I am a collector of histories; a memoirist of the city’s remembrances and recollections.
The wonder of photography and its importance as a medium emerge from the vision and talent of individual photographers, not from the megapixels or processing algorithms or any of the other “features” found among contemporary cameras. The technical wizardry on these cameras is stunning and is surely helpful in the creation of beautiful images but, in the right hands, even the simplest of cameras are capable of capturing stunning, transcendent imagery.
Because of this, there are probably as many philosophies and genres of photography as there are individual photographers. For my part, I’m more interested in photojournalism than I am in fashion or advertising photography, which is to say that I much prefer the images of W. Eugene Smith or James Nachtwey to those of, say, David LaChapelle. This is nothing against LaChapelle or the many talented photographers who work in fashion—it is simply my personal preference in photography and forms the basis of my own work, whose basic tenor I would describe as “expressive documentary”. The majority of my images come from street shooting and from documenting the urban experience, where the objects of representation are found in the world at large and are not created in a studio, but—and this is where the expressive part comes in—they make no pretense to being verite recordings of these phenomena. My images are the work of a discriminating mind and whatever cropping and post-processing are performed on them are done with an eye towards maximizing the relationships represented within each photograph and enhancing the emotional and/or intellectual idea(s) contained therein.
Like so many other aspects of my life, my greatest inspiration as a photographer comes from wandering the ineffable streets of New York City—streets scarred by time and marked by men, avenues where History both resists and redefines commodification and the People—everywhere, the People!—are busy creating their own secret histories and hustling the future into Being. My eye remains in continual motion when I’m out shooting, searching for the next shot, trying to anticipate where the next image will be appear from. The images I capture are rarely—if ever—directed by me; they emerge from the city that existed before me and will surely exist long after me. They are images of moments now lost to time; each photo a reminder of a necessarily unique occurrence that would be lost forever save its transformation into an image. I am a collector of histories; a memoirist, if you will, of the city’s remembrances and recollections.
Photography, like philosophy, is an attempt to extract and create meaning from the world around us, to express or capture some small measure of truth about the entropic nature of all things.
Collecting these images, however, is only the first step in my process of image-making. Even if I think “I Got It,” when I load the images into Aperture/Photoshop, the photographs will be transformed into something different, something other. What began as a simple representation of a point in time will become—after cropping and adjusting color or contrast or tonality—a refraction of history, a synthetic image that (hopefully) comments on the world through both its relationship to it and its tonal differences from it. Some images need little processing, but many are heavily-processed, especially my photos of the darker sides of the city’s urban renewal, of the homeless and the helpless and others forgotten in the conspicuous consumption of status symbols and oligarchic bailouts. The emotional disturbances on display in these images require a corresponding tension in the photograph’s ontological structures.
A similar reasoning underlies my photography of the city’s underground parties, those secret spaces where thousands conjure their own gods and demons in their leap into a madness both beautiful and expressive. These images are processed with an eye towards capturing the feeling of the moment, the experience of the night, the wonder of living without regard for morning, where too much and too far are simply the opening moves in our quest for beauty.
Pushing images to extremes can put one at risk for “lessening” the technical qualities of a photograph, but I am not a believer that technical perfection necessarily corresponds with artistic success or the creation of an historically-important document. The image’s emotional center should be elucidated through the photograph’s tonal makeup, even if the highlights are blown or the blacks are crushed or noise is rampant. These are not problems to be avoided categorically, but structures to be deployed when the image calls for them. If the scene being represented is one of extremes, of persons on the edge, if the idea behind the image is to express something of the fragility of the world as represented then the image itself should also share this feeling: it too should look as if it’s on the edge of breaking down. The idea of the scene and the structure of its representation should have a direct relationship to each other.
At heart, photography, like philosophy, is an attempt to extract and create meaning from the world around us, to express or capture some small measure of truth about the entropic nature of all things. Photography and philosophy are sometimes parallel and some times divergent methods by which we can investigate and interrogate this crazy life, but even though their modes of representation may differ, they each begin from the same sense of wonder before the improbable beauties of creation.