Not All Journeys Are Focused


I forget when you return from your travels or if you check emails when you do. At either rate I am sure this little note will pop up in your in box at some point.

As usual, my creative efforts are scattered. Never one to truly focus on a project, I jump around tinkering with this and that. Isn’t that the definition of attention deficit disorder? Or aging brain synapse disfunction? I think I need a medical excuse so as to avoid taking any responsibility for my propensity to procrastinate.

One project I am slowing working on is adding a folio to my website called “Humans”. Most of my commercial career, for the most part was about photographing people. Sometimes a straight up portrait, sometimes people in action of some sort, but often too, it was about gestures. But I want to showcase them, as that work is as important as anything I have done in my career. 

But I could use your opinion, especially since your career work was probably often about choosing one image over another for a story or ad campaign. In 1994 I was commissioned to make a portrait of Paul Brainerd. In case that name is not familiar to you, he was at the time the found and president of Aldus Corporation. They created the software Pagemaker and in essence, invented desk top publishing. I met Paul around the time that Aldus sold Pagemaker to Adobe, who changed the name to InDesign. A local magazine was doing a fluff story about his condo which was in a downtown high rise and very exclusive. When I stepped off the elevator to his unit, I was stunned by the walls filled with one of the most incredible collections of photography I had ever seen. And not just the usual, recognizable works, but beautiful prints of unknow artists as well. Turned out Paul was huge supporter and collector of fine art photography and expressed an interest in supporting northwest artists. I drooled at the thought of sharing my work with him. Paul was also very affable and unassuming. We chatted for quite some before getting down to business. We had a very photo session. Here are three of the selects I sent the magazine for their use. I want to use one on my website and would like your opinion as which one appeals to you most.

I think the magazine used the first one. Or maybe the second one. But I lean towards the third one, the one with his hands in in pocket.  While that might be viewed as a mundane gesture, I like the simplicity of it, the straight forwardness. The second one is probably the friendliest, and now that I think about, the one the magazine used. Your thoughts?

I later contacted Paul and invited him to my studio to see what we had done that day and show more of my personal work with him. He was pleased with his portrait and later gave him prints for his use. I had prepared a presentation of my work and carefully showed him print after print, explained the hows and whys of what I had done. He was very quiet and made no comments during my dog and pony show. I was thinking I am bombing here and this was a big waste of his time. When I finished, he paused and then said, here’s what I like to do. I ask the artists to put together what they feel is their strongest work. That encouraging, I got a shot, I thought. Then he said, I buy it all… I didn’t hear a word after that.

It would have been easy for me to pull a bunch of matted prints from my flat files and be done with it. But I wanted to do more than that. I wanted to make a statement. I decided to create a portfolio. A portfolio of what I felt was some of my strongest works to date, that covered the spectrum of my photo journey to that point in time. All black and white silver prints, some hand tinted, it took me nine months to complete, mostly due to indecision about what to include. I made 2 copies of the portfolio. A lipped clamshell, linen folio lined with Italian marbled paper held fifteen matted prints. I also had letterpress intro and caption pages printed. It was a lovely presentation and my copy is tucked away in my archives. The work also is on my website in the Folios section, Portfolio I.

I called Paul, not sure he would even remember me and said I had something to share with him. He asked me what took so long? But he understood when he saw what I had done. He was impressed and pleased to purchase the work. There was a funny moment when I gave him an invoice. I did my invoices back them in Pagemaker, which was a totally inappropriate use of the software, since it had no ability to add numbers. He chuckled and said it was the most unusual use the software he had ever seen.

I would later produce Portfolio II (also on my website) and Paul purchased that too, as well as numerous other prints of mine from shows I had back then. He is my biggest collector. I was also able to send other photo artists friends his way to share their work with him. There was even a show of his collection here in Seattle and I had a print in it, nestled between prints by Linda Conner and Ruth Berhardt. I haven’t seen Paul since the opening of that show, but I know he is a good guy more widely know for his philanthropy work than his work in the tech world. He gave my career a real leg up.

Perhaps being scattered isn’t such a bad thing. Maybe it makes me pause every now and then and recall the small moments that led me to this point, that maybe not all journeys are focused. Ok, too heavy deep and real. Time for lunch.

Tell me about your travels?