Dick Sanders Statement

Artist Statement
for each portfolio follows:


During 1997, I spent most of my Saturday afternoons camped outside of Sam's Market, a convenience store in my (then) hometown of Joshua Tree, California. I had set up a white backdrop about 20 feet from the front door, in order to make formal portraits of the locals as they stopped for milk, beer, cigarettes and ice cream. My method was inclusive: I asked everybody who passed by and photographed all who were willing to participate (most were not). All together I made about 150 portraits, then chose 49 for the show in 1998 (the gallery's capacity). My intent was to provide a snapshot of the community, as well as demonstrate that people anywhere can stand for people everywhere. The show was controversial. Following some publicity in the local newspaper, the Chamber of Commerce and some wealthy landowners pressured the gallery's owners to cancel it, insisting my portraits would give visitors the wrong impression of the town. One Joshua Tree landowner even threatened me personally. Despite these threats the show went on and was very popular with the local citizenry.


I began this series in the Spring of 2006 and it remains in progress today. My method is to set up in the city on a shaded sidewalk, and then ask passersby if they will stand for a portrait. Most decline the invitation because they are in a hurry, do not wish to be photographed, or are suspicious of my intentions. To the few who do cooperate, I give simple directions: stand here, look into the lens, please be serious. Getting a successful portrait -- one that is both revealing personally and suggestive of something larger -- is extremely challenging in the minute or two my subjects allow me on the street. Always I am trying to capture something authentic that we all recognize, or perhaps just feel. I've observed primarily two types of subjects. Those who are very much engaged (with me) in the act of making the portrait. And those who seem to have drifted off to some other time and place. Both can be fascinating, but the latter ones are often more poignant as these individuals have, for the moment, dropped their guards and let us into their lives.

Process Statement

For my serious portrait work I use a Pentax 6x7cm camera with 90mm and 135mm lenses. The Sam's portraits were made with daylight balanced fill flash, while the Faces were made with available light only. I use Ilford Delta Pro 100 and 400 films and process them in Kodak XTOL, diluted 1:1. For the gelatin silver prints I use a Calumet Zone VI enlarger with variable cold-light head, printing on fiber-base exhibition paper. All prints are finished in a bath of selenium toner and washed for archival permanence. I also make archival pigment prints on Innova museum grade F-Type gloss fiber paper, using Epson the Epson Pro 3880 printer. In tonal richness this latter process matches and surpasses the best silver darkroom papers of the past.

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