Sunday, April 26, 2015

Through a Dirty Window -  fastly
A High-speed Train Ride from Shenyang to Beijing

Through a Dirty Window - fastly
418 pages, 8 X 9 X 26"

The images in this book come from a late afternoon/early evening train journey in
December 2013. The distance between the two cities is 440 miles (705 kilometers). It took about four and a half hours. At peek speeds we approached 152 mph/h (245 km/h), which was during much of the beginning of the trip. As we approached Beijing, the train slowed down but went still faster then almost anything in the United States. When the track gets totally upgraded, the line will have a maximum design speed of 350 km/h, though regular services will operate around 200 to 300 km/h. Travel time between Shenyang and Beijing will be cut from the current 4 hours plus to just 2 hours and 17 minutes.

            During prior train trips in China I had made attempts to photograph through the windows with very limited success. Doing so is still quite a challenge. The windows may be smudgy and reflection presents problems . Not the least problem is traveling very fast-- “fastly,” which isn’t really a word but I love to use it anyway. This time I had a new Camera; a Canon 5D Mark III that worked wonderfully. It had a significant shutter speed and ISO improvements and capabilities over my old camera. The sun was beginning to set and I had limited control over which way to point the camera. I could only shoot images during the first half of the journey but had to quit when it finally got too dark. As the trip progressed, I had to keep upping the ISO until I maxed out at 24,000. The shutter speed was very high, starting at 1/600 sec then quickly increasing to 1/1250 sec. The pictures became progressively grainy and noisy in a very beautiful kind of a way. It was one of those very special kinds of “China Grey” winter days, the kind for which the country is becoming well known. Every once in a while the sun would come out of the grey and glow orange onto the landscape.

            I organized the pictures in triptychs as they happened sequentially. The title of each triptych notes the actual time the picture was taken. Sometimes there were many pictures taken in just one minute because the view of the landscape was changing so dramatically. I tried to concentrate more on the landscape, which I found to be so eerily beautiful. We passed by rice farms, cornfields and fish farms. We would go into and out of various sized villages and towns. The trees in the foreground  would often be blurred. Meanwhile, the landscape in the background would remain in sharper focus. The images evidenced a sense of motion as they spread across the page. The quality of the cropping would be sometimes arbitrary because of the way I could hold the camera to get the images. In the end that added an interesting dynamic to the project as the point of view made the sense of movement and the passing of time evident.

            I feel fortunate in capturing these pictures at that time. It was winter the lack of leaves on the trees opened up the view. I felt I captured a unique point in time and history. China is changing so rapidly that many things are disappearing. As more cottonwood trees get planted along the rails as environmental barriers, some of these views will be obscured in the future.
Books recently exhibited at Fosdick Nelson Gallery

I Ride My Tricycle

I Ride My Tricycle
427 pages, 12 x 10.5 x 17"
Lasercut Popular Box 2014

I went to China for the first time to celebrate the entry to the new millennium in December/January 1999/2000. This passage was well known as Y2K. While riding in a taxi from the airport to the hotel in downtown Beijing, I was shocked at the sight of my first Chinese tricycle. It was being driven, or should I say ridden, by a little old lady. On the back of it were all these Napa cabbages piled so high it looked enormous; it had to be at least 7 feet high. So, how much cabbage could that be? It had to be 500 pounds or more.
           Since then, I have been to China fifteen times and have traveled to many of its provinces. Each time I go, I remember that I am totally enamored of these vehicles – these tricycles. They come in many different forms and sizes. Some are totally or partially motorized while others are operated by human power alone. Some appear to be handmade and feature many personalized components. Others seem to be morphs of motorized – “tricycle-ized,” “motorcycle-ized”—vehicles.
           The Chinese use tricycles to deliver many different things from the mail to fruits and vegetables and even people. Others serve as garbage trucks. Some appear to be made by companies that specialize in their manufacture only insofar as they are consistent in their colors and forms. Some travel at quite fast speeds while others, like the one driven by little lady delivering cabbage, travel at a very slow yet methodical pace. In this book, I tried to capture the great variety of tricycles that I have encountered in China. From the very old and rickety ones to the sleek modern ones, from ones obviously much loved by their owners to those abandoned.
           Most of the images come from various neighborhoods in Beijing, while others come from areas around Xi’an and Shenyang. The best images always seem to invade me. These are the ones of tricycles with things piled very high and usually seen while driving down the highway very fast. I can’t grab my camera fast enough or I simply can’t take the picture and I only see them for an instant. Many of the images in this book are from local neighborhoods where tricycles are easier to photograph either by walking around areas where they are parked or capturing them as they slowly pass by.
           Many of the pictures reveal that the people riding the tricycles are just as curious about me as I them about them. They’re probably wondering, “What is this big American guy with his big camera doing photographing us as we zoom by?” Their expressions are wonderful. I feel as if I catch a bit of their culture and celebrate their lives. I hope to continue capturing images of tricycles and expand this collection with each future trip to China. I especially want to capture more images of tricycles with huge piles of stuff on their backs. Like the image collection of moths, it will be a project that I could never complete for the diversity of the species and what they carry.
           Perhaps this project is a bit self-indulgent in the way that many collections and collecting processes are. I am not sure what people will think when they see these. Of all the things that I collect for book projects I hope to continue this one to celebrate the sight of these wonderful vehicles.

 In a Cactus Forest
Stenocereus thurberi —Portraits from the Pitahayal of Las Bocas, Sonora Mexico

In a Cactus Forest
1322 pages, 14.33 x 15 x 32"

The photos in this book came from the incredible cactus forest of Las Bocas and the surrounding areas in Sonora, Mexico. Pitahayal, as the area is called, comprises a number of cactus species in which Stenocereus thurberi predominates. It is located in an area of coastal thornscrub, near the Mayo fishing village of Las Bocas. These cacti are very significant to the lives of the Mayo people who rely on the wood of the cactus as building material for their homes and fences. The luscious fruits that the cactus produces in late summer are also an important part of their diet.
        From June of 2010 thru August 2011, I lived and worked in Sonora with the generous support of a Fulbright Garcia Robles Research Scholar grant. My studio/ research station was located in the village of Yecora from June through November2010. Then I moved to Las Bocas where I worked until my return to Hornell, NewYork, in August 2011. I had first visited this area the summer of 2008 when I fell in love with it and began to plan my return. I started photographing these amazing cacti in November 2010 and continued through my stay until early August 2011. I selected the images literally from among tens of thousands. The images depict the cacti at different times in their growing season. The area has a very dry and dormant spring before a late summer monsoon turns everything bright green. The cacti bloom begins in late February then accelerates until just before the monsoon season, which starts in July when the fruits ripen.

            The “square” format of the images comes from combining two frames using panorama-stitching software. This also allows for the capability to print finished images in a very large size. The images explore different qualities of light and atmosphere. As often as possible, I tried to photograph in the clear light of the mornings or in the warm glow of late afternoons. Some images show the harsh midafternoon light on days when the temperature exceeded 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

            In March dust storms gave a grey yellow cast to the sky. During May and June, the pre-monsoon season, the dazzling sky was deep dark blue. As the monsoon approached in July it began to cloud up and new challenges emerged in photographing these spectacular cacti. During the dry season the scrub among the cacti appeared in tangled messes of often-thorny branches until they burst into bloom and joined it the spectacular leaf out.

            I felt it was important to document as many portraits of these incredible cacti as I could during my time there. The area is under significant pressure to clear land for irrigated agriculture. It is a very unique habitat that requires protection so it can continue to exist for future generation to experience

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

New Caterpillar Book
452 pages 11.5 x 16.53 × 22"
Laser cut Oak and Aspen box, 2015

New Caterpillar book 

When I first met Dr Marc Epstein, an entomologist specializing in Lepidoptera, at the Smithsonian Museum back around 1999, he asked me if I would ever be doing images of caterpillars. My quick response was no. How could I ever start doing that since there were so many adult moths on which to focus? He replied that they were pretty amazing as well and I should consider it. Through much encouragement from the scientific community I finally started. One of the ways to acquire perfect adult moth specimens was to rear them from the eggs of captured females or from caterpillars collected in the wild. So thus began the task of learning the real life histories of the moths that I was imaging. Rearing and photographing the caterpillars was at first, and still is, by trial by error. 

          Some species are quite easy to handle while other species
are nearly impossible. I started out by building rearing cages that I still use today.
Another technique consists of making fabric sleeves that placed on branches out in the field. Finding the correct host plant is always a necessity.
Some of the caterpillars in this book are local species from the area of upstate New York where I live. The majority comes from three years of collecting campaigns in Sonora Mexico between the summer 2009 and August 2011. I collected some in the wild and brought them back to the studio to photograph while I photographed others on location. I reared many of them either in the studio or in sleeves on branches in the wild at locations in the Sierra Madres.
            Since my return from Mexico, I have been continuing to rear species of both local New York and Sonoran moths in my studio.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

I ride my Tricycle III, Photo Polymer plate intaglio, 2015
Printed at ELAM School of Art, Auckland New Zealand

I ride my Tricycle II, Photo Polymer plate intaglio, 2015
Printed at ELAM School of Art, Auckland New Zealand