These photos represent one part of a much bigger project. This grouping encompasses my love for traveling by car and motorcycles to ANYWHERE. It takes me back to my childhood and all the road trips taken with my family.
I can still hear the words “*#@ DAMMIT” bursting from my father’s mouth as he unsuccessfully tried to bring order to six loud children ensconced in the family Volkswagen bus during the 1970’s. Or later, cruising around with him in our orange convertible Volkswagen beetle and on his motorcycle. It was the middle of summer, the sun going down, us eating peanuts, rolling to Steely Dan, Cat Stevens, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young on 8 track from the radio. I also still recall vividly and fondly the countless rides to the swimming pool in the summer with my mom. Wearing our handmade terry cloth, pullover yellow ponchos, we would point our toy kaleidoscope toward the sun and experience so many bright colors shining out like fragmented architectural landscapes. Then gazing out the car window, a coveted position I had to eternally fight for, I would record in my brain all of the landscapes and architectural forms on the way to the pool.
I have always loved riding in cars or on a motorcycle, and looking out the window and feeling the breeze on my face. Pointing out anything and everything I saw that was cool to me. Recently living in California, and seeing all the different overpasses brought back those sweet memories. When I photograph some of the overpasses, I see kaleidoscopes aglow and sometimes roller coasters; or I visualize the sensations and recall what it feels like to ride on one. It gives me new insights and I think that maybe the architects base things on what they remember or wish they could experience again.
So, the images are a collection of what I remember and I hope that all can visualize a small part of what I so tightly hold close to my heart.
Would you please tell us a little about yourself?
I am a African-American artist (born 1971) and adopted by a Caucasian family in St. Louis, MO. I guess you would say that I have really studied photography all of my life. From photographing as a child, to looking at images all the time from national geographic to family photos, I still remember looking at PDN in the 1980’s and Communication Arts. What I think it was all about for me was a search for identity. My ideas grew from that point on.
How did you get started in photography?
I began shooting photography around six years old for fun, when my brother received a Polaroid camera for Christmas and I think I hijacked his from him. Then I used to walk down to Walgreen’s and I would buy disk cameras and take photos every chance I got of anything. Later on I was able to use my dad’s Nikon when he would let me and he would try to tell me how to use it. I still have some of those photos. I did not take photography classes until I went to University. My first camera was Pentex K-1000, which I finally sold in San Francisco for $45.
Did your family and upbringing affect your decision to become an artist?
In some ways I would say my family had some affect because both my mother and father took photographs when we were young. My father shot the photographs for the catalog for the toy company he worked for and we were all models for their catalog. My mom was in university when I was young and I remember her taking art classes and playing with her oil paints and drawing with my brothers and sisters Mike, Tricia, Chris, Josh, and foster sister Carren, and all the other foster brothers and sisters that lived with us from time to time.
Later on my brother Mike started taking photo classes at the university and that’s when I was re-introduced to photography. Although I’m the only one in my immediate family who went through all the training to become an artist, my father ended up owning his own toy company and did all of the designing of the toys.
Which photographers and other artist work do admire?
There are so many to name but some of the most important to me are people who mentored me and all the other professors I have had over the years.
Some other artists are Carrie Mae Weems, Lorna Simpson, Sandy Skoglund, Frank Ghery, M.C. Escher, Alex Grey, Jerry Uelsmann, Monica Denevan, Susan Burnstine, Gordon Stettinius, Connie Imboden, Michael Kenna, and Tim Griffith.
And what about their work inspires you?
Well the things that inspired me about their work were the many different methods used, design, locations, the people, the balance of the craziness and the peacefulness, the emotion that it evokes, the patience and skill to communicate the idea.
When did you start to develop a personal style?
My personal style evolved during my senior year at the Academy of Art University of San Francisco. That’s when I found out that I also shoot about twenty different styles of photography.
When did you first decide you could make art out of overpasses?
In my junior year in art school I started to test shooting overpasses for my senior portfolio. I wasn’t sure it was going to work, but that’s what art is all about, you come up with an idea that inspires you and see if you can make it work. If it is not working, you keep trying to figure it out and build on the idea.
Would you tell us about your workspace?
I have been blessed with a very big space to work in, but I am living in my studio and will never do that again. At least for me, I need to have my studio in a different building with no phone and the least amount of distractions around.
How important is it to your art form to have a “creative community”?
It is very important to me, but I don’t really have the creative community that I had in art school. I miss it.
How does your art effect the way you see the world?
With this question I would say it is the other way around. The world makes me view my art differently. It effects what, when, why, where, and how I see and how I produce my work.
Is there another type of photography or subject matter you would like tackle?
I have been working on a documentary about my life off and on for years and some mixed media. I am the type of person who works on more than one project at a time, which is not always photography. When I seem to get stuck in a project I move to a different one and go back to the other one when I figure out what it is that I am stuck on and how to fix it. I just don’t have anyone now pushing me to do it faster like I did in art school. Other artists can do this for you, but they are busy also.
Where can we see your work, and would you like to share any upcoming projects?
I have not had any luck with the galleries wanting to represent me with this work. They have said to me they like it, but they are not sure about the market. They believe the market is very small. You can see this work in “PX3”, “Burn Magazine”. It is a gift when people appreciate it. I feel it is very strong. For me the work draws you into the images. I can look at it for hours and find something new in them that I didn’t see before. It seems to be the case with a lot of my work. I am proud of this work. I find that for me it is not a good idea to talk about new projects until they are done or almost done. I don’t like to have too many outside influences. I would also like to see my work in “Communication Arts”, “Aperture”,”Lens Work”, “Black and White UK”, “B&W”, “Focus fine art photography to name a few.
Any stories about your work you would like to share?
I was stopped by the police and they asked what I was doing? They understood after I said I have to get this shot. Their reply was it is pretty cool. “Did you get some?” “Yes, and I am out of here.” You know you could die doing this? Yes, I am fully aware. I still have to get the shot’s. No one else is going to get these shot’s. There are still to this day overpasses that I need to shoot that I can’t get to and I have been very tempted to call the highway department to see what I can work out, so I can get the shot’s.
A lot went into these photographs that people have no idea about. They are weather dependent, and I had to study traffic patterns for months, and drive all the highways at different times of the day. They are shot on black-and-white film. It took me ten years to figure it out and master it. You have to be able to have split vision. On top of all of this I drive a stick shift.
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