A Brief Biography
I was born in a leafy suburb over the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco in Marin County. My main art studies were at the San Francisco Art Institute and San Francisco State University where I received a Masters in Fine Art in 1969. In my last year of postgraduate study I was offered the job to assist the famous photographer, Imogen Cunningham, then in her late 80s, when she taught a subject at San Francisco State. After graduation I was employed to teach photography in the Fine Arts at College of Marin and I also taught photography workshops for the University of California, San Francisco.
During that time I was a founding member of the Visual Dialogue Foundation which became a significant influence on photography in the fine arts in the San Francisco Bay Area. A few of the original members had national and international reputations and others achieved national and international reputations later in their careers. The founding members of the VDF were : Michael Bishop, Judy Dater, Ed Douglas, Robert Forth, Oliver Gagliani, Michael Harris, Harvey Himelfarb, Leland Rice, Charles Roitz, John Spence Weir, Jack Welpott, and Don Worth. Later members were: Stan Baker, Linda Connor, Karl Folsom, Timo Pajunen, Don Renfro, and Steven Soltar.
The Visual Dialogue group produced a portfolio of members work which sold nationally and in Europe to museums and galleries including: the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Chicago Art Institute, the George Eastman House (now the George Eastman Museum), NY, the Museum of Modern Art, NY, and the Open University, London.
In 1969 I met an Australian, Gael Knepfer, who had two children, and we eventually began to live together as a family. I produced a series titled Family Photographs which included images made in our home environment and image made during our travels locally, in Mexico, and in Europe.
Gael had a burning desire to return to Australia and in 1973 we moved to Australia. We wound up living in northern New South Wales on a farm in subtropical banana growing country. I set up a darkroom and studio in the nearby village of Nimbin. During that time I curated an exhibition of Visual Dialogue photography which was exhibited at the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne and at the Australian Centre for Photography in Paddington, a suburb of inner Sydney.
In 1976 Gael and I separated and I got a job lecturing in photography at the newly established Sydney College of the Arts with the well known photographer and educator, John Williams. During that time I was also in a small group of photographers that included John Williams, Carol Jerrems, Greg Weight, and Robert McFarlane.
After living in the country for the previous few years I found that adjusting to the fully urban environment of Sydney was an emotional and psychological challenge. I remember waking up most mornings around 5:30 for no apparent reason. Eventually I realised that, at that time of day, there was a brief period of quiet that separated the previous day from the day that was about to begin. My work has always been influenced by my environment and it was natural that I would work with this made-environment that I found so unnatural and overwhelming; these images evolved into a series of black and white photographs that I titled City Spaces.
In 1977 I became head of the newly created Photography department in the first year of the Bachelor of Visual Arts program at the South Australian School of Art in Adelaide. This was a first for the state of South Australia and a seven day a week job for me. I had to write the diverse and complex course, make it viable, and attract students to a medium almost totally new to the broader art scene in the state.
I found myself in quite a strange position. The Adelaide region had a population of around one million people but there was not even one artist exclusively using the medium of photography, with a national reputation, living here. It seemed that the people who had talent, people like Robert McFarlane, had moved to Sydney or Melbourne where they had some chance of recognition.
My impression was that the last period when Adelaide had an active photography scene was about 70 years earlier when John Kauffmann and Harold Cazneaux, nationally recognised photo-pictorialists, were actively stimulating the local scene. By 1910 Kauffman had moved to Melbourne and Cazneaux had moved to Sydney. Both became quite successful foundation-figures on which photography, as an art-medium, could be successfully used by subsequent generations of artists in those two major cities. Adelaide seemed to stagnate and the Art Gallery of South Australia also virtually stopped collecting photography until 1977 when Photography was added to the curated Prints and Drawings collection.
During my early weeks and months in Adelaide I attempted to continued the City Spaces series but the city was quite small compared with Sydney and my interests, which made sense in Sydney, didn't seem adequately significant in the Adelaide environment.
In 1978 I began working with colour and visited the Flinders Ranges and the desert country for the first time. I was very impressed with the black and white night photography that the American photographer, Richard Misrach, was producing in the mid 1970s. I was fortunate to see some of that work when it showed in Adelaide at the Jam Factory. I began experimenting with night photography and flash near where I lived at the beach. This was the beginning of the images that evolved into the Land of Time series.
On the strength of my Land of Time series I was included in the CSR Photography Project and photographed at their gypsum mine on Kangaroo Island. Later, I was also included in the Parliament House Project which included photographers from around the country who were commissioned to form projects related to the building of the new Parliament complex in Canberra. I was particularly interested in photographing the land that the complex was to be built on but the buildings were well underway by the time my proposal was accepted. On my initial visit to the site I was confronted with quite a different landscape than I had imagined and I had to adjust my ideas to the environment that I found.
In the early 1990s I began work on an idea that was eventually exhibited with the title: The Lure of Unrealised Desire. This idea was more experimental than any I had previously worked with. My imagery made use of photographic test-strips and other unfixed images that I gathered from the darkroom rubbish bins at the end of each day. A certain amount of colour appeared as these found-photographic fragments were exposed to light. I enlarged the images on a Canon photocopier and played with the colour during this process. These images were then used to make larger works on an early Canon inkjet printer.
From my arrival in South Australia I was actively showing my work in SA and interstate in Sydney, Melbourne, and Perth. I also had work shown overseas in the US. By the mid 1990s my lecturing load became unbearable with the Howard Government's educational changes. Funding for the Visual Arts slumped dramatically and we were forced to reduce our four year course to just three years. Lecturers were forced by the university system to take larger groups of students, more classes of students each week, and our time with each class of students was also reduced. Education in the Visual Arts was hugely compromised and, stubbornly, I tried to maintain the educational standards that we had established in the 1980s.
My own creative output nearly stalled during this period and in a state of exhaustion I retired in 2001. Since that time, with increasing motivation, I have re-connected with my ideas and my creative instincts and I have pushed both in quite new directions.
In 1994 my partner Bet and I purchased a 5 acre property which included an 1870s stone settlers cottage and a couple of good out buildings and we began our country lifestyle in the Adelaide Hills just a 30 minute drive from the city. This lifestyle, closer to nature, has had an immense influence on my thinking and on my recent art. From 2010 I began producing work that I feel is 'personally significant, often quirky, and uniquely mine'. A selection of my recent work is on the website along with my earlier photography made in Australia and the US.
Now in 2018, there are a number of nationally and a few internationally recognised artists using photography as their medium of choice who live in the Adelaide region. Many artists, educators, and curators, over the years since 1977, have added to the growth and the vitality of the photographic medium in South Australia.
During my 45 years in Australia (41 years in Adelaide), my art has been collected by many individuals and is in numerous public collections that include: the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, the Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide, the Bathurst Regional Gallery, New South Wales, the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, Australian Capital Territory, and the Parliament House Art Collection, Canberra, ACT.