For two years I lived with my father in Delaware. We would often drive back home to New York City. Leaving in the early morning to beat traffic, after an hour the sun would begin its rise in the east over the New Jersey landscape. I often slept beside him in the pick-up truck throughout the trip, but this time I was awoken from my nap. It was a rich sunrise. As I looked out from my window, I spotted a most intriguing sight. Against the bright sky in the east, a red hot-air balloon rose up above the landscape, its translucence illuminated with the rising sun. Focused instead on his drive, dad seemed to have missed the sight. Strangely enough, his missing out made it only more special -- amid the young life I was living was this confidential moment of solitude, wonder and mystery. The simplicity of this moment has never escaped me, nor has the emotion and excitement it stirred left my memory.
I was born and raised in Hell’s Kitchen, New York City. My childhood was divided between two realms. One was at home in the safety of my toy room, filled to the walls with die-cast trucks, model airplanes and toy trains. Then it was leaving home to go on road trips to nearby Pennsylvania. I can still feel the excitement of knowing we were leaving soon. As a family we were often happiest when we traveled together. Vivid in my memory are the old towns we visited and the crisp winter air thick with the smell of burning wood. We walked over earth blackened from years of coal and oil deposits. Yet among all this were small trees and grasses sprouting up through Scranton’s empty tracks and roundhouse structures. These sensory experiences of place continue to inform the work I do, as does exploring the balance between the built and natural environment. My earliest photographs at age 15 were a return to the childhood memory of these places.
The camera I use encourages me to stick around and let the experience of weather, light and mood really sink in. I’ll dwell there until I feel the picture is just right. Then I’ll make one, two or at most three film exposures and set off to the next location. It’s all very slow and weighty compared to working with a small hand-held camera, but the rewards in making a large format print is worth it. I first discovered the view camera during high school but wasn’t proficient with it until my early 20’s.