What drew you to photography?
and spent time alone looking at the world through my bedroom windows. By the
time I was in second grade, my father got me a Yashica camera to match his
Rollei (he was a scientist and amateur photographer). Early on, I learned to be
an observer, to look and see, living in a neighborhood without other children,
and also enjoyed riding for hours on my bike through swampland and countryside.
Being behind the camera was a perfect vantage point for me to see the world.
How long have you been working on this project and how many train trips have
seventeen years ago – to see what I could do with it before the lights
went out, I told other people’s stories as they told and showed them to
me. My first two series explored the secretive world of body builders and then
the intimate conversations of ordinary people. Seven years ago, I was drawn to
tell my own story directly. My familiar ground involved journey and travel, as
I had been through all forty eight states by the time I was twelve years old,
with my family mostly by car, but some by train. I had traveled extensively as
an adult, too. To see those familiar memories with new eyes, I started
retracing the routes I had been on much earlier, in an America from the 1950’s. My
journey evolved, as I initially explored photographing from cars (running off
the road several times, negotiating the steering wheel and the camera) and from
planes. None of that produced what I hoped for. So, I boarded trains and, over
the course of those seven years, discovered new ways of seeing and produced
four distinct series. In that evolution, I reinterpreted pictures through train
windows in black and white and in color, in sizes ranging from intimate cards
to larger than life windows on the world. In each case, the nature of the
object impacts how the viewer sees and interacts to the story. In most cases, I
do not include place names or text, as I want the viewer to populate the
pictures with his or her own story and memories and to accompany me on a new
journey. And I realize that as I change my art, my art changes me.
been on over 20 extensive or cross
country train trips and many car and plane trips.
While you are a passenger, are you continually engaged in what’s out the
window, or do you shoot selectively?
caught my eye, out the passenger window, up track and down track, rather
passively. On my recent rips, I work very hard, covering two stories of the
train, shooting out different windows from varying vantage points, packing a 25
pound backpack and working two cameras. I always work alone, as I want to focus
on what I am seeing out the exit door/dining car/observation car/passenger
seat/hallway windows. It is intense and exciting – what discoveries lie around the bend? Before trips in recent years, I
preplan, with an eye to filling in what might be missing from my series to date
and to capturing new vistas. For instance, I look at the map of the rail route
and compare it to timetable and geography. At what time will I be at point X?
Will the sun be to my west or east? Will that glare prevent me from shooting
out an east window? What side of the train will the train’s shadow be on?
What will the weather be? – if it is sunny, the
mood will be one way, if rainy, another. And so on.
What has been your favorite train trip?
the most recent one! Each one has covered many states and presented its own
discoveries. I will say there is something special about waking up in the
middle of the night in the desert and seeing more stars than I ever could have
imagined and going back to sleep with the rocking of the train slipping quietly
through the night.
After completing this project, would you still consider train travel?
Always! I like the concept of being
free on the train, yet yielding up to where it is going. A train is always
between destinations, and so are we all in life.
Tell us how the book came about?
six years into this project, I met at several photography portfolio reviews the
acquisition manager of Kehrer Verlag, a highly respected small art publishing
house in Germany.
As my work progressed and the four series developed, Kehrer expressed an
interest in publishing all of my train pictures, both black and white and color.
That happened in April, 2011. I thought I had one to two years to complete the
book, but the acquisitions manager emailed me three weeks later and asked
“How about publishing in January 2012? And, by the way, we need
specifications, a title, and cover art in three weeks for our catalogue”.
Of course, I said Of Course! Those three weeks were among my most intense
creative efforts. The whole experience with Kehrer was positive. I went to Germany
to be pre press and on press, with guide prints for every image in the book
– all of which were crucial to the outcome for the book. And it is
beautiful, even better than I hoped.
What can you share with emerging photographers about getting their work out
into the world?
Always make time to do work. Be clear and present and see clearly and well when you work. Build from what you are familiar with but see it with new eyes. Always follow what you are drawn to – you will have something of yourself in whatever photo you make, and it will be stronger. Every portrait or photograph is a self-portrait. Move beyond sharing with family and friends to put your work in front of industry experts through portfolio reviews and local colleagues. Mess around. Always do something that scares you. Just when you think you cannot continue a particular photo shoot, hang in there, because that is when the best photos are made. Talk with industry consultants when you feel you are ready for a next step but don’t know how to get there.
What event took your work to the next level?
and different people. In my book, my Acknowledgments section honors many who
made a difference to me over time. But what in general took my work to the next
level? Seeing with new eyes, setting aside my accustomed ways
of looking at things, and getting advice from wise colleagues and friends.
early to talk about it, but it might include circling back and supplementing my
earlier series on body builders, titled “Do I Measure Up?…” I remain passionate about storytelling and
photography and issues of impermanence, intimacy, place, and memory.
And finally, what would be your perfect day?
hills, come back and quietly look at and edit new work. I would plan an
upcoming trip. Mostly alone, but a connection with friends,