I usually try not to label other people. And I try not to put labels on myself either. But, to say simply ‘I do art’, just does not seem to adequately describe me and my work. So, in this case, I have to apply a label to myself: I am an artist.
Art is not something one does, it is what one is. An artist is made up of all that she or he has ever done, felt, experienced or been. And the art that the artist creates—if she or he is true to self—is an expression of all that has been done, experienced, felt or been.
I am a practitioner of Social Documentary Photography with a particular emphasis (but not an exclusive one!) on the sub-genre traditionally known as Street Photography. When working on the street I am drawn to the ordinary moments, to the little slices of the lives of the people I encounter there. ‘There are no ordinary moments’, I once read. I believe this: there are only moments that rush by, that go unnoticed and unrecorded. My role is to record at least some of these moments.
In this sense I am a Humanist Photographer. By photographing these fleeting ‘ordinary’ moments, I am, I hope, able to show the beauty, the humanity, of all the so-called ‘ordinary people’ I encounter. More than this, I strive to depict them in all their specialness, in all their brokenness.
Intention is key to my practice. I seek only to show my subjects as I see them—which is with a kind of universal love, compassion and empathy. My subjects are me, and I am them. Just as they are human beings doing their best to make their way in the world, so I am. Their humanity is my humanity; their brokenness is my brokenness.
The great humanist photographer Abraham Menashe offers us a deceptively simply definition of the genre, which I use very much as a guide to my own work. Menashe says that Humanistic Photography is:
‘photography that explores the full range of human emotions from a spiritual perspective. I characterise this as visual theology.’
When asked to elaborate on this visual theology he said:
‘The world is in need of affirmation. At the very heart of our humanity is the challenge of unconditional love, which is to suspend judgment and open fully to the vivid reality of other beings. Unconditional love does not know barriers; it says yes, it affirms the moment—even when it is full of grief.’
I can’t think of better words to describe what my work is about and seeks to achieve. Like most of us, I can be an extremely judgmental person, but like Menashe, I try when working to suspend judgment and to simply be open to the moment. It doesn’t always work, but sometimes it does. And when it does, I am able to open my heart to the people I encounter and allow myself to just be there
There is a kind of reverence in my looking—and sometimes seeing—and in the making of the photographs. While most of my subjects are not consciously aware of my presence, I still wait to be invited to make a photograph. I wait for the subject to give me the image. I do not ‘take’ anything from my subjects (please see my post on the language of photography).
My work is held in a number of private collections in the United States and Canada. I have illustrated a number of books, recently co-authored a street photography ebook, published many articles and stories. My work is for sale on my own website as well as through fine art companies and stock agencies.
As artists, as photographers, we have a choice: we can decide to contribute to change in the world, or we can simply serve the ego and self. I choose the former. I will leave you with a quote from another great photographer Dorothea Lange.
‘Photography takes an instant out of time and alters life by holding it still.’ (the underline is mine)