July 6th, 2019
Today as I spent time cleaning up my darkroom I decided to throw it all away. Every last print that was in my darkroom has been tossed into the garbage. About 10 years worth of test prints and final prints were disposed of in two loads from my basement darkroom to the large gray garbage can on wheels out by the barn. In an instant hours and years worth of work were gone.
These images represent countless hours of travel and exploration of the world and agonizing hours of effort in the darkroom to coax out the best possible image I could from the negatives. In a sense this was a moment of life flashing before my eyes. Flipping through the prints I recalled the hiking trips into the Selkirk mountains and my explorations of Paris and New York.
While I didn’t throw away the negatives, I did throw away most everything I have ever made from them and I am starting over from scratch.
The decision was sudden and swift and the sense of relief I experienced was immediate. It reminded me of an experience I had when I decided to pull my all time favorite image from my active portfolio and to stop showing it publicly in exhibitions.
My favorite black and white darkroom print was made in 1988 from a 4×5 negative. When I first made that print using a Zone VI cold light head on an Omega enlarger I realized that it was a masterpiece.
Ansel Adam’s is quoted as saying that if he had died with 10 prints he was satisfied with he would have had a successful career. This image was my first deeply satisfying print. I was only 19 and already had my first masterpiece! I just knew I had started my career towards being the next Ansel Adams or Minor White!
Decades later I realized what a fool I had been. Holding on to that image had stunted my artistic growth because everything I made was held up to that image for comparison and nothing ever seemed to move me like that one photograph. In fact, if it weren’t for the fact that I was a working commercial photographer making images for my clients I might not have picked up a camera ever again!
You see although I have been a successful commercial photographer for over 30 years I have come to accept that for at least 29 of those years I didn’t really know what I was doing in terms of my artwork.
Fortunately after having spent literally decades studying and teaching about creativity I realized that the best thing I could do for my own artistic career would be to eliminate that image from my portfolio. I needed to heed my own advice to my students and move on from past success that really looks like something we have all seen before and to journey into myself to find my authentic creative voice to make something truly thought provoking.
The decision to stop including this masterpiece in my portfolio was my acknowledgement that creativity is not a singular act or event. Creativity is a process that can be called upon at any time. My best work will always be my most recent work if I am being authentic and applying my creative process in the development of the final image.
After I let go of that image I started listening to my inner voice that was coaching me along and giving me the freedom to make mistakes and become much more experimental in my work..
For the past two years I have refined my creative process by opening up a fine art studio downtown and joining the Richmond Art Collective. Being around other artists has been so helpful and I cannot express how important having a creative community to bounce ideas off of is to the development of your style and vision. Through this process (along with reaching middle age) I have been able to refine and understand what kind of artwork I want to make. The decision to throw out these past works is about gaining clarity and purpose in my work.
This is why I decided to toss all the old images and start over with only the work I have done within the past year or so. In a sense I have just thrown out all of my school work and I am ready to start making real ART!
I am excited to invite you along for my journey as I embark on making art that I am proud to share with you .
Thanks for being here!