Traveling – it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.
I have always been drawn to people and places unfamiliar to me. My curiosity has led me to many places off the beaten path where I discovered many communities and individuals who are sometimes stereotyped as members of a subculture and not part of mainstream America.
Many of the people I have visited and photographed over the years have freely opened their doors and lives to me and, after building trust, welcomed my attention as I tried to capture pictures that attempt to tell stories about their lives. I have often been humbled by their generosity and have always considered it a privilege to be present in so many authentic and personal settings. I feel a common thread that ties my social documentary projects together is – everyone has ideas and feelings to share and a story to tell if given the opportunity to do so.
The topics of my photo essays include: isolated mountain folk living with pride in the midst of deep poverty in the North Carolina mountains; inner city communities in Boston, Massachusetts fighting a proposed Interstate highway project; a traveling tent circus on tour across the American “heartland”; a 90 mile walk along Route 1A down Florida’s “Gold Coast”; life in a polygamist community in southern Utah; performers from the gay community in Provincetown, Massachusetts; lumberjacks clearcutting old forests in the Cascade mountains in Washington; curious places and events discovered along the open road during cross country trips along many of America’s historic “Blue Highways”.
When traveling the open road, whether I discover unique environments that unexpectedly by chance capture and hold my attention, or when I intentionally seek out notable locations or perhaps settings associated with a period or “moment” in history – I have often been reminded that places and objects can hold great power.
I recognize, while searching for people and places for my documentary projects during the past 40 years , I have been on a quest. Simply put, I have been Looking for America – which is the title I have chosen for my series of portfolios, programs, video vignettes and journals based on my collection of photo essays about the America I have found along the way.
A collection of eleven photographic portfolios and stories about folks living in the Appalachian Mountains in the north western corner of North Carolina. Challenged by rural isolation, minimal education, poor diet and deep poverty these individuals displayed a surprising sense of pride while living with economic limitations, rural traditions and customs reaching back to the early 19th century, as they struggled to survive on a meager local economy. Many simply eked out a subsistence living relying on a “commodity food program” and modest government financial assistance.
The original essays were created in 1970. I returned to the region in 1975, 1985, 2000 and 2010 to revisit and photograph several of the individuals and families I had photographed years earlier. A series of full scale video journals on these individual portfolios is currently in development. The first piece, entitled Debbie, is complete and can be accessed by viewing the Debbie portfolio.
Stories captured in the communities of Roxbury and Jamaica Plain in Boston, Massachusetts during a period of protests by ordinary citizens who worked together to fight the taking of property by eminent domain and stop the I-95 highway construction project already in the process of demolishing their homes and neighborhoods.
This project includes three individual portfolios of photographs on distinctly different aspects of the gay and lesbian community found in Provincetown, Massachusetts and on the national stage in the summer of 1986. American society was not as accepting of authentic sexual identity at that time. The sense of freedom and individual expression as seen in these events foreshadowed much of what we now experience as a cultural shift and changing laws of the land regarding our LBGT communities.
A photo documentary, evolving over 30 years, about the life and times of Utah polygamist Alex Joseph, his many wives, children; and the community of “seekers” who hope to join his demonstration of plural marriage, become members of his “Kingdom” and join in his lifestyle and philosophy of life. They occupied a small development named Glen Canyon City, Utah near the shore of Lake Powell on a site abandoned by the construction crews who built the Glen Canyon Dam.
Alex believed he was following the traditions of the “Ancient Tribes of Israel” where he said each man was the King of his own family and domain. Along with other men in their ancient tribes, they would chose to follow an elder who they identified as their “Kings of Kings”. In the early 1980’s Alex established his Kingdom is southern Utah. A group of some 150 followers, individuals and entire families, chose Alex Joseph to be their “King of Kings”.
The few selected images in the three portfolios included here are taken from the vast project archive created during my early encounters with the Joseph family back in the 1980’s. Later work for this evolving story will be included in my full scale Video Journal – TERRIBLE/WONDERFUL – which is currently in production.
1980 – 2010