Lisa McElaney and I have been together since we were 20 and 28, respectively. My relationship with her is at the core of my life as a man and as an artist. Our love for each other – in all kinds of weather grounds my resolve to be hopeful and vital, even when I may feel challenged to do so. She is always my first audience and I count on her eyes to see things that I may not, sometimes.
A couple of years ago, for her birthday, I made Lisa a picture of flowers – it felt more enduring than actual flowers. In creating that image, I had no idea a series would follow. However, something in the making of that first photograph gave me a newly found spark to experiment in ways I had not done before.
I chose the subject of flowers because they are lovely things – often exchanged between lovers – and they are part of a long tradition of still life in art. Precisely because flowers are such a conventional subject, I felt a strong desire to describe them in new, inventive ways.
I love the way Jan Brueghel, Manet, O’Keefe, Morandi, Irving Penn and Joan Mitchell, reworked common flowers to show unexpected versions of them. The subject of the photographs in my work may be flowers but to my mind they are pictures about perspective, love, jealousy, hate, geometry, sex, life, the passage of time and death.
Technically, these images involve a number of approaches such as making multiple exposures to create floral explosions; combining my own painting with living bouquets and using ink to produce dense cliché verre (glass plate) pictures. Since I believe that new possibilities in art are always around the corner these works have been giving me plenty of opportunities to prove that to myself again and again. At the same time, they serve an emotional impulse to show the woman I share my life with my dedication to her.
Lastly, I like to think that these pictures embody my conviction about photography’s transforming power to show us something new about reality at every turn.