Moving Through Reality -Photocollage Method

I have been working with photo collage for over 35 years. Originally I used the camera to gather multiple views for large architectural drawings. I pieced the photos together and used the composite as a reference. I was particularly interested in large interior spaces and panoramic vistas. I was aware that traditional one, two, and three point perspective systems would not accommodate the expanded spaces I was seeking to depict. I was trying to develop a more inclusive method that could accommodate a 180 degree (or larger) expanse.
I was fascinated by the paintings of Giorgio De Chirico, who moves vanishing points around at will. By no means am I the first to go with an intuitive approach.

Below: Logan Airport, Boston 1984 (drawing from a photo collage)



Quickly, I became more interested in the photo collages than the drawings. In these early collages, I was intrigued by the necessity to split space as the photo frames were pieced together. I became acutely aware of the spatial limitations of an individual photo frame.
I would connect one frame to another spatially, but this led to space splitting elsewhere.

Think of a map of the globe where the three dimensions of the orb is cut and split like an orange peel to accommodate the flat paper. In my process, I am inside the orange/globe and am moving my camera in circular sweeps - down to my feet, up to the sky, etc. These three dimensional gatherings dance on the picture plane and I can direct them as I wish.

Below: Grand Central Station 1981 (photo collage on board)


This was in the early 1980's, and I was shooting 50-100 frames and collaging them on heavy boards. At this time David Hockney became widely known for his photo collages, and galleries in New York told me they could not show my work as it was copying Hockney.

Because of the "Hockney effect" I modified my methods by combining photographs with under drawings or paintings. With this approach I was playing with two distinct realities, and this sparked a dynamic tension. Which was more "real" - the photo space or the drawing space?

The play between the two realities expanded my ability to express what I was really after - an image that mimicked my actual multi-layered experience of "moving through reality." In the image below I am looking out from an airport terminal. Although I am consumed by the view, I am also aware of the interior space, my feet on the carpet and the activities of fellow travelers. I know the sky extends beyond the confines of the window and that the earth extends below me.

Waiting for take off 1985 (drawing and photos)


Early to Albuquerque 1987 (drawing and photos) Collection of the Rose Art Museum.


I continued to develop the collages over time and eventually came to a consistent style of pure photo collage. In 1988 I spent a month in the woods of New Hampshire at the MacDowell Colony, and in 1991 I spent three months at the Sitka Center for Art & Ecology in Otis, Oregon. Both were woods environments and I began to work with landscape. Back in Massachusetts, I ventured out to Walden Woods in Concord, MA. By this time I was shooting upwards of 4 rolls of 36 exposures (double printed) and was composing my collages starting with a pile of over 300 prints for each collage. I layered the prints on a 40x60" board and when the composition was completed I eliminated the overlap by cutting the fragments like puzzle pieces. These were dry mounted for a continuous surface and the seams were camouflaged with pencil. A very laborious method, the collages sometimes took years to complete.

Below: Red Tail, Nantucket 1994


Below: Promises (Walden) 1996


Below: Imu (Earth Oven, Hawaii) 1998


Although I felt successful with my images and exhibited them in ones person and museum shows, I had trouble selling the work as it was large, imperfect, and did not fall into an easy category. In order to distribute the images I had them reproduced with an 8x10" transparency that was drum scanned. I worked with a printer to produce print editions.
This was a highly costly and time consuming process. Eventually (2003-6) I abandoned the technique completely. It was obsolete, and I destroyed many unfinished collages. I turned to painting as a blessed relief.

In 2007 I started working to transition to digital photography and learned Photoshop and digital printing. I bought a 30 inch monitor and a computer that could handle the large and ever increasing files. Finally I was able to produce photo collages in an easier, and cost effective manner. In some ways, I was starting over.

Below: Morpheus 2009


As I worked digitally I started to take advantage of my ability to modify scale and value.
If there were areas I wished to appear more continuous I could use transparency and perspective tools to modify each photo frame. I could merge frames and make the collage appear to be one frame, when in reality it was multiple merged shots. I was still working with expanded space and multiple perspectives, but I could manipulate the information for the focus I wished to achieve. I could counter act some (if not all) of the inherent distortions of "photo space."

Below: Pilgrim Walking (Auvillar, France) 2011-12


Below: Minter and Hal (Auvillar, France) 2011-12


Currently, I am reproducing some of my old or unfinished collages by scanning the film and importing the information into Photoshop. A site I photographed in 2000 at Gros Morne National Park was completed in 2014 from 80 photo frames.

Below: Tablelands (Gros Morne National Park, Newfoundland) 2014. Can be printed up to 80 inches in high resolution.