I am interested in depicting danger and disaster, but I temper this with a touch of humor. My childhood was spent in a rural part of the United States that is known more for its natural disasters than anything else. I was born in a small town in western Kansas, and each passing season brought its own drama, from winter snow storms, spring floods and tornadoes to summer insect infestations and drought. Whereas most adults viewed these seasonal disruptions with angst, for a child it was considered euphoric. Downed trees, mud, even grass fires brought excitement to daily, mundane life. As a photographer, I have recreated some of these experiences in the series “Accidentally Kansas.”
I began my photography career in college, working for the college newspaper. I started out as the darkroom printer and eventually became the photo editor. As the editor, it became quickly obvious that I was not much of a photojournalist. I didn’t have the gift of being at the right place to capture breaking news. I’m also horrible at portraiture as I am unable to capture the essence of the sitter. In college I studied ceramics and photography. With ceramics, you’re always building the object from scratch. This translated well in my photo studies, where my desire was to construct the image rather than find an existing one. Since my earliest days I have always worked with fabrication, either through darkroom manipulations or room sized installations.
I get most of my ideas during my morning subway commute from Brooklyn to Manhattan to go to my day job. Something about the morning light, the rocking of the subway, seeing the cityscape pass by, opens my mind up to inspiration. I then research my ideas on the Internet, buy reference books, then start sketching out the diorama. Sometimes I let months pass before beginning work, other times I start immediately. It all depends on how fully defined the image is in my head. Sometimes I see the final image immediately, other times I do a lot of research before committing to building the model.
I am fascinated, maybe even a little obsessed, with the idea of the apocalypse. In addition to my childhood experiences with natural disasters, I also grew up watching 1970s films known as “disaster flicks.” I remember watching Towering Inferno, Earthquake, Planet of the Apes, and sitting in awe in the dark. Here was the same type of danger I had experienced day to day, being magnified and played out on the big screen in a typical Hollywood way. Each of these experiences has greatly influenced my photographic work. The series “Accidentally Kansas” explored my personal experience with the natural disasters of my childhood.