As a teenager I was obsessed with understanding what it means to be human. Where do we fit in the world, and with each other? That obsession has stayed with me my whole life. It has led me into explorations of religion, politics, ethics, and art.  I’m sure it’s why I became a teacher, and it deeply influences my approach to photography.

GasMaskDogLooking back on myself as a boy and a young adult, I recall trying to answer the great questions of life, and for a while being quite sure I had it figured out.  Later, I started questioning the questions. I wondered whether they were all as important as I had been taught, and whether it was possible that some were based on prejudice, superstition, misunderstanding, or even malice.

My worldview started shifting. I found that I wasn’t even clear about what the questions actually were.  This threw me back to trying to figure out what kinds of questions I should be asking in the first place.

These days, I sometimes wonder whether the questions are even knowable, never mind the answers. But since the other three stages of my development have also stayed with me (we are never only the people we have become — we are always also the people we have been), there is a kind of dialectic going on in my mind all the time now: a cycle of thesis / antithesis / synthesis that may or may not eventually lead me to a kind of enlightenment. I suspect there will be no end point. I’ll be exploring this stuff, always on shifting sand, for the rest of my life.

And I’m happy with that. I think (and I hope) it’s honest. It feels more real than the earlier stages.  My best photos are about that process, or part of it. Aside from the fact that I just really like people, I’m also sure that this is part of why I want to photograph them and their artefacts. Also dogs. 🙂