PICTURES - past tense

Over view: 1976- until about now

I became a serious photographer during my graduate years in the MFA program at Visual Studies Workshop in Rochester, New York. My thesis project, a series of black and white portraits of children, pre-teens and adolescents was entitled Growing Up.

In 1977, while in school, I began photographing my twelve year-old- son, Krister, his pals, and my friends' kids as a side project. At the time, I was concerned that I might be perceived as just a sentimental mother/ photographer who took 'cute kid' pictures and so, was reluctant to show the work. Once I realized that photography was a language and that photographic images were records of signs and displays of symbols that revealed the acculturation and maturation process of American kids, I was hooked on the ' personal documentary ' style. It was exciting to discover my visual "voice".

I continued photographing children after I moved to Arizona and began teaching art photography at Arizona State University in 1979. Some of the examples, shown on this web site, such as the pictures of girls with pidgins were made in Trafalgar Square, London. The boys with rabbits were made in Tempe, Arizona where I photographed a colleague's sons in their suburban garden. During the 1980's I turned my attention to the landscape and still life genres. I worked slowly with a large format 4x5 inch Wista Field camera. I started exploring color and began to set up things to photograph. I still photographed people but I had shifted the focus from casually found, lucky chance shots to a more controlled, deliberate studio portrait format.

Examples from several series- Growing Up, Still life as Social Landscape, Desert Vistas, is shown here as well as Royal Linen and Royal Tabloids. In the mid 1980's I focused my creative energy on image and text based short stories and produced Tremors from the Faultline, which was published by Visual Studies Workshop Press in 1989. By the 1990's and into the 21st century I gravitated toward mixed media installation projects.

During a lecture and teaching trip through England in the early 1980's I became fascinated by the overwhelming coverage of Princess Diana by the British tabloid press. The photographs of Diana captured my imagination. Her modern troubled marriage was both compelling and repugnant. It reflected the all too common dilemma of traditional marriage in the age of feminism. Once again photographs were both creating and destroying the image and notion of what a princess could be. The situation was indeed a postmodern deconstruction of royalty and the fairy tale meta-myth of 'happily ever after'.

In response, I produced a mixed media installation piece which included a wedding gown covered in Prince Charles and Princess Diana paper dolls in various outfits along with lurid tabloid news stories printed on a bed sheet which was embroidered with the words "For richer or poorer for better or worse". The installation was called Royal Linen and the bed sheet is in the permanent collection of the Center for Creative photography in Tucson, Arizona.

A year after Diana's tragic death in 1997, there was a lot of interest and controversy in the possibility of cloning human beings. I asked the question whom would the world want to see cloned and so with the aid of the Photoshop program I made a parody of the lurid headlines, that are the stock and trade of the tabloids, by deconstructing the bizarre news stories with a fabricated, even more bizarre story, of Diana being cloned and Prince Charles vowing to wait until she grew up to again marry her. I printed the cheap pulp exposes on the finest paper available and exhibited the prints in museum and gallery venues. Shazam! Trash culture became art.

"History is the muck that nourished the roots of my story."

I was born in a refugee camp called Pegetts near Lienz, in Austria just after the end of World War Two. My parents immigrated to the United States in 1950 to escape forcible repatriation to Soviet Russia. They never saw their homelands again. While, they felt like strangers in exile, I being you and impressionable fit in just fine and grew up more American than Russian. But their war torn lives and their losses seared scars on my psyche and my original language and cultural heritage was hidden in shadows. All relatives were either killed by the Nazis or imprisoned by the Communists. I wanted to experience Russia for myself and to meet Russians and compare life stories. The opportunity presented itself when I received several 'Institute for Studies in the Arts 'grants to travel to Russia and to photograph and make art.

When the Berlin Wall fell I was eager to witness history first hand. I produced two more narrative mixed media installations. These projects were both personal and political. With Hammer and Chisel: The Berlin Wall, which included a poem by Pulitzer Prize poet Rita Dove and a short video piece by Fred Vieban was shown at The Arizona State University Art Museum from Nov. 18, 1990 - Jan. 13, 1991. The exhibition contained actual sections of the Berlin Wall with graffiti, photographs and video showing the fall of the Berlin Wall. In this project I became intrigued by the way something that had been abhorrent, the wall itself, suddenly transformed into a desired commodity. Chips, bits of cement, colored pieces and slabs of the graffiti covered wall were suddenly for sale on the street as historical souvenirs, and even in home decor catalogues as cuckoo clock decorations.

A few years later I collaborated with Russian Photographer Sergei Gitman on a video, sound, image and text installation about personal stories constructed by Communism and by the cold war. It was called The Curtain Falls: Russian/American Stories. The most outstanding segment of the exhibition were the large six foot round embroidery hoops on which real life stories, I had heard or experienced during my travels in the new Russia, were embroidered with gold thread. The installation was varied but it held together with Russian church music and video footage of a Russian family celebrating the 1990 New Year as well as a new era.

In 2004, I took early retirement from ASU and with my husband Paul Knapp and my 80-year-old mother Matrona, moved to Bali where we live as happily ever after as is possible in a paradise here on earth. Currently, I am writing articles for The Ubud Writers and Readers Festival working on a novel and short stories. In 2010, while disabled by an arthritic hip, I started making photography-based books on the simple I Photo program. This satisfying activity re-awakened my dormant passion for photography and I am now experimenting with image and text story books in a new way.