Q: How did you decide which of your artworks would represent your career as a photographer in your retrospective exhibition Structure of Nature | Nature of Structure?
A: It was a big deal, you know, when curator Ylva Rouse told me she was interested in doing a retrospective, not just a standard exhibition. It really forces you to look back over the stuff you've done and closely examine it to consider whether it's significant. It makes you assess what it represents, and how you want to move forward in your work. So those were kind of the criteria I was using while making selections. And there was so much to sort through, because I've done a lot of public art projects, and I also just have so much work from the beginning of my career when I was still figuring everything out. And I always felt that if you're of service to someone or an organization, it's always easier to create because you have a goal or intention, but for this sort of exhibition you want something really personal, so it's hard. But this retrospective is a bit more recent and focused. I really try to think about the intersection of nature and our footprint on it. I think a lot of people are concerned about that right now and haven't fully begun addressing it yet.
I have a unique take on photography, I think it probably comes from my background. I was educated as an engineer and then I had a software business for a long time. I've got this analytical, structured way of looking at things as a result. I think it's pretty evident in how I photograph and represent the subject matter of my work. I try to be precise, not really abstract.
Q: Are there any particular people that come to mind when you think of artists of individuals who are making a difference through their art or advocacy?
A: There are a lot of photographers to credit. You can start back from the beginning, of course, with people like Ansel Adams. That's a name that everyone throws out but there are more contemporary photographers as well, like Robert Glenn Ketchum. There's a whole list I could give, but I have a teacher that I've taken a lot of workshops from. His name is John Paul Caponigro, and his father was Paul Caponigro, who's a fairly famous photographer. He really got me oriented towards the environment as my subject and respecting the environment through photography. Gosh, there's also Clyde Butcher, of course, and just so many others. A weakness of mine is buying books, so I can just pull books off my studio shelves any time and look at the work of so many different artists who are all inspirational. But there is certainly no shortage of other artists to find inspiration from.
Q: Can you elaborate on your artistic process and the message you convey through your photography?
A: My thing is trees. Well, it's nature, but it's specifically trees. If I have an idea or an opinion about something, I can usually communicate it through a representation of trees or the forest. Whether it's ideas about beauty, or feelings, or a concept of home or where I'm from, I can always relate it back to a feeling of being outside and being in nature. I went through a period where I studied the structure of trees, comparing them to buildings or the forest to an urban landscape. I shoot everything the same way, whether I'm shooting a building or a tree, I use the same lens. And I look for the same things, for continuity in the cityscape or the forest. And in the forest, you know, it all kind of looks the same. But I shoot in a lot of old growth forests, and they got me to start looking at the local landscape and its uniqueness. The Florida landscape is interesting, because people don't come to north Florida or Jacksonville for the natural landscape, but I was determined to find something in it. So, I just started shooting, taking these long panoramic images of the pine trees and putting them together until I found something interesting. And it worked, I was able to see something new and different in this landscape by changing the format we use to look at it. I tried to make it more sequential, so you don't just look at one tree but an entire setting, and those photos are present throughout the exhibition.