I suppose I would not qualify as a people-person; terms such as misanthrope, curmudgeon, bio-centrist, and recluse are more accurate labels. And yet, here is a paradoxical project that I struggle to explain. These images of a human menagerie that I’ve collected over a lifetime seem a strange focus for me. But I’ve always been an avid collector of all sorts of things, and when it comes to people I’m drawn to characters, especially the more eccentric, eclectic, and colorful individuals. Not that I want to have relationships with most of them, but I at least like to observe them and I think that is what I’ve assembled in this book. Perhaps by distilling the messiness and craziness of most human interactions into these static images I can indulge my anthropological voyeurism without stressing my limited sociability. I can control and edit with keystrokes and mouse-clicks. No muss, no fuss.
This sounds like delusional mumbling no matter how I spin it. Is this project any measure of a life well lived—keeping a visual tally of how many strange, interesting, beautiful, flamboyant and mysterious people I’ve encountered in six decades? It celebrates diversity if nothing else.
Most of us look for meaning among our memories, especially as we approach senescence and oblivion. While I concentrated on seeking adventure and beauty in the natural world, I eventually realized my quests would not be nearly as interesting without the accompanying human elements, even if only remotely involved.
Of course finding people interesting ranges from being appalled to being attracted by them. Most of us point our cameras, and thus our attention at the things we love or admire—family, friends, pets, scenery—although some “serious” photographers focus (or blur, as the artistic case may be) on disgusting and banal subjects (rotting corpses, urban blight, etc.) to get attention. I too am guilty of photographing road kill carcasses and flies on shit but I won’t bore anyone with a book of such images. I do however think the human zoo has universal appeal. Nearly everyone indulges in people-watching at times, so perhaps my explanation can stop at that—simply that we are curious about one another, monkeys gazing in a mirror.
Here then is my collection of people. It ranges from the sublime to the ridiculous, from fleeting and casual to profound connection. It consists of portraits of family, friends, lovers, colleagues, neighbors, strangers, and myself. It seems my most gregarious years are behind me now, and in my retirement I tend to shun crowds and large noisy gatherings, preferring the company of dogs most of the time. I did not intend this to become a confession or penetrating analysis, merely a few words to serve as caveat. Anyone who knows me will be struck by the irony of this book about people.