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 made this image at a rinky-dink pumpkin fair that happens every year in the town of Fillmore California. It is one of my favorite family traditions, because the only way to get to the fair is by taking a vintage steam train from Fillmore through beautiful the beautiful farmland and foothills of the Los Padres National Forest. The trains are from the 30’s and 40’s and they sell beer, so what more do you want? The kids kneel in the old seats and stick their heads out the windows as we pass avocado orchards and expanses of fruit trees. At the end of the line there is a pumpkin patch, a corn maze, a really rusty carousel, and a plywood dance floor. This girl was on the dance floor, getting way too close to the exhaust pipe of the fog machine. She must have stood there for five minutes, getting blasted. The joy of discovery is powerful. Later that day we took a hayride and ate lollipops that turned our tongues blue. It doesn’t get much better than that.