Bio. Offer us a short, snappy (not-copied-from-your-website or any publication), fun biography. Who are you?
I'm a photographer who thinks way too much. I have lived on both costs (sorry, east is better) and a bunch of other countries. I helped raise two daughters who are about to be 20 and so far seem to be doing ok. I started my career when most people quit—at 35—which shows my lack of good judgment. As I write this I am recovering from top (gender conformation) surgery and I'm not 100 percent here.
Being. What are you working on now? Where? How? Why?
To be honest, what I'm working on now is recovering from top surgery. It's been quite an experience. I'm amazed at the support I've received from the photo world. It really makes me love this community. It's also been more difficult than I expected and that's hard as a freelancer. I am still trying to complete my project, “Transcending Self.” This means that a lot of my time is spent trying to fundraise for it. I've been working on it a long time and I'd really love to finish it. Once I'm healed I'm also going to start shooting portraits just for myself again. Mostly of trans masculine folx, but others as well. I did that a lot when I lived in LA and I really miss doing it.
Borrowing. Tell us a little about your artistic lineage. Who are the artists and/or works that influence you? Who or what inspires you and why?
I am easily inspired. Bill T. Jones did a piece called "Still / Here," which I saw at Jacobs Pillow in the early '90s. I will never forget that experience—it’s demonstration of what art can do. It was made during the height of the AIDS crisis: as a young queer person, this crisis was always present. When the piece ended, there was utter silence. It was as if Jones had taken the very breath out of the bodies of the audience. 30 years later, this art is still fresh. Ah, this is what art can do, I learned.
Jenny Holzer uses words as the foundation for creating and making us think in a public space. Rembrandt’s use of light. Patti Smith: I could go on about her but I won’t! Audre Lorde’s writing.
I am inspired by greatness. Anyone who is a master of their craft can bring me to my knees. Also, I’m a fan of work that stays with the viewer long after the viewing and that has the power to effect change.
My influences come from all over the place. They're also probably not evident in my work. I'm envious of Collier Schorr. She is one of my favorites. There is a tension between vulnerability and power in her work that continues to blow me away. Jack Davison, Ryan Pfluger, Frank Ockenfels, Ethan James Green. I love so much what Alexandra Bell and Haley Morris-Cafiero are doing. They both have such skill in expanding the art form and using the work to challenge how we see and think and make a difference. Wes Anderson and Barry Jenkins in terms of movies. I know that's a lot of cis men.
Blown-away. Show us the last image that completely took your breath away (contemporary or historical—depending on where you’ve been looking). Insert it here with image credit. What do you love about it?
This image knocked the wind out of me. It’s by Jack Davison for New York Times Magazine. I don't know anything about him, but this work is astounding. This image is unexpected and so full of emotion. It is also so fitting to Ms. Glenda Jackson and the role she is playing on stage in King Lear.
Between. Discuss the relationship between you and your subjects (whether people, objects, land). What is the nature of your relationship with the things you photograph or film?
The relationship that exists between the people in my photos and me is the most essential part of my work. It is what drives me and what keeps me in love with this crazy thing we do. It does not always happen on assignments, but I always go in curious, intending to really see who is in front of me. I want to know—what is the soft spot inside this person? For me, photography is a way of being present with people so they can reveal some truth about who they are. It's my job to have the lighting and composition beautiful so that the photo satisfies me and draws people in. This is where I am most critical of myself. I need to be open and interested in the person in front of me. To feel safe. A photographer that I love said he was interested in “strength” and it shows in his work. I'm interested in vulnerability and the soft self we often hide.
Business. Can you talk a bit about the business versus the art of photography?
The business versus the art of photography: oy! This subject is the bane of my existence. You have to know how to run a business and I don’t think I really learned that, but it’s really important at the start of a career. There is so much wrong with the way this industry is run and I'm glad that there is a group effort to change it. It’s still a career mostly for people who don’t need money—and that needs to change.
Balance. When you are not photographing, what are you doing that keeps you grounded? What (else) do you do for fun?
I have a Buddhist practice that has gotten stronger and stronger; it is integral to my life and I believe makes me a much better photographer. It reminds me of what's important and helps me be more present. I'm also trying to make more free time for myself because most of my time is spent trying to make money—which, ironically, doesn't work. So I'm trying to make more time to spend with people I care about and make sure that I get to see more art. I also read quite a bit but never seem to finish any one book.
Best. What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever heard? (It doesn’t need to have been given to you personally or be about photography specifically).
It is a constant struggle for me to be brave enough to tell truths. I find that how I show up in my personal life is reflected in my work. The best pieces of advice are from Audre Lorde—from her essay “The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action.”
"My silences had not protected me. Your silences will not protect you … What are the words you do not yet have? What are the tyrannies you swallow day by day and attempt to make your own, until you will sicken and die of them, still in silence? We have been socialized to respect fear more than our own need for language."
“The speaking will get easier and easier. And you will find you have fallen in love with your own vision, which you may never have realized you had.”
“I have a duty to speak the truth as I see it and share not just my triumphs, not just the things that felt good, but the pain, the intense, often unmitigated pain.
“It is not difference which immobilizes us, but silence. And there are so many silences to be broken.”
Best 2. What is the best advice you have to offer someone reading this?
It's always strange to give advice. I feel like I'm not in the position to do that for anyone. But, there are a few things that I think are true. You have a voice. You can't find it by looking for it. But if you want to make work that is really satisfying to you and to other people, you will find it by doing. However, this does not mean that you will make money. It does not mean you will be successful. It does not mean people will appreciate your work. Satisfying work and lucrative work are often not the same. It is really important to be able to support yourself. So thinking about both kinds of work is key.
Beyond. Tell us about a future project or challenge that you hope to tackle. (Feel free to answer this question literally or figuratively).
I want to explore something about masculinity and gender. I'm not quite sure what it looks like yet. I'm always drawn to portraits and interviews. I imagine it will contain a lot of those. This is probably the greatest thing on my mind. I'm interested in how we have internalized these ideas of what “masculinity” means and looks like and what it means in reality for males females and everyone in between. I’m looking at studies of how boys are girls are treated from day one and thinking through the roles we assume as we age.