-->How long have you been teaching? What made you want to start teaching photography in the first place? What's the most important thing you can impart to your students?
I have been teaching since 1983 at Mass Art. One of the reasons I wanted to teach is that I had a fantastic teacher of photography when I was a sophomore at Bowdoin College 1n 1969. I was really taken by the way he could talk about photography not so much as a technical thing but as a way to discover yourself in the act of sensing the world.
As a teacher the most important thing to do is to encourage the curiosity and
energy of the student. It's important to talk about history and the tradition
of the medium but it's as important to allow the student's instincts and
drive to grow and mature.
-->What role does chance play in your photography?
Chance plays some role in most everything that I do but a lot of my pictures
are made with premeditation. The earlier street photographs of people did
depend very much on chance since things in life can change so fast. I must
tell you , however, that the work that I like the most surprises me beyond
what I had expected.
-->In the introduction to _A Camera In a Room_, you talked about studying comparative religion at Bowdoin. Do you see your art/creation as a spiritual act?
The spiritual aspect of my work has more to do with the sense that things in
the world can be perceived and accepted as being in some respect alive. I try
to approach everything that I photograph with this sense of wide-eyed awe
--> There is a sense of finding magic in everyday life in your photographs (like in "Motion of Soapy Water in Pan" and "Two Forks") that reminds me a bit in spirit of artists like Remedios Varo and Marc Chagall, and filmmakers like Raoul Ruiz. How would you say your work was influenced by magic realism? (I realise Chagall wasn't part of the magic realism "movement", but he illustrated the point I wanted to make.)
Magic Realism was a very interesting literary movement-I read all the books
that came out of that, especially 100 Years of Solitude , Three Sad Tigers
and Hopscotch. I think my work relates philosophically to Magic realism - you
know - the way real life can provide more imaginative material than anything
you can make up.
--> You've done some photos that portray language (such as the alphabet of water droplets), and in the introduction to _A Camera in a Room_ you talked about wanting to take pictures of woodblocks as a way of illustrating the physicality of language. Does working in a purely visual field such as photography make you aware of the physicality/graphic potential of language and alphabet?
I think that having left Cuba at 14 has a lot to do with my interest in
language. I had to learn English from scratch when I was a teenager, so the
sense that even while I 'm fluent at it I can still see language as a
distinct,foreign thing-a thing not just a transparent carrier of ideas and
emotions but also something to look at as a physical presence.
--> In a few of your photos you've drawn attention to the mechanics of a camera (I'm thinking most specifically of "Light Bulb" and "My Camera and Me"). How does your knowledge of how a camera works influence your photos?
I think that the way photographs look is very much tied up with its
technology. Let's be frank about it-it's the camera that "sees" and takes the
picture-Knowing the very principle of camera vision is extremely important in
--> Your kids figure heavily into much of your work. What do they think of your pictures? Have either of them expressed an interest in becoming a photographer or artist?
I no longer photograph my kids-they are at an age where they won't put up
with it. I think they like knowing that sometimes lots of people look at them
in galleries and museums-My hunch is that they are secretly kind of pleased
at this low level celebrity
--> When you were starting out as a photographer, why did you choose photography? Did you try other forms of artistic expression before you hit on this one? What did you like about photography?
The first roll of photographs I took made me know that I had discovered my
way of expression. I have tried other forms of art making but I'm pretty bad
at drawing and painting. At one point I had considered becoming a
percussionist but I had a hard time learning to read music. The thing I liked
about photography, right away, was the freedom to decide quickly without much
thought where a good picture could be
--> Finally, what influences you? I'm NOT asking who your top five favourite photographers or artists are...I'm asking what makes you sit up and say, "that would make a great photograph"?
The thing that makes me want to make pictures now is just looking without
many prejudices. The stuff right under your eyes is the most wonderful
universe-if you care to look with young eyes