I’ve been doing self-portraits for a long time. The reason for starting--as well as for continuing--comes from being captivated and amused by photography’s alchemy-like challenge: to turn dross into gold, the ordinary into the extraordinary. Plus, the advantage of using yourself as a model guarantees sloth prevention; there is never any excuse for not being able to find subject matter to shoot.
The images in WaterWorks grew out of my 40+ year AutoWorks series (black and white self-portraits that were small, diaristic, intimate, and laminated like IDs so they could be held in the hand) and an interest in the sexy/klutzy/serene paintings related to bathing (Degas, Manet, Morisot, Bonnard). One more influence comes from one of my earliest photo jobs—working for a private detective. Since that time, I have been always been poking around the tenuous demarcation between what’s public and what’s private.
Making self-portraits implies welcoming surprises. The photographer--both as subject and as creator--must allow for compositional accidents. While shooting WaterWorks, I realized that the interaction between light and water increases the limits of control while simultaneously creating unexpected, sometimes startling results. The images run the gamut from very clean to very strange with a lot of quirk and beauty and magic in between.
While WaterWorks images are absolutely related to my earlier work, they signal a significant departure. What they chronicle is different, and so is their mood. Palette diverges from my previous color work too. Earlier (non-self-portrait) projects pop with vibrancy; these prints are more pastel and markedly larger than those of AutoWorks; that they’re more life-size gives a sense that the
viewer is very close to the action.
I started experimenting with an underwater camera and combined its use with a practice utilized in other of my projects: In Camera, my series documenting old photo studios in Asia, and Body Imaging, an installation piece that I have done for the past eight years morphing a doctor’s office into a photo studio. I enjoy working in confined and particularized spaces and the shower became another one.
WaterWorks deals with time and aging and demonstrates a willingness to be exposed and vulnerable though it is not just because I’m the subject. I welcome the challenge of creating intimate – though not confessional – pictures where I have to be present in all senses of the word.