From the Before It Is Later Series
16x20" or 20x24"
Archival Pigment Print
Signed and Numbered by the artist
Edition of 50
I don’t know how many of you all know this, but I make a lot of pictures of kids. I have never sought out a job photographing children, but I think it is one of the most profoundly simple pleasures in my life. I take a camera on most family outings, and I am constantly comparing and contrasting my own childhood experience with the one that appears in my viewfinder. Through the actions of my own children and their friends, I am reminded of how fast it goes by, and yet how it seems that it will last forever when you are in it. True innocence disappears quite early in our lives, and when it is gone, it becomes our sweetest memory. Seeing that quality in the personalities of my children, and getting to capture that, is an unexpected virtue of the career I chose, and one I do not take lightly.
In looking through the images I have made of children, I am reminded of how lazy I can be. I see all the moments I missed, and I realize that there are things happening right under my nose that pass completely over my head in the moment. I think of the times I decided not to bring a camera, or the time I just wanted to forget about making images and be in the moment, and I can only imagine the pictures I missed. I struggle with this on a daily basis- document life or experience it? And maybe I experience it more fully when I document it?
I made a very personal book a little while ago that attempts to deal with this conundrum. On one hand, I know how fleeting childhood is, and I want to capture those expressions and expeditions and emotions so I can pour over them for the rest of my life. And on the other hand, I want to be present in the lives of my children, and not constantly observing them through the camera. I didn’t want to say to myself I would make these pictures later, and then miss the window. So I called the book Before It Is Later, in reference to this specific, very innocent time in my children’s lives. It is a big book, full of very personal images, and I really don’t show it to anyone, unless of course they are in my living room and they find it on the shelf. I gave it to my wife one year, and that was that.
I wanted to share a few of those images in the store, and maybe down the road I will print a few more from the original series. I learned so much from the last decade of photographing my youngest girls, and I apply those lessons to my work all the time. I am much more willing to go out and do a shoot with no planning, no assistants, and no lighting than I was 10 years ago. I know now that you can’t manufacture a true emotion, so I am more patient and less controlling when I photograph someone. I think I now try to see everyone as a kid, at least in some aspect. We all are running around in these adult bodies, watching with horror as they get older and grayer and less efficient. But inside, I am still a child, and I am still seeking those simple pleasures of discovery and awe. Where’s the link? Where is that thread from the adult in front of my camera to the kid they once were? Now that I have kids of my own, I may be able to find that connection every now and then. And when I do, I make a truer picture.
I realize how much of my own childhood is reflected in the images made on Halloween in this series. It is far and away my favorite childhood holiday, mostly because I always enjoyed so much the process of coming up with an original costume idea and disappearing into a different person for a night. Now, as a dad and a photographer, I love trying to capture that mix of creative energy and anonymity that also may involve a scare, or some tears. This image was a fleeting moment right before dusk, and I couldn’t tell you who was behind the mask. When my kids were younger they would go out earlier to trick-or-treat, and I could make pictures like this on Halloween before the sun went down. Sadly, as they get older, they start later and later, and I am stuck with my old foe, darkness. I just love this kid’s expression, and I can always give myself a bit of a chill when I think, “Maybe that wasn’t his father.”
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