The Silence of Wide Open Space
I have heard it said that people either resist or embrace the familiar. Through the years I have tried both, bounced back and forth professionally and personally between what I know and what I don’t, which is inevitably reflected in my photographs. I worked as a professional musician for a number of years, got a PhD after that, taught clinical psychology in a university, worked for the United Nations, and now find myself back at a university again. My photos look much like my career (I use the term career in the most loosest of ways)- from the Pacific Northwest to refugees in North West Pakistan, from long exposures to tilt shift lenses, war torn beaches in Northern Sri Lanka to -40C on an open prairie, my photographs, at least for me, reflect what has become my ebb and flow between routine and the unknown.
When Nathan asked me to send him some of my photographs and to write an artist’s statement, I knew that the first part would be no problem; the second part, however, proved to be a bit of a problem. I have heard people describe my landscapes as minimal, some say barren. I have heard them described as “lunar” on more than one occasion, and even the odd “beautiful,” but when I go out and point my camera at things, I don’t have those terms buzzing in my head.
A poet friend of mine once told me that some times his poetry is about nothing in particular, just a bunch of words strung together and he enjoys seeing how others interpret his work. I often feel the same way about my photography: I take a photo, edit it, and show it to people with no preconceived ideas about what it represents.
That said my years as a psychologist tell me there are forces at work below the surface driving the photography, some interpretive process at work or me trying to convey some deeper meaning through a visual medium- but then again maybe not. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, right? Writing about what I do is a little odd for me and I would much rather you tell me what you think. To use a cliché associated with my day job, “how does that make you feel?”
Rationalizations aside, I once had the opportunity to meet Rudy Weibe, who is a fantastic Canadian author. He talked about land, and in particular how we are drawn to the land that we call or once called home- it is that most difficult to describe link to a place where maybe we grew up, spent time with important people, or places that just have a hold on us. The feeling when returning home, or to our land, is overwhelming and powerful, at least that is what I took away from our conversation. I was born on the Canadian prairies, which are for better or worse, my home, my land. I have left many times and lived all over the globe, but I always seem to come back. When I am standing in the middle of an open prairie with those huge ever changing skies, be it summer or winter, my mind is clear of the everyday clutter, and it just feels good. So when I am out photographing my “land, ” it doesn’t feel minimalist, barren or lunar, or even beautiful- it just feels good.
After I started thinking about photos in a somewhat serious manner I stumbled upon the work of Chris Friel who frequently uses tilt shift lenses, and to say his work is stunning is an under statement, but you probably already knew that. I also really like Christer Johansen who in my mind is a master of the tilt shift. Both Chris’ have been very kind to me in terms of answering my questions and generously sharing trade secrets. I gravitate towards tilt shift lenses for many reasons, the two Chris’s being some of those reasons- and when you use them for reasons other than what they were designed to do, you can focus on one aspect of a subject, and all else is out of focus- selective focus can have a powerful impact. When I look through my images I most like those tilted photos where I have picked the right spot – it makes me pause for a little longer than I normally would- isn’t that what photography is all about?
The Gallery Selection
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