In 1975 I graduated with a BFA and no greater sense of myself as a visual artist than when I had first enrolled at the university. I had majored in drawing and painting, but my work showed no conviction. But in my second year of university I discovered the work of photographer Diane Arbus. I was both drawn to and unsettled by her work, and that visceral reaction to her art was a powerful awakening. Arbus’ work unveiled something that felt true; her images, not quite documentary, suggested something beyond the initial first look. The impact of what was possible through photography only grew as I became more familiar with other artists.
Years later, when I picked up a camera for the first time, I discovered that I could make work that was meaningful to me, too. I chose as subjects the people and issues that are often ignored or marginalized. For me that has often meant focusing on the elderly — and in particular older women — offering them the dignity and presence that is sometimes denied to those who are deemed well past their “best before date.”
Photography allows me to enter directly into worlds that are different from my own, to be both intensely present yet at a reserve. The camera opens the door but then physically stands between myself and the subject. This is for the good; it reminds me to keep perspective and not merge with whoever is before the lens.