My artistic practice is grounded in silver photography and progressive social concerns. These days I think of myself as a documentary artist rather than a photo-journalist or street photographer, as I work in a variety of media including installations and sculpture. Whatever form a given project takes, my work is dependent on the fieldwork experience for generating point of view as well as raw material. I tend to do my best work when I get out and engage with other like-minded people in activist work, or encounter cultural and social movements that move me in some way. In this regard I was fortunate to come of age as a photographer in San Francisco in the 1980s, where multiculturalism was a lived reality and people took to the streets when faced with destructive policies and social injustice. In the Reagan era I documented the widespread and creative resistance to US intervention in Central America and the build-up of nuclear weapons. I also began photographing cultural events such as streets fairs, demonstrations, ethnic celebrations, and parades, which in one form or another I've continued to do for 30 years in an on-going series entitled "Pursuit of Happiness."
In 1990 I received a BA from San Francisco State University, and five years later earned an MFA from the University of Colorado, Boulder. In the early 80s a "visual anthropology" seminar with the Farm Security Administration photographer John Collier, Jr. cemented my interest in ethnography as a way to understand cultural behavior through visual observation and personal engagement. Participant-observation, collaboration, and cultural exchange became important as part of the social practice that made working with diverse communities both possible and rewarding. In the 1990s, as part of an extended and difficult period of fieldwork in the former Yugoslavia, I developed the idea of using an installation approach to documentary representation as a way to utilize a wider range of creative options in cross-cultural dialogue and personal expression. Rather than simplifying issues in the manner of narrative journalism, my inclination is to embrace the contradictions and complexity of a pluralistic nation and a planet shared with others, and filter my experience and artistic practice into a point of view, as well as a material statement, about the human condition in a particular time, place, and culture.
Recently gentrified out of my studio in Northeast Minneapolis, I have begun to use the "documentary installation" approach to work on issues of affordable housing and housing insecurity. While this work is at an early stage, it builds on the Yugoslav installations that utilized a photographic emulsion to print faces on bricks, which were then built into walls or placed into piles of rubble. The current idea is to work with neighborhood associations and housing advocates to find subjects who have lost homes and are willing to sit for portraits. These portraits will be printed on bricks, plexiglass window panels, and other appropriate architectural-grade building materials, which will then be integrated directly onto the exterior of existing homes, abandoned houses, and other structures. Through this approach, private lives are made public, and the human presence animates and symbolically re-populates the architectural environment. In a "Flip this House" world, the work has the potential to highlight and humanize the social cost of predatory lending, foreclosure, and homelessness.