I began the Place | Mind | Spirit series during a pivotal time in my career as a museum director and in the advancement of print technology with the release of professional desktop printers capable of making high-quality fine art prints. It also marked a return to my first love in photography: the black and white print.
In 2002 I was named the director of the University of Wyoming Art Museum. The overwhelming challenges of that responsibility diverted my attention from photography for several years. I had been continuing to make images—color Cibachrome prints that I had processed and printed in a photo lab in Charlottesville, VA. And then the first Epson desktop photography printers came along and I jumped at the chance to learn the new digital technologies and especially, to return to the beauty of the black and white print.
Many folks said I would not be able to continue my personal studio practice and be a museum director, suggestions that I refused to accept. I tried a variety of ways of making sure that photography was part of my life—from trying to work evening after work (impossible since a museum director’s work never ends!) and finally landing on a process of scheduling 3-day weekends in my home studio….a practice that I would continue for the next 15 years until retirement.
My re-entry into new image-making began with re-visiting collaborative work I had made with fellow photographer Jennifer Tucker in the 1980s. We would go into the landscape with a bag of fabrics and dresses and make images that responded to each other and explored photographer as model, model as photographer. For my new work, I became both—model and photographer—with a gathered bag of fabrics as I headed to an area up Telephone Canyon where dirt roads criss-cross the high plains of open meadows and stands of forests. It was as if being lifted to the sky, a Wyoming sky of rapidly changing light, clouds, and cast shadows. This grounded my series that I called Place | Mind | Spirit.
I consider these images a reflection on the connection between human presence and landscape; they are not portraits. I thought of the image-making process as a momentary performance in the landscape, a dance with clouds. Chance was a major player in this effort as I knew only the view of the landscape for my images through the viewfinder. The timed shutter released as I danced with fabrics in front of the lens. Which moment was captured would not be visible until I received the processed film. I still connect with this sense of “leap of faith” image-making in the current iPhone panoramas that I make, and I continue to capture compositions at the time of exposure that are not manipulated in post-production.
My equipment for this project included a Hasselblad 500 CM with a wide-angle lens or the Hasselblad 35mm Xpan that could take a panorama image 2.5 times the width of a normal 35mm slide. I shot on transparency film which was processed by my Charlottesville lab. I then scanned and printed the images with archival pigment ink on fine art photography paper.