Now the thing about Point Lobos is that it is probably one of the most astounding coastlines in the world with incredible rock formations worn smooth and spectacular by eons of water washing up onto the shore. Tide pools and small sea creatures are everywhere. As I was standing there next to the water the warm and magnificent late afternoon cut across the incredible rock formations. I saw a play of light and shadow that was immensely moving and beautiful. The textures and shapes and movements of lines of the rocks mesmerized me. Motivated to make pictures, I took many images with my Pentax 35mm camera being aware that I was making some of the best images I had ever made.
About a year after my trip to Point Lobos, in 1969, I undertook another photo project that provided me with new images for a third significant group of photographs. The location was an abandoned turn of the century hot springs resort called Byron Hot Springs, near Stockton, California. I arrived there one spring day with a group of photo friends who had been telling me interesting things about the place. Immediately I was fascinated as I saw several groups of lavish but deteriorating buildings, all no longer in use but still presenting the remnants of the former glory of the resort. What I learned then from the on-site caretaker was that this place had a compelling and fascinating history both as a posh turn of the century resort but also as an internment camp during the Second World War. The details of this second use were rather vague, and I assumed at the time it had been used to intern Japanese Americans.
Byron Hot Springs when it was built in the 1890's had become one of the most lavish and desirable hot springs resorts not only in the United States, but also abroad. Submerged large and beautiful marble lined tubs with warm soothing hot spring water drew the wealthy of that time to the California valley. Opulent hotel accommodations matched the magnificent springs to make this a most special place to visit. But what I found was a fascinating but mixed history. The resort had been abandoned for over 20 years and looked it.
In 1970 I had started to consider leaving the profession of architecture. I had begun to realize that I was more interested in making photographs than in making buildings. After some soul searching I made the decision to leave architecture and apply to graduate school in photography with the intention of seeking a university teaching job after graduation. I then applied to the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque NM, one of the best photo programs in the nation, and was accepted. Being a student in the program was a pleasure, and it was an exciting time. It also gave me the chance to explore the southwest US, one of the most scenic areas of the United States.
Moving to a new environment as a photographer offers the creative opportunity to explore new imagery. Upstate New York and the Finger Lakes for half the year is green and dense with many trees and foliage. The eleven Finger Lakes are long narrow lakes that were formed by depressions of land, with hills pushed up between them. They are bowels of water, and to get to the next lake one needs to drive up and over the hill which separates it from the adjoining lake. Ithaca lies at the bottom of Lake Cayuga, between the larger cities of Syracuse and Binghamton. This area is also rural New York with many farms spread out among small rural towns. Ithaca, however is one of the larger towns with over 50,000 people, although many of these are students attending Cornell and Ithaca College.
Now one might expect that a photographer arriving in such a place would naturally gravitate towards making landscape pictures to come to terms with the new environment. But this did not happen for several reasons. On one hand adjusting to my new role as university professor and to the task of learning to participate on a university faculty and teaching students full time proved a big challenge, one which kept me on campus most of the time. Perhaps as the result of this my first photo project in Ithaca was directed toward creating a "at home" self portrait which was both easier to accomplish and also necessary for me to find my place in this new location and life style. This group of images was my way of finding a new voice while I focused on my experiences at that time of my life. This resulted in a group of twenty images that were exhibited at several locations in the US.
In 1980 I moved into a new phase at Cornell, as I was granted tenure and shortly thereafter became the Chair of the Art Department for a five year term. One would think that with new administrative duties I would have even less time for my photographic work, but in fact the opposite happened. I experienced one of my most productive growth periods as an artist.
This took the form of setting up a copy stand in my studio just down the hall from my Department Chair's office which would allow me to more easily continue my personal work.
Looking for a way to extend this body of works I began creating a more complex series of images where each was composed actually of four images, so called "Quadrants". The intention was to create more complexity by having four images that can be experienced separately, but also can be viewed as one single image. These took a great deal of time to compose and photograph as I needed to be aware of the other three images that would be adjacent to each other. These works were subsequently shown in several locations in the US and abroad. However this was the completion of an exciting run of images and also marked the end of this kind of assemblage for me. But the interesting thing is that even though I would go back only once more to using a copy stand and large format camera to make images using traditional photo methods in the not too distant future I would again start creating collages of images but this time it would be on a computer.
Learning about the possibility of a residency at Cite Des Arts International in Paris I applied and was accepted in the spring of 1987. On sabbatical leave from Cornell, I traveled to Paris and moved into a studio apartment in the Cite which was located in the heart of Paris adjacent to the Seine River and just opposite Notre Dame Cathedral. Now I had been to France before to attend photographic conferences but had never stayed for a longer period of time to photograph. I found like many other artists before me that I was lost at first regarding what I might photograph. I had taken the 8x10 field camera with me and started lugging this around Paris taking pictures. I really enjoyed setting up the camera and frequently had a group of Parisians around me, all curious about what I was doing. My intention was to make both color and black and white film exposures, develop the black and white negatives there in my Paris studio, but take the color negatives back to Ithaca to process.
I had arrived in April but found that by the end of July I really did not have any sort of satisfying body of images. In August, with four weeks left of my residency, I suddenly realized what it was that was attracting my attention and what I wished to photograph. During my stay in Paris as I walked around I saw a mixture of all sorts of ads for various products or services on wall or display surfaces, movie announcements, ads for sexual phone connections, etc. What struck me most was the stark contrast of this advertising with the classical character and architecture of Paris. Suddenly I realized what I wanted to do, make images with my 8x10 camera which expressed this contrast.
Then in 1989 I was offered the opportunity to spend the fall semester teaching in the Cornell program in Rome. located in the Palazzo Massimo not far away from the Piazza Navona in the heart of Rome. The location was a historic palazzo that appears in most of the current architecture history books about Rome including the classic text by the noted historian Banister Fletcher. Thinking that this would offer me the opportunity to also photograph this amazing major urban city, I took with me a 4x5 field camera and both color negative and black and white sheet film. My plan was to do the same as when I was in Paris, process the black and white there and bring the color film back to Ithaca for processing afterwards.
Then in 1985 I learned that Cornell had a grant program funded through IBM in which IBM would supply state of the art computer equipment to faculty for research. I applied and received a grant of $20,000 for equipment, a computer, software, and a IBM color printer, the first ever of it's kind. But I wanted to use this for making images, not writing text or crunching numbers, so I went in search of graphics software. By chance I found an inexpensive paint program at the Cornell Campus Store which would allow me to paint with 16 colors. Starting with that I began to make abstract color images, focusing on the pixels and combinations of pixels, just like the French painter Seurat had done in the 19th century with daubs of paint. Additionally I found I could easily manipulate the images, such as duplicate and repeat sections, "inverse" (reverse) the color of pixels, rotate sections making them turn 90% either direction or flip horizontal or vertical. All this was new to me and quite exciting. When finished I printed out these images on my IBM color printer, cut them in squares, and pasted them together into a larger work by taping them together on the backside with clear cellophane tape. It was primitive at the time but it allowed me to begin my exploration of the basics of digital imaging.
Not long after getting my IBM research equipment I came across some other new equipment that really excited me. A colleague invited me to a demo on campus by a company called Truevision that was showing a graphics board they had designed that would capture video images, called the ICB(Image Capture Board). This board was connected to an external video camera that could capture still images. They had also designed a software program called TIPS for manipulating these images with much greater possibilities than I had with my simple Campus Store bought software. Fortunately the Truevision folks were willing to loan their equipment to Cornell for a while, and about a month later I was offered the equipment and set up a station in my campus studio. One of the first undertakings was to invite professor colleagues and students into my studio, grab images of them, and then manipulate the images in TIPS. What fascinated me was the possibility to duplicate 1/2 of a face, flip it over, and get a completely symmetrical face, something that does not occur in reality. This was an exciting time and I created my first series of digital images that were shown later in several gallery exhibitions.
In the early 1990's I scanned in photo images as the digital still camera had not yet arrived, and would not really appear for general consumers until the Kodak introduced their DC line in 1996. I gathered printed images from magazines, newspapers and other printed sources which I then used in my works. I also was able to scan film negatives and prints made with a standard film camera on my flatbed camera and use these in image collages. Then I came across Photoshop that Adobe had released in 1990, and was blown away by possibilities. However initially I was not able to use the program as I only had a PC computer and Photoshop was a MAC only program. But then in 1993 the Windows PC version of Photoshop appeared and I jumped into image editing on Photoshop with both feet.