I have been taking pictures for most of my life. It is my good fortune that this devotion to photography began during the film era. Working with a camera that did not immediately show a rendering of what I had just taken, and spending many hours in the darkroom developing pictures, ingrained in me the hands-on process that has driven me to continue to explore photography. What began as an interest in shooting specific subject matter; self-portraits, cat portraits, zoo animals and 'Ponies of England' photo essays, became over the next 35 plus years, a career in commercial and fine art photography, focusing on the photograph in and of itself as the subject.
I received a BFA in photography at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, CA in 1985, and worked for many years as a commercial photographer in New York City, primarily portraits and illustrative pieces for publications and advertising. Many of the people I photographed were young children with short attention spans. I mastered a system of setting up shots I could shoot fast, working with moving targets. When I began a project photographing vines in Austin TX, I realized that I could slow down, composing without rushing. The only thing that made me sometimes take shots hastily was the prevalence of mosquitoes taking advantage of me as a motionless victim. I subsequently held two solo exhibitions of my studies of vines as they encroached on human settings. From there I traveled to Japan and spent two and a half years working on a group of photographs based on my perspective of nature in urban Kyoto. In the spring of 2005, this work culminated in two solo exhibitions held in Kyoto galleries.
When these photographs were on exhibit in Kyoto, much of the feedback from viewers related surprise and gratitude for my offering of a foreigner’s perspective of Japan. I appreciated their emotional commentary and had many in-depth conversations with people who spoke as little English as I spoke Japanese. It seems that my fellow Japanese residents had seen enough pictures of cherry blossoms, beckoning ceramic cats and temples on foggy mountainsides. I also had spent much of my first year trying to make interesting photographs of vermilion shrines and similar icons in Japan. It took that year for me to become familiar enough with Japan to take decent photographs of it.
During that time I was getting over my initial disillusionment with the visions of disrepair and clutter, power lines, fences and concrete-lined creeks, that appeared through my camera lens. Being isolated, Japanese language challenged, and short on time, I reevaluated my subject matter and impetus for taking photographs. I began to concentrate on capturing scenes near my family’s home and around my children's schools. I developed affection for the unselfconscious way people exhibited their possessions in front of their homes. There were some home-front displays that I observed every day for weeks before I photographed them and others I photographed on my first encounter. Making the photos became a process of ordering the beauty, chaos and sometimes painful humor of my daily experience.
I continued work in this vein after returning to the United States, with a solo exhibition in September 2006, "Succulent Mailboxes; Nature in My Suburban Neighborhood," at the A/B Gallery in conjunction with Off-Axis, a citywide exposition of contemporary arts in Santa Barbara, California. In May-June 2007, I exhibited my work in "Encroachments; Interpretations of Landscape" at Art Resources in Santa Barbara. In these bodies of work, I aimed to transform things that I don’t always appreciate, such as automobiles, fences and trash cans, into the harmonious elements of a composition. When these elements are combined with the camera’s distorting capabilities, I seek to shift the image between document and abstraction.
From July through October 2007, my photographs “Self-portrait with Turquoise Doors,” “Godzilla Lock” and “Covered Scooter” were in the Santa Barbara Museum of Art's "Made in Santa Barbara" photography exhibition.
For an exhibition in Spring 2008, ten photographers including myself were commissioned by the Santa Barbara Arts Commission to document local workers for an exhibition, "The Essential Worker,” at the Channing Peake Gallery in Santa Barbara, and at the Betteravia Gallery in Santa Maria. My goal for this work was to capture the intensity of car wash attendants at work amidst the water, reflective surfaces of the cars, and the machinery they used to carefully dispose the grime from the automobiles.
From October through December 2009, I exhibited my piece, “Garlic Man,” in the Storefront Gallery Project, as part of Epicure Santa Barbara, a celebration of everything edible. The image included food in humorous context - not necessarily for human consumption - but for visual enjoyment nonetheless. The jurors were Carol M. Taylor and Art Korngiebel. From September 27 ~ February 18, 2011, two of my photographs of Arroyo Beach were in the exhibition, "Art Inspired by County Parks", at the Channing Peake Gallery, for which I received an Honorable Mention award. The morning fog, particularly heavy that summer on the Santa Barbara coast, drew me to the beach. Fog is a wonderful kind of weather for photographs because of its effect on light and the visibility and invisibility of the landscape. This exhibition was a collaboration between the Santa Barbara County Arts Commission and the Santa Barbara County Parks Department. The juror was Scott Canty, curator/director of the Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery. Later in 2011, my image “Paint Stick” was chosen for Honorable Mention at the Small Images exhibition at the Santa Barbara City College Atkinson Gallery juried by Miki Garcia, director of the Contemporary Arts Forum (now the Museum of Contemporary Art Santa Barbara).
In spring of 2013, I took a new approach to my work by combining photographs into diptychs that tell broader stories. The photographs for this show were taken when I was a foreign resident in Kyoto, Japan. I intuitively paired images, using contrasting and similar elements, such as multiple layers that obscured the content beyond it, entrances and exits either opening or blocking the viewers’ ability to enter the scene, walls that create the illusion of depth and tangencies, which addressed the claustrophobia I sometimes experienced. While the photographs originated as individual images, combining them as diptychs reveals recurring themes. Each pair is a visual collaboration between images both compositionally and in relation to the challenges of living amidst a foreign culture. The diptychs were exhibited along with Priya Kambli in a dual show, “Dislocation,” at wall space gallery, curated by gallery owner Crista Dix.
Some of the photographers who have influenced me include Edward Weston, Paul Outerbridge, Helen Levitt, Garry Winogrand, William Eggleston and Robert Frank. What has attracted me to this diverse group of artists is the emotional authenticity and the attention to craftsmanship in their work.
My photographs evoke an experience that may echo what another person has not yet noticed about their own neighborhood. The balance of chaos and symmetry in the suburban landscape has been a theme of my photographs and my life. To paraphrase Dorothea Lange, the camera is a tool that teaches people to see. This seeing through the process of taking photographs has helped me to recognize that obstructions, physical and emotional, can instill literal and expressive depth—a concept I continue to explore.
For stock photography inquiries, please contact Santa Barbara Photographer Kate Connell: (805)708-8058, email@example.com and Getty Images.