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 Echo and Pentimento

 One question I am often asked about this body of work is if it is digitally altered. The answer is no, these photographs are not altered in any way. They are not even cropped. Oh, I popped a strobe in a few of them. But the events in these images actually occurred in the world in front of my camera. All I did was choose when to press the shutter and where to put the edges of the frame.

I have always loved that aspect of photography, that the events in the photograph actually happened at a fixed point in space and time. The photographic image is not reality, of course, it is the photographer's interpretation of reality by virtue of his or her choices. But the events in the image actually occurred at the moment of exposure, and it is this fact that I have always felt contained photography's uniqueness as a medium and its most enduring appeal.

The computer has changed our underlying assumptions about the existence in real space and time of the events pictured in a photograph. I don't know if this is necessarily good or bad. It's just new. But my pictures often appear to others as if they were constructed on a computer. What, if anything does that say about my pictures, and the way I see?

I've always been more interested in questions than answers, and there seem to be more questions than answers in my pictures. Some big questions in the world right now are where are we headed, what is to become of us, will we survive as a species, as a planet? We are about to enter a new millennium, and the old patriarchal, monotheistic order seems tired. What are Jesus, Marilyn and Hulk Hogan doing together in the same frame? Do you think that Marilyn is more attracted to the spirituality and antiquity of Jesus or the physicality and modernity of Hulk or neither, or both? Our alienation from the natural world has grown extreme and now threatens all life on the planet, and don't you think that boy on the saw horse would rather be riding a real horse through a real desert?

The words echo and pentimento float through my mind. I hear the echo of what appears to be a severed head on a red tablecloth, shrieking with pain, or is he laughing? Does he mourn the horrors of the past and present, or does he glimpse the future and know a cosmic joke on all of us? In fact, don't photographs echo the past, the present, and the future? Pentimento refers to a visible trace of an earlier painting beneath a layer of paint, the past emerging into the present. Aren't the drab, ugly houses, abandoned at some point in the past, intruding into the present of the beautiful girl on the colorful float, even as she intrudes into the space of the frame? Does the stuffed longhorn steer mourn the loss of the wide open spaces imagined in the diorama behind him? And what will be revealed underneath the face in the sand painting when all the sand is scooped away?

These questions are mine, you may have others. But my questions all refer back to those that confronted me as I raised the camera to my eye. One is a question of time, when do I press the shutter? The other is a question of space, where do I place the edges of the frame? At the moment of exposure, past, present and future merge. The flow of words cease. Space and time, two simple questions that lead to endless answers, brief moments of transcendence, and, always, more questions.