Statements & Quotes Despite the best intentions and preparation, the printed image always surprises and reveals. * * * * * * * * Appearances, as the saying goes, can be deceiving. Photography is thought to unravel mysteries but at its best often succeeds in deepening them. * * * * * * * * Nothing is quite as exhilarating as looking through the camera. There is a pleasure in seeing an arrangement of forms, the light falling on objects, the order of things, or a color that attracts one's attention. Then, too, there is an excitement in moving in, back, or to the side to re-examine that first moment of recognition. Sometimes I crouch, bend on one knee, stand on my tip toes, or bend slightly to see it anew. Suddenly, another angle presents me with possibilities. I release the shutter and all is anticipation, hope and expectation. Afterward, having downloaded the files to the computer, I occasionally regret not having stood further to the right or left or looked down more when, suddenly, I see something for the first time in one of the frames. Look at that! What a pleasant surprise. * * * * * * * * "I have come to believe that the whole world is an enigma, a harmless enigma that is made terrible by our own mad attempt to interpret it as though it had an underlying truth." (Umberto Eco) * * * * * * * * "...the secret to memorable nonfiction is so often the writer's readiness to be surprised." (Ron Suskind) * * * * * * * * "...to question [the viewer's] own assumptions about the trustworthiness of the visual world..." (Jori Finkel writing about John Baldessari) * * * * * * * * I remember first seeing the work of the Flemish painters. Who, among all the painters in history, were more enamored of the visible world? I felt admiration for their sheer delectation in describing how things look. A whiff of smoke from an extinguished candle or the texture of fur; for them everything was worth seeing and rendering. * * * * * * * * There are two fundamental sides to my photography - the pleasures of seeing and making and the necessity of promoting. Having spent nearly twenty-five years in the business of representing commercial photographers I recognize the urgency of the former and the strains of the latter. * * * * * * * * So often the most intriguing images are those first presented by ordinary, found phenomena. These naturally occurring visual sensations abound and offer what the painter Stuart Davis called "the joy of optical exercise". * * * * * * * * Sometimes, people will look at my photographs and ask how did I manipulate the image to achieve the results before them. The short, glib answer is "I pressed the shutter." True, there is always some post-production work on any digital image, but the key to what I am attempting to explore is that the images in the "Veils" and "Rain" series grow out of looking at what is presented to me. * * * * * * * * Most of us are beset by doubts at various times, but as Ray Metzker often expressed to me, it is the artist's lot that he or she must accept, indeed embrace not knowing in order to achieve some breakthrough. I agree. To know all beforehand is to risk producing the worst sort of didacticism. * * * * * * * * The Spanish writer Javier Marias expressed this embrace of the unknown as follows when asked how he begins to write a novel: "Some writers have a map or a plan. I just have a compass. I more or less know I am heading north, but that's it. I don't know the way. I find out as I write. If I know the whole story, if I know the whole plot of a novel before then I would be bored by writing. I would say what is the point if I know the whole thing. I like to change, to improvise and to find out." * * * * * * * * There is a marked difference between a compelling object and a compelling vision. When I started the bike series what fascinated me were the objects as cultural phenomena. I was not interested in whole bikes chained to stands, railings or poles; rather, I sought out carcasses -- the remains of bikes forgotten, abandoned, picked over and scavenged - and what they signified about urban life. It didn't take long, however, for me to begin to see these remains as an assemblage of triangles, circles and lines in vivid colors. My perception of them - the vision if you will - had changed. * * * * * * * * I've always wanted to make mysterious pictures, all the better when they derive entirely from what lies before me. * * * * * * * * "Mystics exult in mystery and want it to stay mysterious. Scientists exult in mystery for a different reason: It gives them something to do." (Richard Dawkins) * * * * * * * * * I made a photograph nearly two years ago, part of the "Veils" series, looking through a fence covered with black fabric, over a huge tract of land being prepared for construction, and toward a neighborhood in Philadelphia known as Northern Liberties. The sky was filled with puffy clouds moving rapidly from west to east. The semi-transparent fabric tempered the details behind it, softening and blending them, rendering the cityscape a silhouette, and the iridescent green plastic fencing used to mark off sections of the tract a series of mysterious, glowing patterns. The whole vista reminded me of Dutch landscape painting, specifically van Ruisdael's views of Haarlem. Images have the power to make us pay attention to the world, its transient appearances and phenomena, and to place ourselves in relation not only to what transpires at that moment but also to how other artists' perceptions of similar appearances and phenomena prepared us to see in the first place. At the moment I made the photograph I was keenly aware how profoundly I felt an affinity for van Ruisdael and the traditions out of which he came and which he was to expand. I named the picture in his honor, "Northern Liberties from the Development Fields". (See No. 21 in the Veils portfolio.) "...art is invention, but also remembering...." (Robert Hughes) * * * * * * * * * The "shock of the new"? What I am doing is hardly "new" let alone "shocking". I am merely trying to look with a keen eye and discover something delightful and mysterious. By "mysterious" I mean whenever I look at a picture that draws me in, the confluence of shapes, colors, structure, identities and associations defy full comprehension. Some aspect or element always seems to metamorphose or assert itself or remain unsettled. I never fully grasp its power; rather, it grasps me and only reveals itself slowly, in stages, but never entirely. * * * * * * * * * My photographs are an object lesson in paying attention, simply looking, not in making a point. * * * * * * * * * We all know realism when we see it; reality is another matter. Who can claim to define that? What compels us to come back to realism in art again and again is how little on close examination such works recreate the external world. Why else would we find them alluring, compelling, or mysterious? Why else would we look at them more than once? * * * * * * * * * “The picture is instead of what happens. We don’t need to know the story; generally the story’s trivial anyway. The more people want to know the story, the less they’ll look at the picture.” (Howard Hodgkin) * * * * * * * * * "Looking for one thing he found another." (Mark Cousins) * * * * * * * * * "He prefers ambiguity to information." (David Park Curry on James McNeil Whistler) * * * * * * * * * "I cried because life is hopeless and beautiful." (Howard Nemerov from "The View from the Attic") * * * * * * * * * * "Though leaves are many, the root is one; / Through all the lying days of my youth / I swayed my leaves and flowers in the sun; / Now I may wither into the truth." (W.B. Yeats) * * * * * * * * * * "I don't care a damn about what happens when I'm dead, but I do have a sense of increased urgency. And I think it's made me more courageous." (the painter Howard Hodgkin on his last years) * * * * * * * * * * The consolation of art is survival.