Life is fragile. I've recognized this since childhood, when I struggled with a chronic, debilitating illness that still affects me to this very day. Now, as age accentuates my physical vulnerability, I find myself turning more and more to the natural world for solace and perspective.
For many years, I’ve been drawn to the mountains. Scaling terrains of rock, ice, fog and precipice, I feel exhausted yet energized, tested yet triumphant. As a photographer, I've come to see mountains as a personal catharsis, a way to express the dark awareness – and somber acceptance – of my own destructibility.
Imposing, even ominous at times, mountains are a humbling reminder of just how small, contingent and brief my presence really is in this world. To see, up close, the ravaging effects of time and weather on such a monumental, geologic scale conveys a vivid sense of the impermanence of all things.
Whenever I visit Venice, Italy, a wave of melancholy washes over me. The beauty of Venice is undeniable – but it's also fading. Many of the ancient buildings are visibly degraded, and rising water from the lagoon is accelerating the pace of dissolution.
Venice – a sinking city – speaks to me in a very personal way. As I get older, I'm increasingly aware of my own physical decline, and the prospect of my eventual demise also grows more acute. I can feel time gnawing away at me like the insidious work of the lagoon water.
And it's the lagoon water that inspires this series. Along the Venetian canals, I often see beguiling reflections that are symbolic to me of a much larger, more universal, process at work. These images give expressive form to my ruminations on aging, mortality, and the impermanence of all things.
Against the Sea
I began this series near the end of my father’s life. For many years, he endured a devastating neurological illness with unwavering grace, dignity and sense of humor. I admired his attitude and steadiness during the silent storm of his slow, inexorable decline.
During those dark days, the sea was a good place for solitary reflection and perspective. I found solace there, too, by giving photographic form to a complex range of emotions I was struggling to process. This project is a visual meditation on the passage of time, mortality and loss.
One day when I was at the beach, a severe thunderstorm swept ashore unexpectedly. I ran as fast as I could, breathless and afraid, trying to get to my car in a distant parking lot. I got caught in the swirling, elemental fury before I found shelter.
After this surreal experience, I began photographing coastal storms. The use of long exposure techniques requires me to stand outside for a long period of time and confront, face to face, each of these approaching weather systems. “Storm Impressions” gives expressive form to a dark understanding of how vulnerable we are as individuals to the larger, unpredictable forces of this world.
Florida: Personal Reflections
This project started as a documentary study of Florida's diminishing, and fragmented, habitats - habitats which have been devastated by decades of human activity. Over time, however, it gradually took on a more personal, more biographical, dimension.
As I visited conservation areas around the state, I found myself being drawn toward individual trees, or groups of trees, that vividly manifested the struggle to endure and thrive. I felt a powerful emotional emotional connection to the sturdy roots, reaching limbs, and leaning trunks of a diverse range of living subjects I had discovered during my explorations.
For me, a survivor of a rare childhood disease, I saw echoes of my own particular experience with adversity being expressed in a much larger, more universal, context. This recognition has been a source of personal solace and understanding. And the many examples of perseverance I encountered in the natural world have nourished in me a sense of hope that, no matter what, life will always find a way forward.
During the summer months, when the storms come, Florida’s tropical beauty gets deluged almost daily by cataclysms of wind and rain. I often seek shelter inside my car or home, where I find myself staring at the maelstroms just outside the window.
The menacing weather speaks to an inner disquiet I’ve carried with me since childhood. At age nine, I was diagnosed with a serious, chronic and physically disruptive disease that had lasting consequences. This project is shaped by the emotional legacy — a persistent sense of existential vulnerability — of that difficult period in my life.
The lyrical, moody, Fauvist-like images in “Rainy Season” were made using an iPhone and Hipstamatic, a digital app that replicates the flawed optics of analog toy cameras. The heavy vignettes, strange color shifts and unexpected light leaks (all obtained at image capture) give photographic form to an expressive, and cathartic, fusion of a darkly remembered past and living present, of child and adult perspectives, and of the internal and external worlds.
My father struggled for many years with a debilitating neurological illness. It slowly robbed him of his physical functioning, his mental acuity and then ultimately his life. During this time, I often found myself visiting a number of small, quiet, leafy ponds in my neighborhood to engage in solitary, somber reflection.
Then I started bringing my camera. The moving surface of the ponds, especially during the fall and winter months, was rich in visual metaphors. Amid the fluid and fleeting apparitions of shifting light, passing clouds and seasonal foliage reflected on the water, I closely observed minute instances of a much larger, natural and timeless cycle.
“Autumn Waters” is a photographic record of these transient phenomena that captured my attention during this melancholic period. It gives expressive form to a deeply emotional struggle to accept a difficult, looming loss.