This  year I will turn  Fifty, as will other of my peers.  We’ve grown older, and at times somewhat wiser, but more assuredly quite slower, in what we do and who we are. Invoking the name of Freud; I became my father, and married my mother, began to acquire adult tastes as well as a penchant for quick, and at times easy relationships. I now feel the need to reflect on the past, look toward the future and contemplate change.


In 1975 I applied to, and was accepted by Art Center College of Design as a scholarship student.  In 1977 I left California for New York as an aspiring fashion photographer.  In the summer of 1980 I left New York in an attempt to distance my self with all that I had been though in the previous 3 years;  not realizing until much later that the disappointment and unmet expectations that I had experienced had come not from the world of fashion photography as I had originally thought but from my own inability to negotiate compromises between my personal  expectations  and  a world which seemed determined to grant no quarter unless quarter was due.


From 1980 until 1983 I traveled in the American West, Cowboys: Reconstructing An American Myth, experienced my first real adventures in Mexico and worked in construction and the oil fields of Central and Southwest Texas. Then I lived with an indigenous community in the Sierra Tarahumara of North Central Mexico.  When people asked what I was doing living there my response was that I was a part of a US Govt. sponsored program that involved seeding one Black American South to Mexico for every 100,000 nationals who came north, and that I was the quota participant for that year.


Living with the Indians segued into my project  Africa’s Legacy In Mexico  which then led me to investigate the African  diaspora in  Central as well as South America.  So here I am today with a catalogue of over 200 images that speak of me in relation to the people and places I’ve been. What to do next, oh, that’s the question. I’m not really sure what to do now.  I feel  lost and some what  the choices which lay before me.  This inability to decide due to an inexhaustible array of options mark my life to be quite different from that of my father and grandfather’s.


I feel strangely detached from the bodies of work that I’ve completed in the past 20 years.  They are what I’ve done but are they who I am?  First I was that guy who went and lived with the cowboys, then I was that guy that photographed black cowboys, then I was they guy who lived with the Indians and lastly I answered yes to the question, “Are  you the same  guy that did pictures of those black Mexicans at the museum a couple of years ago.”  I would have to answer yes but really I not that same guy because all those experiences changed me in ways that I am only now starting to understand.


On one level what I produce are only images.  Or so I was naïve enough to believe in the beginning.  But then I realized that they had become not just something to me but that they had taken on an importance far beyond my own needs, they became public property, they had entered into a discussion that had become public, one that I had somewhat shaped but could not control. The photographs then became commodities and I traded on them. I used them. .  . They bought me time, they provided me shelter, they sustained my life . . .


I began to look at my purpose, my mission.  I realized that I had become a chronicler of common men and women, most those of color and at times particularly those who were black. These picture, mostly portraits of people with in some physical or mythological space, were ultimately more about me than the people I depicted.  I imbued the work with my values.  In viewing the work and it’s titles you began to get as many clues about my life as theirs. These were familial pictures, my own little album, bridging my life with theirs and in consequence we became family, in a sense, yet always pointing back to me.


I feel strangely detached from the bodies of work that I’ve completed in the past 20 years.  They are what I’ve done but are they who I am?  First I was that guy who went and lived with the cowboys, then I was that guy that photographed black cowboys, then I was they guy who lived with the Indians and lastly I answered yes to the question, “Are  you the same  guy that did pictures of those black Mexicans at the museum a couple of years ago.”  I would have to answer yes but really I not that same guy because all those experiences changed me in ways that I am only now starting to understand.


On one level what I produce are only images.  Or so I was naïve enough to believe in the beginning.  But then I realized that they had become not just something to me but that they had taken on an importance far beyond my own needs, they became public property, they had entered into a discussion that had become public, one that I had somewhat shaped but could not control. The photographs then became commodities and I traded on them. I used them. .  . They bought me time, they provided me shelter, they sustained my life . . .


I began to look at my purpose, my mission.  I realized that I had become a chronicler of common men and women, most those of color and at times particularly those who were black. These picture, mostly portraits of people with in some physical or mythological space, were ultimately more about me than the people I depicted.  I imbued the work with my values.  In viewing the work and it’s titles you began to get as many clues about my life as theirs. These were familial pictures, my own little album, bridging my life with theirs and in consequence we became family, in a sense, yet always pointing back to me.




Turning Fifty