My writing and photography largely documents experiences in the black belt region of Alabama. I’m untrained in writing, self taught in photography, and often merge text, image and drawing into my work. This leads to hard questions I would have never asked or seeing things unnoticed. I use a simple used Fuji X model with fixed lenses, manual settings and natural light. Operating on a shoestring budget I drive around with my dog in a beat up old landcruiser.
This journal is an effort to avoid being plagued by the self-consciousness of a person seeking to be published. An inescapable fact most artists face is what they do is considered in the light of what others think. But the most important compass we have is internal not what anyone thinks.
I started this project during graduate school in 2008 when I purchased a camera to take photos for my thesis. It’s taken on many forms but always returns to where it started, a very personal journal of photos and notes. My devout mormon grandmother believed I should keep a journal (like her) and listen to the “still small voice” that speaks to us. She stressed to ignore the individual moment and reflect on the voice’s message over time. She believed it enables us understand life’s purpose and develop a deeper knowledge of place.
As for an artistic statement or such; I believe a camera is a weapon; if used effectively it can witness the human spirit and be a weapon to ignite change for social good. Evil where ever it exists does not like to be moved into the light.
I acknowledge my photographs have been used to disrupt an embedded segregated culture in Alabama and been controversial. Being covered by the Washington Post, The New York Times, Reason, The New Republic, Slate and countless others in the context of photographs that challenge racism and a judicial system. If photographing inmates being starved in county jails, and of documents in police departments revealing wrongful prosecutions and planted evidence are crimes then I am a criminal. But I have few sympathies nor am I an advocate for anyone. I simply point my camera at what I find compelling and where that inner voice guides me.
Regarding media, for the record I have never agreed to an interview nor allowed use of one of my photographs with any of these publications or to be used by any cause. This generates hostility with journalists and social activists and is reflected in their writing and what you may find on the internet. If a photograph has to be explained what it means or if the photographer becomes the story then I have missed the mark. I have learned anyone who refuses to give them what they want to publish becomes a target, meanwhile victims suffer, voices go unheard, communities further marginalized.
It has been my policy to never grant interviews, license my work, nor allow publication. I have only spoken to two journalists this past decade - both off the record, Serge Kovalawski of the New York Times and Matt Kessler who has written for the Guardian and the Atlantic. Both kept their word and respected these conditions. I have turned down requests by NPR, CBS, The Guardian, Buzzfeed, Slate and others. As a photographer I believe that Walker Evans was right, images must speak for themselves without filter of media or voice of who took the photo.
The one exception I made was the request by the mother of a jailed man in Alabama, Kharon Davis. Lengthy court battles followed, judges and police officers suing me, in which I prevailed. No one in the national media would believe her son had been held for nearly a decade in an Alabama jail and denied a trial. I found this personally sickening and did what I could to help her story be heard and have no regrets.
My photography work is available for purchase in the form of privately published books and signed prints.
Inquiries can be made here.