You might find it an interesting exercise to talk about your process as a photographer. Who are you as a person? What draws you to make an image? Who are your influences? One of the points of exhibiting work on the walls of the Friends Center (in Cambridge MA) is to get to know one another better. So we would like you to step back just a bit from photographs as message only. Think of it as a unique opportunity to become known in a way that would not be appropriate to one of your usual presentations. Also the exercise of self-reflection can be quite beneficial for most of us as we all tend to see the world fairly subjectively even when we think we are being very objective and that we are dedicated “truth-tellers.”
—George, one of the curators of the exhibit, Gaza & the West Bank, at Friends Meeting at Cambridge, January 2013
MY PHOTOGRAPHIC LINEAGE
Thanks to Pat Rabby and an African tradition she discovered: everyday honor the ancestors, contemporaries, and successors in one’s lineage. So, I honor W. Eugene Smith, Dorothea Lange, Margaret Bourke White, Minor White, Imogen Cunningham, Edward Weston, Julia Margaret Cameron, Sebastio Salgado, and Henri Cartier-Bresson as ancestors, thanking them for their examples and teaching; photographers I work with or know about as contemporaries, thanking them for covering topics I don’t have time or experience for; and my students and those who might view my photos and learn from them (positive as well as negative lessons) as successors. I pray to offer a vital if small contribution to my lineage. This way I do not have to be intimidated by the achievements of others or compete with peers. I remain grateful for all their contributions to the unending stream of good photography.
As long as I can earn enough to pay my taxes I’ll be happy. I’m not a professional photographer you know, I’m an amateur. “Amateur” is the French word for lover.
— Imogen Cunningham
Alfred Lord Tennyson, photo by Julia Margaret Cameron
Yakima Valley Washington during the Great Depression, photo by Dorothea Lange
From the book, Impounded, a family in Hayward, Calif awaits an evacuation bus to a Japanese American internment camp, 1942, photo by Dorothea Lange
Pick a theme and work it to exhaustion… the subject must be something you truly love or truly hate.
Margaret Bourke White
Point Lobos, 1939, photo by Edward Weston
Charis Wilson, photo by Edward Weston
Anything that excites me for any reason, I will photograph; not searching for unusual subject matter, but making the commonplace unusual.
Photo by Henri Cartier-Bresson
Henri Cartier-Bresson, photo by Jane Brown
To take a photograph is to align the head, the eye and the heart. It’s a way of life.
Refugee camp at Benako, Tanzania, 1994, photo by Sebastiao Salgado
Margaret Bourke-White’s photo of black South African gold miners, deep beneath Johannesburg, made in 1950. Inspired by this photograph I worked twice in South Africa in 1990 and 1998.
Pete Seeger as pictured at Harvard by Jon Chace in 2000 c, with my photo made in 1996, Pete’s banjo quote: This machine surrounds hate and forces it to surrender, after Woody’s This machine kills fascists. Seeger combined art and activism in a powerful, emulatable manner.
My first photo book, US Navy War Photographs, compiled by Captain Edward Steichen, USNR, published around 1947, that I bought in a drug store on Chicago’s South Side around 1951
From US Navy War Photographs
Photographer’s Mate-3,2,1, Chief, published 1961-1964, I studied the entire series assiduously, as if myself preparing to be Chief Photographer’s Mate
An exhibit of W. Eugene Smith’s photos of WW2 that I saw in Kyoto Japan in 1995, wondering,
why would a conquered nation exhibit photos showing its conquest and suffering?
John Woolman, the Quaker luminary. With David Morse, I made a booklet which includes many of my photos related to the booklet’s topic, 2000. (Click on the image for a copy.)
Devil’s Slide by Minor White, with whom I informally studied when he taught at MIT. With others we co-founded a school of photography at Project Inc. in Cambridge Massachusetts around 1970.
Martin Luther King Jr, as shown pensively in a mosaic photo by Gabe Greenberg
…During a recent march in Nabi Saleh village in Palestine, children carried signs that quoted Dr. King. One sign read: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”. They held up it up as they marched to get water for their village, only to be rebuffed by tear gas, rubber bullets, and at least one live round. Yet they stood holding another one of King’s admonishments: “If a man has not found something he is willing to die for, then he is not fit to live.”…
—Spare Change News editorial, January 11-24, 2013
Okinawa, Japan, World War 2, photo by W. Eugene Smith
From the book, Minimata, about a small Japanese fishing village poisoned by mercury, photo by W. Eugene Smith
From the ground-breaking, world-traveling photography exhibition, The Family of Man, the photo The Way to Paradise Garden by W. Eugene Smith, the final photograph in the series. I read this book when it was published in 1955, in my mind marking a division between hope for a sane world and the later belief that humans are doomed—hopelessness as conveyed by much of subsequent photojournalism.
In 2005 I summarized much of my photographic life in a keynote presentation I made at New England Yearly Meeting sessions (Quaker), “And you will be carried where you do not wish to go, a photographic witness.” (in 8 parts, February 2010)
Very truly, I tell you, when you were younger, you used to gird your loins and go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your arms, and someone else will gird you and carry you where you do not wish to go. (He said this to indicate the kind of death by which he [Peter] would glorify God.) After this he said to him, “Follow me.”
—John 21: 18
I ponder how my photography is both mirror and window.
TO BE CONTINUED