Notes on Close Relation

These are my people. People I grew up with as a kid and friends I met along the way, while making that awkward transition from adolescence to adulthood. Many of my subjects were close family, such as my parents Doris and Fred (Hot Dot and Fearless Fred) my sisters Ruth and Barbara, and any number of miniature poodles called Chammie (for Pink Champagne). Other subjects include extended family, friends of my parents, and people whose names I never really knew at all.  I’ve also included many of my earliest friends as an adult. These were my chosen family—roommates, girlfriends, drinking buddies. They all shared and shaped my life in some uncertain but important way. Unfortunately I have left a lot of people out for lack of a good picture. So forgive me Max, Eli, Abram, Hank, Dora, Frieda, Rhoda, Raymond, Morris, Allen, Lynn, Emily, Mark, Sharon, Jessica, Sue, Ingrid, Susan, Cat, Bill, Lawson, Paul, Joe, Bob, Henry, Lisa, Jennifer, Mica, Peter, Jordan, and so many others who belong in here. I never set out to make a personal memoir. If I had, you all would have been included.

In Close Relations I tried to mix sense of history with a sense of humor. I made most of these pictures as a student at Rhode Island School of Design, after spending years studying history at the University of Chicago. I knew almost nothing about art at the time but I was drawn to documentary work, which combined something I knew a little about (history) with something I was beginning to love (photography). These are my first “serious” photographs. And like any young photographer I mimicked my heroes: the elegant August Sander (page 96), the formal Walker Evans (book pages 8-9), the impish Brassai (book page 35), the crude Weegee (book page 37), the dark Diane Arbus (book page 27). I was totally aware of these influences when I was taking the pictures, but looking back, I am struck by how much I absorbed from Harry Callahan (book pages 106-7), who was far and away my most influential teacher. A technical aside: I made all the pictures in Close Relations with medium-format cameras. I used a wide variety of models: Hasselblad C and Super Wide, Rollei Wide, Tele-Rollei, and Brooks Veri-Wide. Maybe there were others, as well. Whenever possible, I used a tripod to steady the camera and help frame the subject precisely. In low-light, indoors and out, I often used a Honeywell flash, customized with a bare-bulb by my local camera repair shop. My film of choice was Kodak Ti-X., developed normally in D-76. I usually printed on Kodak and Agfa fiber papers. Feel free to view Close Relations as a random collection of kooky pictures from the early 1970s. It is all of that. But I hope you will also see it as it was meant, a history of a unique place and time.