global community at large. I admire Dorthea Lange’s FSA work and Masumi Hayashi’s Superfund Sites because their photographs thoughtfully illustrate problems which everyone faces today. Their images persuade people to look twice and realize things cannot be left as they are. Everyone is in this life together and I would like to believe their pieces have helped people look beyond their own concerns as individuals, instead bringing them together to work toward a common goal. Ideally, I hope my work can have a similar, positive, effect on peoples lives. I hope it encourages people to ask themselves “why” and then “what can I do?”
“Heirlooms” is an ongoing project with images that are meant to provide the viewer with a sense of new and old. We keep particular items, and hand them down, as a way to stay connected to our past. Our heirlooms are a physical representation of history which is why I chose to stylistically combine new and old mediums. I shot everything digitally but kept the images black and white as they would have been with original film.
It was after this project that I really began to notice some themes emerging in my work. I feel that my strongest projects have a nostalgic feel to them. With the “Heirlooms” project I began with my own experiences and how I felt about particular heirlooms of my own. I then went on to gather stories from other individuals and then photographed them with the object they told me about. I believe the final project ends up uniting individuals as they see what they have in common. Although their heirlooms may all be different, how they feel about those objects, and the act of keeping them and later passing them on is usually for a very similar reason.
A second theme that has continued to come up is sustainability. I think it continues to emerge in my work because of how I was raised. I grew up on a small farm with parents who believe in sustainable agriculture. Healthy animals and healthy farmland, nurtured with honest work would help us become healthy people. It keeps our little patch of earth good and fertile for generations to come. This philosophy extends to the community as well. It is a general rule within my immediate family to be good to your neighbors. If they ask for help, you give it to them and they’ll do the same in return. It helps foster positive and long lasting relationships but, how does this relate to heirlooms? It relates because the act of preserving and passing on a piece of history is also sustaining it. People can make most anything sustainable. To sustain is to maintain something at a certain rate. It is usually related to conserving, upholding or defending. ‘Sustainability’ holds a positive connotation for me but I think it is what people make of it. People can have sustainable relationships, land, personal objects and practices. For me, in my art work, it seems to show up when I am trying to show people what we have that is good, why it is good, and give them reasons to support good practices. Good practices can benefit more than just an individual. It can benefit communities and more. Perhaps it’s being optimistic but this is something that I want to support and I hope that it is something people see when they look at my work.