Description and additional pieces forthcoming.
Modern life is the culmination of several thousand years of civilization striving toward the common goal of solving the problem of survival. But as time went on, the definition of survival kept changing and evolving. It began to slowly incorporate whispers of comfort, and chatter of convenience. Then came talk of progress and the plot was lost entirely; the original intent just a distant echo, the choking wilds were tamed.
This was only natural. It’s what we big-brained animals do, given enough time. At the expense of every other thing, we will be comfortable, we will have convenience, and we will find ways to convince ourselves that we are still fighting for our survival. And as every other thing is choked out around us, we wonder how it could’ve happened, and we shout loudly from one side or the other, but no one is more to blame than any other; it’s mine and yours, the hand at the throat.
And thus it will go, with a gasp and a cough.
Test test test
Most everyone begins their artistic life with a pencil, crayon, or paintbrush in early childhood. Those first mediums tend to stick with us throughout life and hold a special place in our minds. But I was never formally trained in these studio arts, so when my artistic vision began to outgrow my abilities, I turned to photography, photoshop, and design.
Later on, working extensively with digital art in college, I felt a brewing rejection of keyboards and mice and soon was completing design assignments with a pencil and brush. Since then, I’ve found ways to marry digital and physical mediums, most evident in my series in which I reduce an object to two colors, relying on the interplay of light and dark shapes to recreate the illusion of depth and structure where there are, in fact, only a jumble of abstract shapes.
Description and additional photos forthcoming.
As any field guide author probably could tell you, the photography in your book is what sells it, as much as we’d like to think it’s the text. From my first book, in 2008, to today, I’ve been honing my rock and mineral photography skills to be able to best represent a specimen exactly as it appears in-person, flaws and all. While some of my first photos were admittedly “rough,” the work I’ve produced in my recent books is, by contrast, quite polished and stunningly accurate; I feel I am able to illustrate the specimens faithfully while highlighting those features and traits that are key to identifying the species.
Choosing which specimens to photograph for a book can be tricky. Of course you want the pieces to best represent the species and give readers a helpful representation of what to look for. But you also want your book to be attractive and show fine examples, both in terms of form and color. Balancing these two concerns within such a small space is something at which I’ve excelled, and my photography has garnered quite a bit of praise throughout my career. Just don’t ask me about that first book...
Apart from my “green background” photos, which are the photos used in my field guides and all use a green backdrop both for contrast and consistency, I’ve also begun exploring mineral “portraits.” These shots, all against a black background, are an attempt to achieve the best possible image of a specimen in extremely high quality with deep focus, dramatic lighting, and, in some cases, artful angles and perspectives. Every facet of these photos, from the color to the reflections, has been carefully calculated and planned, rather unlike my field guide photos (which may sometimes emphasize imperfections). While the presentation and setting may be coldly scientific, it allows the specimens the opportunity to “speak” for themselves, as again there are no enhancements to the color, aside from the polarized lighting used to tame scattered light reflections.
On this page is a sampling of my mineral photography, most of which is already published in one book or another. If you have any desire to use any of these photos on your website, please contact me before doing so.
Though most of my professional and artistic pursuits fall in the realm of static visuals, I’ve always had an immense interest in more dynamic mediums. Since I was a teenager I’ve experimented with music and sound, and continue to do so to this day; video and film, on the other hand, was an ambition that I hadn’t the means to express until recently. While most of this work will never grow beyond a purely experimental diversion, I’m happy to share the most successful results.
Visualizing anxiety—that is, to turn a multifaceted, ever-changing, shapeless and intangible idea into a static, singular physical representation—is difficult. Happiness, anger, and fear are easily shown, their feelings so acute and familiar, but something as slow and insidious as the everyday tight-chestedness of anxiety is far more challenging to convey. It is the expectation of things yet to go wrong, it is the ever-preparedness of heightened anticipation, it is guilt pulled from thin air, it is a thousand hours of worry over the thing that will never occur, it is the weight of shoulds and coulds and would-haves, and it is the attempt to preserve that which preserves you. Now, I ask you to illustrate it.
These sculptures are meant to convey small facets of these feelings; singular moments of anxious thought, small tokens by which to channel and sap some power from such feelings. By taking more-or-less happenstance objects and combining them in calculated and somewhat consistent ways, I have tapped into the opaqueness of the emotion—my strange but familiar discomfort. Within a defined range of materials and colors I find peace and control, within their simplicity a pleasing order, but more tension within the uncertainty of their success.
I’ve always admired Duchamp’s readymades and the brazenness of the concept; there’s a lot of inspiration to be had there, though certainly on a more ideological level than in any kind of actual practice. As such, the combining of everyday elements to create a new representation of an idea is new only to me—having never worked in the a medium before now—but I’ve found the process comforting. Which is, in this case, the whole point.
...but for the trees
there then here again
a vapor then a flood.
crashed then sunk again
anxious in absence
a ruin in presence again.
those inscrutable vines;
ever upward twigs.
again, seeing the forest
My day job is to research, attribute, and catalog ancient coins. As one who appreciates art and history, I enjoy this very much. Each piece has thousands of years of history—from when the king, magistrate, or emperor authorized the coinage, to the craftsmen and artists who hand-carved the dies, to the slaves who did the striking, to the merchants who spent it and the soldiers who hoarded it, and, inevitably, to the centuries spent buried and lost before it was found and sold—and each piece is an artifact from a people whom we’ll never know again. The artistry found on many ancient coins, particularly the earliest ones, is stunning; each coin is a miniature sculpture, made with a singular purpose. Later coinage became simpler and more workmanlike, its purpose more important than its artistry, but nonetheless still art and still ancient. And after a few thousand years of dozens of kingdoms and peoples striking coins there are countless examples known today. Contrary to what many may assume, the vast majority of ancient coins and artifacts are not in museums, but in the vaults of dealers and collectors.
The coin collecting industry today affords little to the art, and most specimens boil down to numbers. Value, worth, price, cost. But when it comes to the cheapest examples—the ones where the time and effort to sell them exceeds the profit—it seems every dealer has a box or bag full. These are the corroded ones, the overcleaned ones, the ones cut in half two thousand years ago to make change and the ones that have broken since, the ones with holes through them, the ones so well used that there’s no image left, and the ones that are just too common to matter. They are worthless. Scrap metal.
But they’re still ancient artifacts. Each one was still made by human hands.
I am often at odds with this. They have lost their value and worth as a coin for collecting, but have remained ancient, and to cast them away will always nag at me. And maybe it feels the same for other coin dealers, too. I suppose that’s why they all have a box or bag of these unwanteds. But to say that the scrap has value simply because it is old denies the real gems, the museum specimens, their due.
This series, in which I spotlight these coins that spend their lives in the dark, shows the value that they do still retain—as a literal fragment of history. Rough and sculptural, when taken as a piece of the past rather than as a coin, they take on new life, and new worth.
Sometimes a simple snapshot at a party or spontaneous photo of a tree becomes an unexpected source of inspiration, warranting the time and care to hone it into a piece of art. Or, at least, that’s how I view it; sometimes, where I see a candid, unposed photo of a friend as a beautiful, natural representation of someone I care for, they see it as a poorly composed photo of them with messy hair and a dumb expression. It’s all a matter of perspective, I suppose... But the photos are going to be shared anyway.
From my first 35mm point-and-shoot to the DSLR behemoths I use today, photography was always a means of artistic expression before it ever became a professional enterprise. The way it can compress light and shadow, depth and form, down to a flat plane has always been a compelling, if not slightly aggravating process.
In 2004, I discovered the work of Gregory Crewdson, which would mark a dramatic turning point in my photographic work (or, more accurately, the beginning of anything I could call proper photographic art). Though his enormous, lush, Hollywood-funded photos weren’t something I could replicate, they did teach me that photography didn’t have to express life as we knew it. Instead, photography could show life as we wanted it to be.
I began to build detailed miniatures, purposefully constructed and lit throughout hours of micro-engineering, all for a single shot. Some of my biggest frustrations in accomplishing a photographic concept I had born was finding a fitting locale, willing and able actors, and somehow lighting it all exactly as I’d imagined it. I didn’t want to photograph life as I’d found it, I wanted to craft the photo as I’d dreamed it; I wanted to paint with objects and people and light. Miniatures were a successful, attainable, and—among my peers at the time—a novel way of achieving the results I was looking for. These were freeing experiments, bending and expanding the expectations I had for my own art, and soon I was building and crafting other kinds of physical objects to photograph.
Today, I’m still constructing things to shoot, but they tend to be greatly simplified compared to those I used to build. Reducing an image to two primary colors by way of its construction rather than by post-processing in Photoshop is an interesting challenge, and using shadows to not only add depth to an image but in fact create much of the image has been fulfilling. But after years of carefully constructed, neurotic perfection and lofty self-expectations, I’ve now begun exploring the loss of meticulous detail in favor of ambiguous, out-of-focus and incomplete shapes and forms.
On this page is a mere sampling of some of my work, both recent and old; most are just single examples from various series I've done. I will add to this page progressively.
The way light reacts with objects, passing through and around them, is endlessly interesting. An unfocused light lazily wraps around the edges of objects while beams from a focused source forge monochrome dichotomies simply by existing. Yet these are two faces of the same creature, and you can only tame such a wily beast so much; there will always be an element of happenstance and frustrating surprise.
I enjoy experimenting with light, using it as a subject, a color, a medium, and I’ve found the practice of projecting light through cut paper very satisfying. The result is always only an approximation of what I was expecting. The pieces here are examples of this experimentation; more will be added as they are completed.