Contrasts, New York City, New York, 2013
I made this photograph of a scene just outside of the International Center of Photography. A man talks on a cell phone while standing before two photo murals in the museum’s window. The murals show people from other cultures confronting the camera while standing waist deep in what appear to be floodwaters. The man on the phone, dressed in western business attire, cradles a jacket below one arm, while gesturing with the other. He raises one foot to offset the thrust of his arm. A tree leans towards him – nature quietly echoes his move, instead of swamping him. By juxtaposing this caller with the photos in the background, I’ve created an image that contrasts not only cultural differences, but also illuminates differences in control. The people in the murals appear to be passively accepting natural disasters beyond their control, while the man on the phone actively strives to master his own destiny.
Traffic, Miami Beach, Florida, 2013
I juxtapose three vehicles in both a vertical and horizontal progression of layers here to capture the bustle and flavor of this resort city. The hood of a silver car anchors the image at lower right, while a white SUV dominates the image at center. The SUV overrides the silver car, while its occupants go about their separate tasks. The driver of the car is tanned and stripped to the waist, his tattooed arm draped casually over the window slot. Very Miami. Very Beach. The city bus in the background crowns the image. The oversized picture of a young woman featured in an advertisement on the side of the bus rises above the entire scene. Her classic commercial beauty reinforces the youthful flavor of this photograph. When all three silver and white layers are juxtaposed in combination here, they offers a sense of this energetic sun-drenched city by the sea.
Tobacconist, Little Havana, Miami, Florida, 2013
The traditional 19th century “Cigar Store Indian” statue, the symbol for a tobacco shop, is not enough for this cigar shop in Miami’s Cuban enclave. The boss himself (or at least the man who certainly looks like the boss) sits below the saluting figure identifying his shop. He wears an appropriate hat, as well as a company shirt, while puffing on his product. Meanwhile, the wooden statue rigidly holds a bundle of its own cigars at its waist. The juxtaposition of standing and seated figures creates a striking contrast of the real vs. the imaginary, while the shoppers gathered in the background create context for meaning.
Wildflowers, Carmel, California, 2012
The vast field of wildflowers fills half this frame, each one of them fragile and temporary. I juxtapose them here in contrast to the rocky shore of Monterey Bay, which has stood here for hundreds of thousands of years and will likely still be there a hundred thousand years from now. I also juxtapose five bands of color across this wideangle view, beginning with green, then moving to a mixture of red and yellow, proceeding to a blend of gray and yellow, and finally on to the deep blue sea in the background. The image becomes a rainbow of time, a juxtaposition of the temporary and the permanent.
Epitaph, Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Hollywood Hills, California, 2012
Many of the tombs at this vast eternal gathering place of deceased Hollywood celebrities feature memorials left by fans and mourners. Most of them are floral offerings, but on this particular gravesite, someone has left cold cash, one cent to be exact. I discovered a copper penny balanced on the edge of the tomb plaque of George Raft, a movie star now mostly remembered for portraying the feared Chicago gangster “Spats Colombo” in Billy Wilder’s “Some Like it Hot,” in 1959. Raft’s real life association with actual mobsters gave his on-screen image added authenticity. Gangsters are essentially violent individuals who make money illegally. Raft memorably played them in films with such monetary titles as “Quick Millions,” “Hush Money,” “If I Had a Million,” and “I Stole a Million.” By juxtaposing a mere penny with Raft’s grave plate, someone has cleverly provided a symbolic epitaph for the actor who rests behind this marble slab. The lone penny echoes the bronze color of the lettering and seems to totter precariously near the edge the plaque. It symbolizes the transient nature of wealth and power, and links it to an iconic cinematic “tough guy.”
Glowing garden, Carmel, California, 2012
I juxtapose here newly blooming small purple flowers with a massive tree trunk, drawing comparisons between light and dark, small and large, as well as young and old. The image is all about nature’s life cycle, which applies to all living things.
Herod’s pillars, Caesarea, Israel, 2011
Herod the Great, who figures prominently in both Middle Eastern history and the Bible, built Caesarea as a deep harbor in 22 BC. It was the largest artificial harbor ever built in the open sea at the time. Mediterranean earthquakes, and the ravages of time have since had their way with Herod’s harbor. It is now mostly silted in, but evidence of the ruined harbor can still be seen at water’s edge, particularly these broken pillars. Once part of Herod’s Caesarea, the fallen pillars were eventually tossed into the sea to form part of a breakwater in medieval times. I juxtaposed these forlorn reminders of Herod’s harbor with the yellow rocks that strew the coastline of Caesarea.
A slave’s story, St. John’s Cathedral, Valletta, Malta, 2011
One of the most evocative monuments in this lavishly appointed cathedral commemorates the life of one of Malta’s most respected Grandmasters, Nicolas Cotonor, who was responsible for much of the buildings decoration, carvings and gildings. A lavishly sculpted 1686 monument stands over Cotonor’s own tomb, featuring a triumphal pile of armaments and trophies, supported on the backs of slaves. I zoomed in on the monument to feature just one of those slaves, and only a portion of the armament pile. By abstracting the monument in this way, I create a juxtaposition that tells quite a different story. What was originally intended to memorialize glory and triumph in 1686 can be viewed in 2011 as an example of injustice and cruelty.
Revolution, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 2010
While touring one of Rio’s teeming favelas, I noticed what seemed to be revolutionary graffiti featuring a bearded man wearing a green beret with a red star. Perhaps it may be a crude rendering of the Marxist revolutionary Che Guevara, who died in 1967 but is still revered in much of Latin America. His stylized visage has become a common countercultural symbol around the world. I made this image because of the motorcycle juxtaposed in front of the graffiti. It bears a red helmet, echoing the red star on the beret. Guevara will always be associated with motorcycles – in his youth he travelled 5,000 miles across South America on one. That journey made him aware of social injustices, leading to his political adventures that followed.
Waiting, Theatro Santa Isabel, Recife, Brazil, 2010
I juxtapose here two theatregoers awaiting a song and dance performance in Recife’s historic 135 year old opera house. They are seated in adjoining boxes in the first balcony, yet they are unaware of each other. The woman at left seems to be reviewing her digital photographs, while the man at right seems to be patiently biding his time.
Then and now, New York City, New York, 2010
The statues of Moses, Zoroaster, and Alfred the Great have looked down upon Madison Square Park from their lofty perch atop the Appellate Court Building for more than 100 years. During the present era, a huge office building was constructed behind them, dwarfing them in terms of scale, and creating a backdrop that is as severe as the statuary is ornamental. I photographed the three statues in the harsh noon light, which enabled me to complete the contrast by throwing the facade of the office building partially into shadow. By juxtaposing new to old, and light to dark, I compare then and now.
Kachina, Cameron Trading Post, Cameron, Arizona, 2009
We were having dinner in the trading post dining room, built in 1916. I noticed a large Kachina looking down on us as we ate. Although the Kachina probably represents a Hopi spirit, it seems right at home in a dining room owned and operated by the neighboring and much larger Navajo tribe. From my low angle, I was able to juxtapose it against the dining room ceiling, creating still another incongruous comparison. The ceiling is made of pressed tin, symbolizing 19th and early 20th century American industrialization – the very force that eventually helped dilute and destroy so much of Native American culture. This tin ceiling has been beautifully restored, yet to those who understand the history of decorative interior design, it might be seen as a bittersweet kind of beauty.