Where were you when you first saw Robert Frank’s The Americans?
1987 -- I was sitting in a class of Bill Jenkins at ASU, probably called "Photo Aesthetics". Its tough to pin down the moment, the image or the context where I first saw The Americans, as the entire time for me was a phenomenal whirlwind of images and ideas strung together. I think before the images hit home, I was intrigued by the idea of a man, a camera and a car taking on something as epic as America, yet there was nothing familiar about them.
What is the importance of The Americans to you?
It was pivotal for me to see that this type of photography could walk some magic line between art and documentary. It was also the first body of work that seemed to understand and embrace the fact that the history of American art began with cinema. So much of The Americans -- the production, framing, light, editing and symbolism -- are cinematic. This is of course my take on it, and there were photographers before him who addressed these concepts, but nothing this epic had been edited and presented so complete. Most of this style of work was found in the world of journalism -- a handful of images to accompany a story. These images were the story.
How has The Americans affected the way you practice or think about photography today?
Frank's actual style never inspired me, but a sense for such a work ethic inspires me still today. The vision, concentration and endurance it takes to make such a work is something that I admire and strive for with each endeavor. His muddy, sloppy, low-light images would go unnoticed on a proof sheet of anyone lacking a vision of something bigger. To find that cowboy in that dark bar in Gallup, amongst 28,000 images, you have to be in-tune to something that transcends simply looking for a "successful" photograph.