"When I go home people will ask me, 'Hey Hoot, why do you do it man? What, you some kinda war junkie?' You know what I'll say? I won't say a goddamn word. Why? They won't understand. They won't understand why we do it. They won't understand that it's about the men next to you, and that's it. That's all it is."
Sergeant First Class "Hoot" Gibson (played by Eric Bana), a character from the movie "Blackhawk Down"
For 20 plus years I was a soldier in the US Army. I think about it a lot – I miss it even more but that time is gone. All I have are my memories, some pieces of ribbon and some photographs of that time spent wearing boots and camouflage. I would tell you about that experience but that would be pointless. All that you need to know is that we did it for our team, our buddies, our families. You never really thought about doing things for yourself. What is important to know is that sometimes I have these thoughts about Germany, Iraq, soldiers, people, places, things, the list goes on.
It took me several years to figure out who I wanted to be when I left the Army in 2005. In 2007, I had a t-shirt business and needed to get photos of my shirts being worn. To save money, I did it myself. I really liked photographing and had always looked for reasons to “take pictures.” What I was doing was starting back down a path that I had not been on since I was a teen. I had always loved drawing as a child and was fairly good at it. I also played the saxophone and really enjoyed that. But I let those pursuits fade away on the road to becoming an adult. The t-shirt business reminded me that those artistic pursuits created a sense of peace and calmness for me. I needed something and art was there for me. By 2009, I had decided that I would be an artist. And in this incarnation, I would be doing it for myself.
I do not think of myself as just a photographer, I think of myself as an artist first. And I am inspired by the works created by many artists especially Lorna Simpson, Romare Bearden, Alec Soth, Haley Jane Samuelson, and Carrie Mae Weems to name a few. In particular, Gordon Parks’ work and his life’s journey are a great source of inspiration, as I feel there are some parallels in our life experiences, such as his working in both the documentary aspect of photography as well as a fashion photographer while still pursuing his art work. I, too, strive to work in a variety of photographic genres while striving to continuously produce art.
I create art for me. I photograph people and places in order to reconcile with people and places in my past and in my thoughts. There is something about photography that is unique. For generations we were conditioned to see a photograph as real. In our current times that has been over-shadowed with the notion that every photograph has been manipulated in some way. And, unlike a video, a photograph is static – a snapshot of a moment in time. The ability to modify something like that seems almost too simple because a moderately informed eye can recognize alterations easily. Being a true representation or an altered one is not the point. Is it a photograph that you can look upon for any length of time and gain from it? The photograph should be fascinating enough to come back to again and again because it captivates your interest or curiosity. The photograph should draw you in and make you think about it. The photograph should allude to things that came before it or what is to happen next – it should make you want to know more.