In defense of photography


Art should disturb the comfortable and comfort the disturbed


I don’t remember where or when I first read that aphorism – a search on the internet reveals a multitude of sources and derivations – yet it’s a sentiment that continues to compel me. My upbringing, my childhood, was not the most ideal. My family is more insular, strange, and mad than most. Even today I’ve a keen access to feelings of loneliness, failure, fear, deprivation, and heartache. Our life then, my life then, was guarded and secret, the timbre was depressed, and what’s more we were poor. There wasn’t a lot except what could be found, held onto, and kept from others.

It wasn’t until high school, when I discovered photography, that I reckoned a way out, if not physically, then at least emotionally. I used the camera to reconnoiter my landscape and I used the darkroom to remake it. In that way I could control it, analyze it’s angles, and make plain the consequences. I’ve always done what I could to make the prints as beautiful as I can, a pleasure I’m reticent to resist, and yet the images, the subjects, the things my photographs show, are not always our best. They are small moments: forgotten, misplaced, unnoticed, rejected, repressed, and haunted. Poetic perhaps, but minor for sure.

Thankfully, I no longer live in that world and yet my art does. Photography is the practice of transmutation; a simple act to make myself better, to recreate a whole. Where I’ve been and what I’ve seen hasn’t always been pretty. To deflect it’s full impact requires constant contemplation, replication, and representation. Too, I’ve learned that secrets don’t help anybody. Indeed, there are those comforted by the pictures I make. These days I share whatever I find with whomever I can.