Vortex of Existence
Experiencing locations where earth, water and air meet, I discover aspects of our humanity. There are clues about what happens where we interact with nature. It is there, from a vantage point that you normally don’t see, that one can witness powerful forces coming together.
The intersection where these three come together is where humanity can exist. All three can be powerfully deserved forces. Learning to coexist is essential. This is clearly in front of all of us, yet we live our lives without taking note. I did not seek out nature photography, it sought me out. Nature forced me to pay attention.
Water, for example, can be life giving, torrential in its destruction, unifying in its symbolism, and divisive as a river cuts through the landscape. Humanity seeks to store water, contain it, redirect it and bridge over it in an effort to proclaim humanities domination. Regardless of purpose, bridges create turbulence. Bridges that ignore nature create turmoil, anxiety and misunderstanding. Bridges that work with nature are communicative, peaceful and improve humanity.
Cafes to Chateaux
A Journey from Paris to Bordeaux
Recently, when I closed my previous exhibit N’oubliez Jamais, a retrospective of the street memorials and tributes after the Charlie Hebdo attack, I felt a sense of closure and hopefulness for Paris and all of France. Alas, that quickly faded, and in the aftermath of the savage attack on the Bataclan Theatre and surrounding cafes, I searched for healing images of the city I call my home away from home.
I asked myself what I could contribute that would begin to bring a sense of normalcy back to a city, country and people plagued by such horrific events. The answer came, as it always does for me, in photographs. My photographs of the real Paris, not the temporarily horrific Paris: Images of streets and Metro stations teaming with a harmonious polyglot of races and nationalities; the Eiffel Tower bathed in light; fish and produce markets; the Seine; cafés; châteaux and their miles of vineyards; and of course, elegant Parisiennes shopping with distinctively Gallic sang froid.
When the offices of Charlie Hebdo were attacked in January 2015, my annual Parisian holiday to visit family and friends turned into an intense, life-changing but ultimately life affirming journey experienced literally on the streets of Paris. Armed with my camera, I used my art to capture the spontaneous cri de coeur of grief, rage and hope expressed by stunning graffiti and emotional tributes everywhere I walked. The evocative images from those extraordinary days have been collected into an exhibit entitled N’oubliez Jamais (Never Forget) which was on view for five months at Allliance Française de Houston in 2015.
As an American, I remember where I was and what I was doing when we were attacked on 9/11. What happened on that January morning in the Rue Nicolas Appert provoked the same stunned reaction in the French people and in everyone who felt a connection to them and their country. The attack was surreal, vicious almost beyond belief, and anguished Parisians and their countrymen who took peacefully to the streets to integrate what had happened, cope with the realization of their vulnerability, and show support and solidarity with their fellow citizens and the world.
I’ve been to Paris many times and I know the sounds of the city. After the attack, an eerie silence settled over everything and everyone. People were shell-shocked. No one acted normally. When something like that happens, you don’t know what to do but you feel that you must do something. So when everyone poured out on to the streets, I grabbed my camera and joined them. Many of the messages I saw were pleas for tolerance and acceptance of diversity, but most said simply, ‘Je suis Charlie’ (I am Charlie) or ‘L’amour puis fortque la haine’ (Love is stronger than hate). I found the solidarity incredibly comforting and hopeful.
Love is Stronger than Hate
I believe that freedom always finds a way, love is stronger than hate, and peace is sought by all thinking people. As a human being, I want to live in a bowl of “Skittles” coexisting with all races and religions. As an artist, I process profound events within my métier.
Delacroix captured the intoxicating spirit of the French Revolution with “Liberty Leading the People; Picasso forever damned Franco’s fascists with his savage “Guernica;” and most recently, the American painter Graydon Parrish’s “Cycle of Terror and Tragedy” paid aching tribute to the victims of 9/11.
These photographs were captured on the streets of Paris in the days and months following the attacks of 2015. They could have easily been found in Brussels, Nice, San Bernardino, Munich, or New York. The black and white images are punctuated with vibrant color representing the voice of expression.
Threats from within and without are increasing across the globe, affecting us all. At the same time, freedom of expression is raging throughout the streets of the world, breaking out regardless of terrorism, war, repression, and religious condemnation.
In particular, the graffiti image “Donne moi de la haine je ten fais de l’amour” invites the viewer to give hatred, knowing that he or she will receive love back.
As an urban photographer that has experienced and lived in large cities, I have observed how society in high density urban environments long for the pleasure of creating green space among the concrete, brick and steel of city life.
Observing how individuals are longing to cultivate life into their individual habitats became the origin of my series “UrbanGreen”. From vantage points above street level, the drops of green merge into the buildings, rooftops and balconies reflecting how overpowering the structures are to the planted life and lives of urban dwellers.