My work is often about growing up, transition and choosing one's identity. In Derby Dolls, I have explored these issues over several years, creating portraits of the diverse group of girls, ages 8 to eighteen, drawn to junior roller derby, as they practice and compete on various Junior Derby teams. In this alternative sport, girls find their power, and all body types are celebrated. It is thrilling to watch and be a part of this community, and to see these girls grow up over the course of this project.
Dispatches from the American West
“When you give up all the fictional stories, you can observe reality with far greater clarity.” - historian Yuval Noah Harari
I grew up in the American West. Mostly in Los Angeles, which sometimes puts a glossy veneer on the American Dream. On family vacations, we would get in the car, or the camper on my Grandpa’s truck, and drive to the wilder places. Long highways leading to small towns, and vast vistas. Places where churches and strip clubs exist on the same block, where one can buy homemade ice cream, assault weapons, knitting supplies or taxidermy all at the local drugstore. Or where, looking the other direction, the untamed view takes ones breath away. Many of the places I have photographed are changing rapidly, making way for high rises, strip malls, and box stores.
There is something quintessentially American about the big highways and lonesome winds, the strange glimpses of the selling of dreams, of momentary pleasures and necessities, the fortune tellers and coffee shops, the sacred next to the profane. America is struggling at the moment, about which way to go, which side to choose, which road to follow. The divides of race, gender, class, and tribe are ever more clearly drawn. With images of my hometown, and the roads leading out from it to the horizon, I am attempting to navigate the wilderness.
Sounds of my Childhood
I live in the house I grew up in, up in the hills, among the last of the coyotes, deer, owls. Now my children and my partner and I occupy these rooms, with the dogs at our feet, overlaying the memories. Happiness is finding its way in, and I am finally making peace.
Sometimes though I wake at night to the sounds of my childhood. Coyotes in the cove howling and yipping in the misty bushes, packs hunting, the chilling wails as they close in on a kill, or howling in unison with the occasional siren. They leak into my dreams, along with the buzzing of the thick power lines overhead, which sizzle on foggy nights in a way both ominous and comforting. In the distance there is the low moan of big rigs downshifting on the freeway like far off surf. In summer there are crickets, shockingly loud, a constant roar of love and lust. One or two inevitably get inside, and keep up a lonely rhythmic keening in the den, or the corner of the fireplace, hoping to find a connection.
It takes me a minute to come back to the present, for the unconscious to give way to the conscious, for the dreams to fade, for the present to overlay the past.
The moon is bright tonight, a silvery light that shows patterns both familiar and unrecognizable on the wall. I can’t make out colors, but it is bright enough to make me restless. I get a glass of water, just for some reason to walk the length of the house, to look around. My dog dutifully pads after me, sleepily certain that there is a good reason for me to be up. There is an owl hooting somewhere soft and mournful. And then, eventually, another.
Women's Marches Los Angeles
The beginning of the #MeToo era can probably be traced to the viral women’s marches of January 2017. Horrified by the misogyny that had been casually displayed in the recent election, worried about the continuing availability of choice, not to mention health care, we took to the streets to show solidarity. The turnouts were massive. Huge. A sea of pink. Way bigger than the inauguration. And these marches in turn in turn led to organizing, and as seen in the 2018 elections, lots of women running for office. The marches continue, and the pendulum is swinging toward progress. The revolution is now.
I used to watch my son and his friends trying out their ideas about being a grown-up. The boys delighted in costumes, pretending to be knights, caped crusaders, cowboys, anything heroic.
The boys had their noses pressed up against the glass of adulthood, peering at a world they dreamed of entering soon. Their superhero selves could save the day, and helped them deal with the anxiety of being small in a world that values power. It also allowed them to experience the future.
Soon, so soon, the boys grow up, join teams, or get jobs, and the childish costumes with the fake muscles stay in the toy box. They move on to sports uniforms, or fashion, or other ways of presenting themselves that reflect their chosen tribes. But for a few fleeting years, they feel like young gods, who want to be seen and heard, while their imaginations run the world.
Black Rock City
There is much misinformation about Burning Man, and my intent with these images is to counter that by portraying a small portion of the beauty, creativity, and generosity that I have experienced. Burning Man is a splendid experiment, ever changing and evolving. It has also been a life changing experience for many, by giving permission to creativity. I met my partner there the first time I went, and now we have a daughter, so it was certainly life altering for me.
In another way of thinking about it, Burning Man is actually Black Rock City, the fourth largest city in the State of Nevada, with all sorts of people doing all manner of interesting, creative, and sometimes outrageous things. It only exists in reality for a month or so a year, and lives the rest of the time in the imaginations and plans of many. It could be the greatest artists’ colony of all.
I have heard a solo piano concerto in the middle of the deep playa, and a banjo and bass show at Front Porch Camp, as well as guitar singer songwriters, percussion circles, jazz singers, and a strolling accordion player. A man with a guitar on a bike stopped to listen to the accordion player, and they started in to a danceable blues number, and soon folks were dancing in the middle of the street. A couple of dancers were doing the tango in Center Camp, and a banjo player started playing and an impromptu swing dance broke out. At night, giant art cars float by booming dubstep, sixties rock, and disco. Dancers cavort atop large vessels shaped like ships sailing the playa, or huge mastadon bones, or giant majestic dragons. There are art projects everywhere, from giant sculptures to what the person next to you is wearing. The scale of the thing is overwhelming, and it is easy to get lost. Where am I? Who am I? Who do I want to be and what do I want to do today? What day is it? Shall I just wander, get lost, and see what happens? Whatever you can imagine or create, day or night, here is your blank slate and a ready audience.
These images of contemporary American girls reflect deeper themes of age and identity.The girls choose their own way of presenting themselves, how they dress and which doll best represents them from their own collections. Some have many, some have only one, but there is always one doll that they most identify with. Ranging from the homemade to the storebought, they often collect matching outfits for themselves and their doll avatars.
They look at the camera with a self possession and clarity of identity belying their years, on the cusp of adulthood at ages seven to nine, simultaneously innocent, hopeful, and wise.I was never this self aware as a child, and the girls that I encounter in this project astonish me with their presentation.