I have been around photographs and photography my entire life: my father was a self-employed advertising photographer. With a darkroom at home, and a studio in Manhattan, I’d accompany him to agencies or his studio for shoots. He photographed jobs at home, and I spent hours with him in the darkroom, rolling brown glass gallon jugs on the floor mixing chemicals, sitting next to the enlarger watching him dodge and burn, and then seeing the image come up in the developer. The amber space was a secretive departure from the world, as we made photograms together. My dad handed me my first camera, an old Nikon F (my family was ahead of the recycling curve) for my 18th birthday, and I travelled with it to Israel and Europe in what’s now termed a gap year.
In college I realized I’d be a photographer, with my “aha” moment while making a picture in Photo 1 at UNH. I fell in love with the images of Harry Callahan, Imogen Cunningham and Emmet Gowin, and intrigued by those of Deborah Turbeville, Larry Fink and Elliott Erwitt. I switched to the BFA program in photography, and minored in Women’s Studies. Feminist theory entered my Thesis work about gender roles in constructed images.
After a few years working 3 part-time jobs simultaneously, I went to graduate school at Bennington College for my MFA in photography, with additional concentration in dance (having considered dancing professionally) and video production. My dad gave me his old Rolleiflex (his first camera) and I also began using a 4×5. I hungered for the descriptive details of larger negatives, and the smooth, tactile surface that resulted in the prints. With my MFA Thesis Exhibit, portraits of women, and interiors from my parent’s house complete, I took a teaching job that I’m still at. Growing up watching commercial photography in action, I knew it wasn’t for me, and teaching was a good fit.
My photographic practice always sits aside other realms of my life. Portraits are a reason to spend time with people, and sometimes to be an important caregiver. When my mom saw the pictures I made of Deb (Transformations—Life), she said I couldn’t photograph her if she got sick. So when she did, I didn’t. Sometimes it’s just as important to not put the camera between you and life. I admit I’m a voyeur (aren’t most photographers). Renovation projects, like Open House signs, draw me in, and I’ve made pictures. I sometimes will walk specifically to make pictures, or make pictures as an excuse to walk. Every summer, I spend time making cyanotypes of my garden bounty. The cycle of the Jewish calendar is like the annual photographic or garden cycle for me. One love I’ve hardly photographed is baseball. Probably because I spent so much time keeping the scorebook for my son’s teams, I just didn’t have the time. Now I’ll have to make it a priority to use the 8×10 Deardorff that my dad recently passed on to me.