I considered myself a “faux” landscape photographer. I meticulously build model landscapes and environments and photograph the results. I enjoy working with my hands; I like getting messy, and part of me, subconsciously or not, is a bit of a control freak. Since picking up the camera, I’ve tried my hand at portraiture and photojournalism and I’m horrible at both pursuits. By creating my own miniature worlds, I can take as long as I like to build to scene, compose the picture, and snap the shutter.
I’ve always employed a sculptural element in my photography. As an undergraduate, I studied ceramics, woodworking, and photography. In graduate school I learned how to weld, make paper, and hone my woodworking skills. (I must admit I have a fondness for power tools.) In graduate school I built room-size sets, such as a beauty salon and a business office, and put myself in the picture.
I was born in Norton, Kansas, which at the time had a population of 3,500, two stop lights, and plenty of open space. I lived in a neighborhood surrounded by pastures and woods, where I fell out of trees, got stuck in mud and snow so deep I had to leave my shoes behind, and lit a couple of tumbleweeds on fire. I’m also a product of 1970’s disaster flicks such as Towering Inferno and, my favorite, Planet of the Apes.
These colorful childhood experiences inspired the body of work “Accidentally Kansas.” As a child, for instance, I heard sonic booms regularly and spent many hours staring up at the contrails crisscrossing the sky, wishing for one of those planes to come down and rescue me from my boredom (Airplane, 1998).