I was drawn into photography at an exhibition of print making; it was the late 1960s, I was working in London, and the exhibition was at the Victoria & Albert Museum. At first I was attracted by the simple beauty of a series of Japanese wood block prints. They were intimate scenes taken from nature, and each one in its rendering contained a wealth of information in the deftly incised lines, hollows, and blank space.
The exhibit also displayed a selection of early photographs and old view cameras. I was captivated at the idea of creating my own images and so began my early venture into photography. I studied the work of Paul Strand, Edward and Brett Weston, Minor White, Dorothea Lang, and Aaron Siskind. It was Aaron Siskind’s striking abstract images, in particular, that opened up for me a very different way of seeing and using a camera.
I had the good fortune to spend some time with Siskind at this home in Providence, Rhode Island. We had met in Montreal, in 1981, where we shared an exhibit space at Gallery Optica, he as a star of the photographic world, myself as an emerging artist. He invited me to visit him and I did, taking a long bus ride to Providence. Siskind reviewed and criticized some of my work, all in the generous manner that was his, and in a spirit of comradeship that comes from a shared love. I stayed with him for a week; it was one of the most formative times of my life.
Painters and paintings have been a source of inspiration too: Rothko, Pollack, Hopper, Motherwell and Picasso come to mind. I particularly like Picasso’s black and white work which, to my mind, demonstrates best of all his work, his great eye for line and composition.
Absence is often a theme in my way of seeing. I do leave a lot to the conjecture of the viewer. A photograph does not have be grand and beautiful, or large, to engage the eye. A little mystery and a simple image go a long way. It’s all about contrast and those lovely grey areas in the middle that make for a good print and set the mind to dreaming.
Dreams and photographs have something in common; those photographs that yield to contemplation at least have a quality about them that tempt one to set associations going.” – Minor White.