I am dying. Well, of course we all are, but in September, 2014, I had men and women in white coats and serious faces tell me so, so I've likely been thinking about it more than you. In fact, depending on the date you read this, I might already be dead, except no one dies on the Internet, with pictures. I have stage IV lung cancer, a baseball size tumor in the upper right lobe, branch offices in nooks and crannies, with more coming too soon to a far-flung organ.
Everyone does things with their lives, everyone observes; uses their senses and makes individual sense of their perceptions. We make marks on others. Some subtle, some clear; some fade, some remain. Some we rue, in others we rejoice.
I've led a quiet sort of adult life, situated outside the mainstream of my time and place. I have worked to be an artist, which means I worked at a few other things as well, but nearly always in the arena of photography.
What follows are thoughts arising from 50 years in photography, divided up by time and concern into three sections of essays: Me & Mine, Ours, You & Yours.
- Me & Mine contains essays that are about becoming me, my learning and teaching philosophies, and experiences in photography and in making photographs.
- Ours contains shared advice on things photography - history, artist statements, practice, like that.
- You & Yours are thoughts on the short term future of photography and art, on entering shows, smartphone cameras, and your obligations to your work
There are wanderings and cul-de-sacs, repeats and contradictions. Just make the best of it. I was told, and I'll tell you, and you'll tell others — it's all about process, not product.
I've been suspicious and demeaning of people who say their life is their art, as if picking out a hat makes a statement worth talking about. And it's too cheesy to say my art is my life. But my death is my focus now, and it's all to the good. My relationship to the universe is comfy, I'm starting to get down on paper what I've been thinking about.
Between the sections you'll find small slide shows of recent work, and a series of emails sent to a small set of friends I call the Tumor Interest Group. I started sending them shortly after my diagnosis in September, 2014, and continue them intermittently. I never thought about publishing them, but here they are. All my work seems of a piece to me now.
Read the photo essays, look at the pictures, in any order you wish, it pretty much doesn't matter although it might take a while to get the source of some comment or the mist of development. But read the emails in order, please. There's an order to dying that has been of consuming interest to me, and may be of some use to you.