Friday, April 29, 2011



This is the report from my mom about 20 miles north of Chattanooga: "Items that fell from the sky and landed in our yard yesterday...a snapshot, pieces of wallpaper, roofing, insulation, flooring and paneling, and a studio picture of a little girl. And a letter from a sign."

There's no telling, geographically at least, where all that stuff came from.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

A genesis

"We Southerns are a people fighting again for our country, defending the last remaining stand of real forest. Although we love to frolic, the time has come to fight. We must fight.

In new rebellion we stand together, black and white, urbanite and farmer, workers all, in keeping Dixie. We a patient people who for generations have not been ousted from the land, and we are willing to fight for the birthright of our children's children and their children's children, to be of a place, in all ways, for all time. What is left is not enough. When we say the South will rise again we can mean that we will allow the cutover forests to return to their former grandeur and pine plantations to grow wild." - Janisse Ray, Ecology of a Cracker Childhood

I remember the first time I read this passage, in one of JFK's terminal waiting for a flight in the early morning. It's often a humbling experience to have someone else so succinctly put your thoughts into words, and this was no excuse. I sat dumbfounded, and had to suffer through a two day visit whilst trying to wrap my head around what I should be doing as an artist. Re-reading it still hurts my heart.

I think this is where I diverge from some of my contemporaries. For me, this is not a fight about what is "right" or "what we should do", it is a fight for the very essence of my existence. My family tree is Southern through and through; from shrimpers and fishermen around Charleston to hardscrabble Cohee farmers and ne'er-do-wells from Florida. Good and bad, it's all there, and I claim it all. To try to hide part of it would be a disservice to all those who came before me and to those who will come after me. This duality, alas, is a discussion for another day.

For me, this fight is not an academic fight. It's preservation of my land. When I say my land, it's not in some socialistic (or Socialistic) sense of "This land is our land, this land is your land". This is literally my family's land, which, some day, may be my land. There's countless folks in the same boat that I'm in. The work I do is also for them.

I fully intend to leave this earth fishing the same ponds and lakes, watching deer and turkey wander through the same woods, and watching horses, cows and goats graze the same lands as my great-granddaddy did some 100 years ago.

Monday, April 25, 2011

that tiny little glow

is the eyeball of one of the alligators that live in the ponds down the road. This is what I like about Florida. I'm surrounded my wildlife that is readily apparent. In South Carolina, or Tennessee, or Georgia, wildlife seems more....hidden.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Turtle rescue part one

We encountered a huge red eared slider in the road. This old lady (I'm guessing) was at least a foot long in the carapace and covered with algae. I picked her up, dodged the obligatory defensive pee, and deposited her on the muddy pond bank about a foot away from the water.

The turtle just sat there hunkered down in her shell. I gave her a good "GIT!" like you'd use with a stubborn horse and she hauled ass off into the water.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Earth Now: American Photographers and the Environment

My copy came today. The first thing I notice is the back cover is the Bill Owens image of Monument Valley (the image that Bill gave to me as a gift) hanging in our living room. I see this image every day and chuckle at Bill's irony. I'm just glad to have met Bill Owens a few years through a mutual friend. I wish he would swing back through Florida on one of his sojourns.

Katherine Ware draws two distinct lines of images in this catalog: the first are images that function (or functioned) as means of advocacy, starting with the idealized images of Ansel Adams and Eliot Porter, then discussing Robert Glenn Ketchum's trip to Alaska and subsequent advocation to Congress which led to the Tongass Reform Bill under Reagan.

The second section deals with work that she describes as "Despite their social content, these pieces were made by people who consider themselves artists. their work is presented, almost without exception, in galleries, museums, and art-world magazines, rather than being seen in the context of propaganda or advocacy." Clearly this section is the New Topographics influence of the exhibition and catalog.

This is where I have the biggest internal conflict. I am a huge fan of Adams, not because of his images, but because of his advocacy. Yet I'm clearly in the New Topographics era. I often feel a wall exists between contemporary landscape imagery and the legacy of advocacy that earlier images carried. At SPE in Dallas a few years ago I saw some horrible horrible things in the landscape but little resolution. At times a lyric from Sleater-Kinney's One Beat haunts my thoughts: "Is real change an illusion?"

I suppose in a lot of ways I'm carrying some sort of legacy from Adams and, say, Klett. It's probably subconscious at this point. I'm still reading through the text so I expect some more moments of clarity.

One of my favorite Johnny Cash moments is a clip of a performance of The Ballad of Ira Hayes on a reservation, followed by As Long as the Grass Will Grow paired with the reality of reservation.

Cash's work is related to my process of photography. He wasn't afraid to document, and neither should I.

Earth Now: American Photographers and the Environment

Last night's walk

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

One of this summer's project

Some months ago The Boston Globe published these aerial pictures of developments in Florida. I've been thinking about these abandoned developments and what I could do to image them, and seeing how the Globe has taken care of the birds eye view, I've been left with the human level view. That's fine with me; I've more interested in what is encountered on the ground. Birds eye is too abstract.

There's another one very close to me. I drive by this thing several times a week. It started as a pasture, then was graded, roads and an ostentatious facade was added, and the developer went bankrupt.

View Larger Map

Here's to some trespassing.