* hat tip to Stephen Stills
“Alexander, Caesar, Napoleon, you all had great moments, but you never tasted the supreme triumph; you were never a farm boy riding in from the fields on a bulging rack of new-mown hay.” – Grant Wood
In the course of my working life, I have been gifted with the opportunities to live in many different parts of the United States. As a teen, I and a buddy who I grew up with decided to leave our roots in Iowa and hitchhike to southern California. The motivation behind this was to find temporary jobs that would enable us to earn enough to book passage to Hawaii where we would work on a sugar cane plantation managed by the father of my buddy’s college schoolmate. We never made it to Hawaii. And after some time our paths diverged. My growing-up mate decided to return to college and since I had already flunked out of my first year of college that was not to be the fork in my road.
I remained for several years in California pursuing a business career with some success but grew tired of life in the fast lane and smog. So I packed it in, bought a motorcycle and headed east in search of a new beginning. I landed in Colorado where job opportunities fell into my path. I learned to ski down groomed snow trails in the lengthy winters and explore mountain back-trails on dirt bikes in the brief Spring-Summer-Fall.
Life events happened; my next home was in Texas where, while working my day-job, I tentatively returned to college taking night and weekend classes. I now found college to be both challenging and rewarding to my hungry mind. In short order, I decided to return to college full-time and pursue an adolescent dream of earning a doctorate in Psychology. So from there, it was Arizona State for undergraduate and then Wayne State in Michigan for the doctorate in Neuropsychology.
Again, after several years practice in Michigan life events happened leading me to live and practice in California (northern this time) for a while, then back to Michigan. Finally, I returned to the business world and ultimately back to my roots in Iowa.
It was while I was attending ASU that my interest in photography began as an escape from the tedium and tension of classes, study and attaining a GPA good enough for grad school admittance. Thus began my longest life period of singular interest and un-career devotion/passion. More than thirty-five years have seen that passion grow and mature, with the last twelve or so as an evolving professional earning a living from it.
I loved Colorado, Arizona, Texas and the Southwest. However, earning a living that would support me and my photography in the iconic areas that held my affection was a bridge too far.
And so it was that returning to life in Iowa became the object of my photographic affections. And so far Iowa has loved me back like no iconic location would.
My personal style of photography is not so much a product-of or equivalent-to the famed photographers that are household names. However, Ansel Adams was the first photographic icon that influenced my early ventures into the world of black and white film photography with the zone system, and the attendant first magic of the darkroom developer tray.
But the greatest encouragement for me comes from the world of paint and canvas. Grant Wood, Claude Monet, Paul Cézanne, Norman Rockwell, and Andrew Wyeth celebrated simple landscapes and nature’s gifts with realism and impression, color and thoughtful composition and most importantly, lighting.
Many photographers report that they came to photography after spending their formative years studying the traditions of brush and canvas art. As for me, I discovered brush and canvas art in the late stages of developing my craft. Tardily but happily I have discovered that much of what I was expressing or attempting to express was also inherent in the works of the canvas artists I have indicated. My roots in Iowa share visions with Grant Wood and Andrew Wyeth. My painterly leanings I find most easily in Claude Monet and his love of color and flora. The compositions of Paul Cezanne inspire my still life work. Grant Wood lovingly viewed the same Iowa I do, but with an abstract eye for the rolling croplands and small towns but a more literal eye for its people.
Returning to Iowa after spending much of my adult life living mostly in the west and southwest, I always come back to the idea that Iowa is about the Iowans as much as it is the topography. My growing-up history dating back to my youth in the fifties includes the joyful discovery of Norman Rockwell’s illustrations in the Saturday Evening Post. Rockwell’s devotion to the average American and their ideals from that era fits my experience and lives on in my memories. Even more recently I was surprised to find that I share with Andrew Wyeth a similar fascination with windows. In fact, he painted some 300 canvases that are only now finding their way to the museums from private collections – “Looking out, Looking in”.
As a modestly successful professional photographer who has pursued a career/passion having hundreds of my photos published in glossy local interest magazines, architectural projects, wall hangings and receiving thousands of daily visitors to my websites, I want to offer encouragement to other photographers looking to express their personal, artful view of the world without traveling to exotic or iconic destinations.
The renowned artists I have referenced were called Regionalists because they celebrated America and optimized the simple values of their local areas or Impressionists because of their similarly focused interpretive sight. One in particular, was Claude Monet, who spent the last 30 years of his career painting beautiful images primarily from his garden. In presenting and commenting on my own photographs I make frequent reference to the words of these masters that directly and indirectly address the “Art of Seeing” which infused their works with the artful intensity and beauty of their visions. And it is my humble goal to contribute what I can to renewing the simple pride in small places and modest folks that once characterized the American art scene.
For me, the Art of Seeing is about courage, the courage to be happy where you are and to let your joy infuse your photography.
“When I go to farms or little towns, I am always surprised at the discontent I find. And New York, too often, has looked across the sea toward Europe. And all of us who turn our eyes away from what we have are missing life.” – Norman Rockwell