PHYLLIS: PORTRAITS FROM THE PRIVATE LIFE OF AN AMERICAN WIFE
THIS SERIES is an extended portrait focusing on one individual, one woman, over a period of 17 years. A span of time - from newlywed wife to middle-aged spouse - where the issues of youth, the identities that have been established and the roles once assumed, are being redefined by the considerations of a new season. The promises and demands of marriage, family and home, fiscal responsibilities, physical changes, childbirth, parenting, and the death of one’s own parents all present new challenges and perspectives to the body and soul. In this, the thickness of life, birth and death are like polar coordinates propelling the self around an ever-expanding sphere of issues and obligations. Bound in servitude to and by sustenance from these common bonds, this midpoint of life serves host to a cauldron of personal concerns, private joys, and life defining events.
FULL SERIES (152+ images) BEGINS BELOW
A story in six parts.
Please allow a few moments for images to load.
Click any image for slide show format.
THERE AND BACK AGAIN
Thoughts about the series
As this work took shape in the late 1970’s, it seemed questionable to me that a single photographic portrait could sufficiently capture the essence of an individual in the moment, let alone across an extended period of time and changing life circumstances. However, I also believed that given a large enough series of carefully chosen images, taken over a long enough span of time, it would be possible to present a more candid, truthful, and more significant likeness - an extended portrait - showing context, experiences, and the fundamental nature of the individual. Creating in effect a composite image of one life being lived within the confines of time and space. I believed this expanded definition of portraiture and these wider visual, spatial, and temporal borders would allow essential qualities and intrinsic aspects of the subject to be revealed more accurately. It was equally important for me to respect the limits and boundaries of what could be articulated visually. The final portrait needed to embrace the possible and respect the personal - those seen and unseen rules, agreements and trusts that exist in any lasting relationship. These boundaries would in turn provide a framework to work within and challenge me creatively. The process itself became my measure of success, slowly creating this more complex, holistic portrait of one human being. I thank my wife Phyllis for graciously opening her life to me and allowing me to share it with others.
Ever the teacher, Phyllis has shaped and given direction to my photography in numerous ways. Her innate artistic nature has given me a richer understanding of the world. Her sense of propriety has given me hard boundaries to remain aware of and work within. Her affable and adventurous being has expanded my own sense of inquisitiveness and provided me with the greatest of joys: a life-long companion. Perhaps of most interest is her broad intellect and deep insights, which have astounded me on occasions too numerous to mention. We of course have the same willful battles as any other couple. Our values and perspectives though similar are seldom the same, and often the source of considerable disagreement. Such is life. We deal with it, perhaps with humor, perhaps not. We learn from our mistakes, bending so not to break the bonds we have formed. We continue again, hopefully stronger and more attuned to the other. We move forward together, across a shared time and space. Such is love and marriage.
As a photographer rather than a writer or public speaker, I am more comfortable communicating with images and speaking in visuals as my means of expression. I believe it would be a vain and disappointing exercise for me to attempt to write commandingly about the deeper meanings that I believe exist within this most personal of works. I will leave that to the photographs themselves and to those more fluent in the lexicons of artistic critique. I will however suggest several sources and leads. The late John Berger in his landmark BBC series and book “Ways of Seeing” expresses a thought and a sympathy that can be considered the conceptual bedrock for this extended portrait series. His discussion of the nude verses the naked portrayal of women rang true in the 1970’s, and remains true these 40 years later. In addition, the term The Male Gaze has generated a wealth of written works and analysis, and I believe is ripe for revisiting with an historic photo-centrist twist. If this extended portrait has sufficient visual strength and conceptual substance, I believe an adept writer will have no difficulty expressing her or his thoughts clearly, concisely, and with enough straightforward ease that a visual person, like myself, will understand and agree with them.
This series ended in late 1994, with image selection and printing taking place during the following three years. Beginning in late 1998 I refocused my time and attention on the two major forces in my life - my family and my personal photographic journey - continuing to make images but forgoing the circuits, curriculums, and credentials traditionally required for success. Following this 20-year interlude and coinciding with my retirement in 2018, I am enthused by the changes that have occurred and the numerous new photographic resources now available. I look forward to placing my work into these new photographic arenas. Thank you for your time and attention. Feel free to contact me. I’d like to hear your thoughts and opinions about the various works. Sincerely,
And there in that yonder
where blue people wander,
I turned and started to run,
back to the battle, the big top, the saddle,
back to some things left undone.