Layer by layer, Hanoi, Vietnam, 2007
I found this woman asleep on a stone slab in a Hanoi Park. I wanted to go beyond the cliché image so often made of homeless people sleeping in public places. To do so, I moved into a position where I needed to add context by juxtaposing the sleeping subject with someone who was extremely active. I did not have long to wait. The park is a favorite exercise spot, and a runner quickly came into view. I create a series of layers using the tree, bench and sleeping woman to anchor the composition. The ground changes from grass to stone at a second tree. An expanse of stone tile stretches into the background of the image. In the midst of it is a runner. The sleeping woman faces us, while the runner does not. The two figures are complete opposites in activity level, scale, and orientation. I hope this juxtaposition of opposites will trigger the imaginations of those who view this image, and each viewer will make of it what they wish.
Diversity, Can Tho Ferry, Vietnam, 2008
Can Tho, with over a million people, is the largest city in the Mekong Delta. We had to reach it by ferry. Somewhere in the middle of the Mekong River, I found this moment in time shared simultaneously yet unknowingly by a small child and a Buddhist monk. They are opposites in scale, gender, age, and social status. The child savors the passage, while the monk stoically endures it. I frame the scene within the window of a bus, bound for Can Tho. The entire frame, including a nearly headless passenger, is swathed in fabric, except for the tiny child. It is as if everyone has incongruously retreated into a cocoon, except for the curious child.
Chinese cemetery, Pulau Ubin, Singapore, 2007
Many of the tombs in this cemetery are embellished with ceramic landscapes. Leaves, both dead and alive, blanket the gravesites. The presence of new growth amidst the dead leaves is a relationship of opposites. And the presence of the idyllic ceramic landscape on a gravestone is the opposite of what we might expect, as well.
Motorized commuter, Marrakesh, Morocco, 2006
With her head covered by a scarf instead of a helmet, this Marrakesh commuter enjoys her own transportation to and from the job. The contradiction here is the clash between the traditional costume of the woman and her free wheeling approach to commuting. Many Islamic women in Morocco do not wear traditional costumes such as this. To find one that does sitting on a motorbike is the opposite of what we might expect to find. She was chatting with a friend while I made this image – a moment later she departed in a roar of exhaust fumes. The street was too crowded for me to get a clear shot of her burning rubber – it would have been even more contradictory.
Fat cat, Rabat, Morocco, 2006
I found this cat resting on the hood of a Mercedes just outside of the National Archaeology Museum. While cats can be found underfoot everywhere in Morocco, I had not seen one with such discerning taste. Its choice of bed is contradictory – within moments the driver will probably return, gun the engine, and send it scurrying away. As for its choice of make, a Mercedes would not normally be the first choice of an alley cat.
Overwhelmed, Cascades d’Ouzoud, Morocco, 2006
While this image is certainly a good example of scale incongruity, it is also a stunning contradiction. Here is one of the most breathtaking sights in Morocco, and the tiny woman at the bottom of the image has turned away from it. It is as if the waterfall is not even there. A whimsical caption might be “OK, I’ve seen it. What’s next?”
Monitor and Merrimac Buttes, Moab, Utah, 2006
These massive sandstone buttes were named after the two ironclad battleships that fought each other to a standoff during the American Civil War. The buttes look like the prows of those ships, and when the skies are filled with leaden clouds resembling cannon fire, the battle seems to be joined. I under exposed this image to deepen the color of both clouds and ships, bringing the ships to battle, even if in the imagination. Opposites? Indeed.
Alley Encounter, San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, 2005
I was photographing this woman looking for the key to a door along this narrow alleyway set on a steep hill. Suddenly a young man loaded with schoolbooks entered my frame and moved up the alley towards her. She does not yet notice him. This enigmatic image asks more questions of the viewer than it answers. Is he a threat, a tease, or a cherished son or grandson planning a surprise visit? Is he stealthily sneaking up on her, or is he just trying gain traction on a very steep hill? He may be just a kid being a kid. I did not stay to learn the answers. They must come from our own imaginations. The more we study this image, the more contradictory it becomes. But then so is life itself.
Duck and friends, Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia, 2005
Eleven carp encircle a single duck in the crystal clear waters of one of the park’s 16 magical lakes. There are a number of opposites and contradictions present in this luminous image. First of all, its 11 against one, but the one has a decided size advantage. They may share the same water at the same moment, but these fish don’t seem to be concerned about the duck, while the duck completely ignores the fish. They could be its wallpaper! There are similarities as well. All seem to effortlessly share a life in this water, and notice how the duck’s tail seems to be formed very much in the same shape as a fish tail. What we see here is nature at work – the fish must find some benefit from hanging around a duck, while the duck does not seem to mind all the company.
Transition, Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia, 2005
A huge tree, torn from its mooring, meets its end in the clear waters of Plitvice Lakes National Park while younger trees already begin to vie for the space it once occupied. It’s simply nature at work, but in a context of striking opposites and contradictions. We have life vs. death, the large playing against the small, the horizontal compared to the vertical, colorful opposing colorless, while the earth itself still clings tenaciously to the base of the fallen tree, even though it's dead. And finally the ultimate contradiction: that chunk of earth now cast adrift has become a massive living garden in itself!
Art Show, Santa Fe, New Mexico, 2005
“ART Santa Fe” is an international contemporary art fair, bringing dealers, artists and art collectors from all over the world together for four days each year. Held in the city’s Sweeney Convention Center, the essence of the show is the sheer size and variety of its offerings. I used the principle of contradiction to make this image incongruous and expressive. Shooting with a 24mm wideangle lens from a balcony ringing the second floor of the building, I walked around the huge show until I could find a single person to contrast to the maze of illuminated yet abstracted booths. And I found her. Here she is, surrounded by the creativity of her clients, quietly awaiting her potential customers. The seemingly endless racks of spotlights, the glowing white walls of the various booths, the curving darkness beyond, all play against this solitary figure, the focal point of the image and a striking example of contradiction expressed through scale incongruity. She is utterly alone in an image filled with scores of abstracted possibilities.
Trapped, Place du Jeu de Balle Flea Market, Brussels, Belgium, 2005
There are several oppositions and contradictions in this image. A doll, a symbol of innocence, is seemingly imprisoned in a cage made of walking sticks. Dolls are forever young, while walking sticks can imply age and infirmity. The dolls face is light, its eyes wide with hope, while the rest of the image is dark and forbidding. Such an image as this addresses its questions to the imaginations of its viewers, and encourages them to provide their own answers.