Part of it has to do with the discipline of being actively receptive. At the core of this receptivity is a process that might be called soft eyes. It is a physical sensation. You are not looking for something. You are open, receptive. At some point you are in front of something that you cannot ignore.
In fact, the work I'm looking at now is from 2002 [the interview was taking place in 2007]. But that time is a good lag time, because what happens is that I forget about the subjective experience of taking the picture, which is always pleasurable. When I look at the contact sheets, I want to be free of that. I want to just look at the photograph and see if it's interesting. It amazes me sometimes, each of those exposures, maybe five in a row, taken maybe within a three to four-second period. You'd think they'd like each other. They don't! The world is so constantly in flux that each one is different, is distinct. And a little thing, a little thing, changes the photograph completely.
After I photographed, I waited quite a while before I actually look at the stuff that I photographed. For a year, two years, sometimes longer than that, I have contact sheets in my studio now that are from 2007, 2008 that I haven't really even looked at. So I need to be distant from that subjective experience so that I can see what the photograph itself contains.
I could feel myself changing physically. It was like something dropped out of the sky. Seeing her on the fire escape had given me a certain feeling, and then when I saw the photograph of her, it gave me a similar feeling. And I thought that was an incredibly powerful thing -- that a photograph could give you a feeling that was similar to a feeling you had in the physical world. Nobody could've told me that. I knew what I was going to do for the rest of my life.
I work the materials in a very straightforward, simple way. I produce a negative that has as much information as possible, which is the way the world is, every surface is described in the world. So my craft is duplicating the light that exists in the physical world. That's my measure of a good print if it feels like the light that exists in the physical world, it's a good print.
You're kind of like a free agent between your instinct, your anticipation, and your intelligence. And all of those things are keep continually moving back and forth in a very fluid way while you're photographing. And that experiences is really pleasurable, it's really exciting, and it's really the driving it's the reason that I photograph. That end the way photographs look the way they describe the world.
I put all of the photographs up in my studio on the walls. I began to live in the world of those photographs, and I would walk past the photographs just like I might walk past a tree or a corner in the actual physical world. And I moved in ways that the work was dictating I move. And it allowed me to exist not in the physical world but in the world, the physical world described in photographs. And as I did that, I began to discover things.
There is a distinct physical dimension that is very, very singular, that's being described in these photographs. In general terms, we'd think of it as vantage point, but what it's saying it's announcing where you are when you're looking at these photographs, and it's forming a kind of contention between us the viewer looking and the scene that they're looking at. And there's a play between those two things that forms a certain kind of content in the work, and it is the connective tissue that runs through the whole project.