I enjoy the camera. Beyond that it is difficult to explain the process of photographing except by analogy: The trout streams where I flyfish are cold and clear and rich in the minerals that promote the growth of stream life. As I wade a stream I think wordlessly of where to cast the fly. Sometimes a difference of inches is the difference between catching a fish and not. When the fly I’ve cast is on the water my attention is riveted to it. I’ve found through experience that whenever—or so it seems—my attention wanders or I look away then surely a fish will rise to the fly and I will be too late setting the hook. I watch the fly calmly and attentively so that when the fish strikes—I strike. Then the line tightens, the playing of the fish begins, and time stands still.
It’s [The large-format 8x10-inch camera is] unlike any other camera. It’s unwieldy. You have to physically lift it up on its tripod and move it to get the shot you want. That alone makes any decision you make very clear and visceral. The camera is no longer an extension of your eye; it’s this tool that is outside of you.
It’s the bane of my existence that I see photography not as a way of recording personal experience particularly, but as this process of exploring the world and the medium. I have to be reminded, “It’s your son’s birthday party. Bring a camera.” And then, when I’m there, “Take a picture,” because it doesn’t occur to me to use it as this memorializing thing.
There’s something arbitrary about taking a picture. So I can stand at the edge of a highway and take one step forward and it can be a natural landscape untouched by man and I can take one step back and include a guardrail and change the meaning of the picture radically... I can take a picture of a person at one moment and make them look contemplative and photograph them two seconds later and make them look frivolous.
I have always been interested in everyday experience. It relates to an idea I had back then of what it might be like to pay attention to the average moments in your life, rather than just the dramatic moments. Attentiveness is self-awareness – you are aware of yourself paying attention. It was a different experience and I was nourished by it. I still am.