school classmates was nicknamed “The Cow.” When she entered a room, the
room burst into moo’s. Every day for five years, maybe longer, this poor
girl was profoundly set apart, taunted, tormented… And she stoically endured
it all and simply said “kids can be cruel sometimes” when I asked her how she
survived inside. I tried my best to
fight for her then, and in some strange
way I have been fighting for her ever since.
multiculturalism, it was all so well meaning, but I’ll never forget the school
assembly where we were told not to wear baseball caps because baseball caps were
for uneducated men named Billy Bob. As
soon as we could drive, my brother and I hit the road. We went looking
for Billy Bob. Billy Bob driving down the turnpike as fast as his
battered car would take him, feeling for a brief moment as though he could fly,
the weight of constant struggle and crushed dreams and hard living miles
below… Hi ho silvero, deliver me from nowhere… Years later I still
hadn’t picked up a camera. I was sitting in an interview for the sort of
dirty, thankless, hopelessly underpaid job that, when you’re lucky, leaves you
with just enough left over at the end of the month for a few hours of reckless
driving with the radio cranked all the way. The manager asked me what I
wanted to do with my life. I don’t know where the answer came from, but I told him I wanted to be the Bruce Springsteen of photography.
I went back to school. I started to take photographs, photos of people,
photos steeped in the mythology of Billy Bob and “The Cow,” photos of
strangers, photos of so many people who would become close friends… I am
always drawn to the moments where people are able to escape their realities,
where there is space to transform oneself, a space to dream… Of all the
things I am grateful for, I am most grateful for the many chances I’ve had to
step into other people’s worlds. I shoot democratically- I light everyone.
I try to find the light that shines in everyone I meet. Most of the time
I succeed. I still live in my head. I don’t imagine I’m making
objective documents. I know that every portrait is, to a degree, a
self-portrait. I don’t fight it. I need to believe that deep down,
we are all the same.
long and sweltering August when I was down and out in New York City. Coney Island saved my spirit. I wandered up
and down the beach every weekend sheepishly asking strangers if I could take
their picture, and I soon found myself fully immersed in the lives of new
friends, immersed in their sorrows and joys instead of my own.