On the Poetics of Photography

Before writing, or being a writer as such, I worked as an artist until 1991, the last few years of which I worked also as a professional photographer. As a photographer I was working with R/Greenberg Associates, M&Co., and various small companies and publishing in Interview, GQ, Backstage, Variety, and a few other probably long-gone corporate and other magazines.

The way I remember the end of my commercial photography career, GQ was not amused by my answer to a food assignment which pictured focaccia with mozzarella, tomato, arugula and oil and, I’m just remembering, a few artfully placed sprigs of rosemary—just like any guy would make—arranged on a plate and placed on top of a TV set displaying the tightly cropped picture of some baseball players patting each others’ butts. This was 1991; they replaced the ball players with the image of the head of a football player growling through the face guard of his helmet. And shortly after that (the inimitable art director) Tibor Kalman said he couldn’t run my picture of some Isaac Mizrahi sunglasses in Interview, sunglasses which I placed on my friend’s penis, you know, to make a penis face.

I should have said that I worked as a conceptual artist. Or more accurately—this was the 80s—as a Neo-Conceptual artist. Probably the last Conceptual piece I did was a photobook called A is for Adorno. Transitioning out of that mindset and into a different kind of photographic experience, the last non-commercial projects I did explored the abject and rejected: burnt objects, cut hair, stains, and spit. Aside from a couple of group exhibitions in the 1980s and small circulation photobooks, my pictures have never been exhibited anywhere. I threw out all my commercial work somewhere on Avenue A.

In 2009 after returning from a stay in Mexico I discovered that all of my artwork had been stolen from a storage space I had put the stuff in for safekeeping.

In 2012, after a series of burglaries culminating in the theft of my point-and-shoot Leica, a camera that had given me a lot of joy in making pictures in those few years, I decided that all this had been a sign: to stop focusing on the darkness behind me (Heisenberg), and photograph the light (Strindberg).