Born in Asheville, North Carolina, I spent my early years growing up in my mother’s childhood home with its view of Beaver Lake. In 1965, my mother sold the house and moved me and my siblings to Europe. Most of that time was spent traveling around the continent in a Chevy Bel Air station wagon, perhaps the largest automobile on the Continent at the time. It certainly created excitement whenever we came into a small village in Italy or Spain. Eventually we settled in Paris where I attended boarding school at Notre-Dame de Boulogne outside of the city.
During those years living in Europe, I began to make pictures with my medium format box camera wherever we traveled and in the museums I looked at pictures made by an art history of painters. I walked among the ruins of the ancient Romans and found a world to myself in the woods of Boulogne. My teachers gave me de la Fontaine and Baudelaire. And in the spring of 1968, I was given a lesson in political resistance that I have never forgotten.
"If you don't know where you're going,
any road will take you there."
- George Harrison
The photographer who plans an itinerary, raises the funds for a trip and departs for places far from home, is both scientist-amateur; artist-explorer. This notion of being an amateur is taken literally here for its meaning, “for the love of something” rather than its association with someone without a skill or a naïf. Knowing how to proceed by some method, being educated about the people and places to be visited and having the insight into what all of it means, this is essential to the artist-explorer. But, at some point, one must give way to the intuitive, allowing the place to take over from the calculations and preconceptions of the photographer. Art is not only information but also transformation.
Anyone with the right equipment, technical ability and sense of the pictorial can make quality photographs of their travels. But, are they interesting? Do they reveal something beneath and beyond the surface? Why exactly has the photographer engaged himself or herself in the place of their choosing? It is a question I consider every time I go to the airport. There are many undiscovered territories awaiting the thoughtful and contemplative photographer. Even if my photographs look like someone else’s or my journey to Angkor Wat is preceded by Kenru Izu, I know that the work must have a substance beyond the ability of the camera to record.
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