come from a book published by Aperture entitled "Land of the Free". The book
is a collection of portraits that have been made over the last ten years. They
fall into categories such as "At Home", "At Work", "In Costume", and "The Great
Regardless of what category a photograph falls
into, it shares a few things with all the other images in the book. First and
foremost, these are pictures about people who feel free and at liberty to express
themselves. Some of these expressions are subtle, almost happenstance, others
are extreme, especially in the case of the photographs of impersonators. These
people indulge their love for celebrities by assuming the outward appearance
and mannerisms of their most favored famous person. I feel that the strength
of the statements made by these impersonators does a lot to inform our understanding
of the rest of us and our dreams.
While I am currently teaching at the University
of the Arts in Philadelphia, PA, the majority of this work was executed while
I led an earlier and recently reduced life as a freelance photographer with
a specialty in magazine work. In fact, about a third of the book, "Land of the
Free" was originally shot for magazines such as the New York Times Magazine,
Time, Newsweek, Fortune, Details, Esquire, etc.. Some times, these magazines
would give me assignments that were in synch with my own work. In cases like
this, life and art can coexist. The assignment gives you a chance that you might
not normally have had or a chance to work a situation much harder than you might
have under normal circumstances. Believe me, that doesn't happen often enough.
When ever asked
to put my life in some sort of context, I always go back to June 1960, when
I was 7 1/2 years old. at that time my sister, Tina, was the subject of a CBS
documentary entitled "The Typical Teenager". She was perfect; blond, popular,
and a cheerleader. I was the bratty kid brother. Now she's divorced, almost,
with 3 kids, 3 grandchildren and a third career. I'm still dealing with my middle
American past, using photography as my tool.
After wandering aimlessly through 5 majors at
Gettysburg College, I came upon a course in photography at Bucknell University.
I found that I wanted a documentary or sociological look to my photographs.
I found that there was a fine line between art and fiction. It wasn't as easy
as it looked, so I went on to what was then known as the Philadelphia College
of Art. There was more and more to know, not the least of which was bartending,
since nobody took it upon themselves to teach me now to make a living with my
art. So, after two years of mastering bartending, I went on to Tyler School
of Art for an MFA. I began shooting in color and using an "8x10" view camera.
Bigger is better I found out.
After graduate school, despite my love for travel
and all places mountainous, my wife, Jeannine Vannais, and I stayed in Phildelphia.
I began teaching, first at the part-time, drive all the time level and then
at the poorly paid full time level. I did use the summers to travel and the
books "American Beauty" and "Only in America" were the result.
Teaching and I separated for a while. I began
shooting for magazines. It wasn't too hard a transition, since my work was always
very descriptive. After shooting for the major magazines for ten years and putting
out two books with Andrei Codrescu ("Road Scholar" and "Ay! Cuba") and one for
myself, "Land of the Free", from which these pictures arise, I find that I am
teaching again. The University of the Arts in Philadelphia is now my home. I
feel like I've been busy.
on each image for a larger view.