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Time Let Me Play

In about the third or fourth grade, late in the afternoon when I should have been doing homework, I would go to the backyard to play. I was a pioneer and I would ride my horse back and forth across the grass from my homestead to a river. When it got too dark, I'd be called into dinner and banished from this world for the day. By sixth grade, the time between visits to my backyard adventures grew longer. Now, as I look back, these make believe dramas, seem like a journey through the Garden of Eden, and as I grew up, without noticing, the gates to the garden closed.

When children are deeply absorbed in play they seem far away. They create invisible worlds through conversations, dialogs and theatrics. Their young voices breathe life into stuffed animals, they see dinosaurs and dragons lurking behind trees and under beds. I observe the way they move their hands and feet, and they way they find and handle small creatures, the way they smell, touch, inspect and collect dirt, rocks, leaves- and more. At times, they will pause their game to allow a picture, proudly show a treasure they have found or constructed or perhaps show off a favorite toy. How do they so fully engage and immerse themselves in this rich life of childhood?

I listen to my sons, and I watch them, but I do not always understand their stories, myths and secrets. When I photograph children, my own and others, I use the lens of the camera, a window if you will, to seek clues to the realms they have created. I am engaged once again in child's play, if only from a distance, and that I have made a connection between my childhood and theirs through my photographs.

To Venerate the Simple Days

This work is lovingly dedicated to my nephew
Jamie O'Connell

The warm days of summer, when our daily obligations as a family are a bit more relaxed, and as the light of the sun lingers well into the evening, it’s easy to feel seduced into thinking that it will never end. And yet, every year, with the hint of color in the trees that appears in late August, the summer slowly fades into autumn, we head back to school and work and obligations, and the summer months quickly become an ephemeral memory.

For many years, mostly during the summer, I have photographed my children as they engaged in creative play that was close to home. My choices involved 6x7cm medium format cameras with black and white film, but as they grew, they’re interests and engagement in the world expanded beyond the scope of our back yard, and we found ourselves in public places such as the local pool, amusement park or ice cream stand far more often.  More  importantly, however, we suffered the violent and sudden loss of a nephew and cousin in a hit and run incident which left us all quite grief stricken. These shifts in my children’s lives and a deep sense of anguish and vulnerability over my nephew’s death led me in an unexpected direction both emotionally and creatively.

With this series of photographs, I opted to lighten my load and explore the warm days of summer with color film. I employed a small toy camera that allowed for picture making in places and at times that had been difficult or impossible with the more traditional gear used in my previous work.  It was a surprising choice for me, given that I was never enamored of the plastic optics of lo-fi gear, but I found as I exposed and processed the film, the pictures reflected my mood, one of deep satisfaction and contentment to be with friends and family, to spend time with the kids unencumbered by homework and schedules, but feeling somewhat melancholy in the knowledge that these days with them are rare and fleeting.

I Could Not Prove the Years Had Feet

Ongoing since 2013

My teenage boys seem to have gone into their rooms, and I’m not sure they’ll be coming out until they leave for college. As a parent, I have witnessed each chapter in their lives and have created a visual diary of photographs showing their creative and imaginative play, their explorations in the woods behind the house, trips to local pools or amusement parks, and—more recently, their interior spaces, messes and technologies.  They are hurtling toward an emotional departure from childhood at an alarming pace, and each chapter of their lives has proven to be fleeting and ephemeral.

The photographs in each or these portfolios feel like traces of the peril and poignance in the day to day life of two growing  boys over the last decade or so.

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