Over the years I’ve photographed many different types of subjects, even animals and the human form.But I’ve always returned to my roots as a documentary photographer. And I try to tell one in a direct way, with humor and a punch line if possible.
As I learned more and more about photography, I began to appreciate the work and philosophy of Alexey Brodovitch, influential art director of Harper’s Bazaar magazine (1934–58).
Brodovitch believed less in genres of photography than in good pictures.
I didn’t know there’s be a plethora of scholars, formal and informal, to do what I set out to do—much better and more thoroughly, it turns out. I’m not humble bragging when I say others did it better. Few of them had investors and marketing teams to direct their careers. He told stories about work, friends, cars, and sports. His favorite story was the one about selling a lady two left shoes.
They just went out, sang their songs, and hoped it would keep them from mining, farming, or factory work. There was a mistake in the shipment and he didn't want to send the one shoe back.
Sometimes the music was great; sometimes not so great. Later in life, as his fortunes improved, his stories became grander. Part of the settlement was that he could never sue them again.
"But that doesn't mean Doris can't," I can still hear him saying. What I didn't learn about storytelling from my dad I learned at the racetrack, where good stories are easier to come by than good horses. But they really date to 1968, when Arthur Siegel, my Photo One teacher, introduced me to the documentary photographs of Robert Frank, Brassai, August Sander, Weegee, and Ed van der Elsken.That’s what my history teachers, Jesse Lemisch (at University of Chicago) and E. Thompson (at University of Warwick), taught me to do.These cultures and places might vanish, but it is a historian’s righteous duty to make sure that they leave a trace.The people I met and the tales they told could fill a book. That's where folk-tales, myths, and even the bible come in. It was this work, and other work like it, that sold me on becoming a photographer.In fact, they did—my first book of photos called (1987). If you read or see anything you like here, feel free to borrow it. Until then, I had been studying history, with the goal of a Ph D and an academic career.I also was very influenced by another teacher in Chicago, John G.