For the past few years, I have been photographing the carneys and showmen who work the games or “joints” at the local county fairs in Upstate New York.
I am drawn to the extraordinary care and pride they take in their trade: the artful, extravagant design of their booths, their endless patter and rich jargon, how they camouflage themselves to vanish into a background of oversized and overstuffed prizes, how they cooperate subtly amongst themselves totarget their “marks” or customers. Many of them have been working these fairs for forty or fifty years; a grueling summer and fall schedule of state and county fairs that takes them the length and breadth of country. If you catch them in the early morning as they are setting up their joints, they are a warm and garrulous lot, generous with their stories, and overflowing with colorful language and opinions. These carneys represent a facet of America that endures in every state and almost every county in the country. It is untouched by fashion, politics, and technology and remains pure in its appeal to the simple lure of the game and the garish prize that “every child wins.”
I have been an avid photographer since childhood, taking inspiration first from my great-grandfather who photographed ships and gold mines in northern California at the turn of the century. A gift of an Edward Weston monograph sent me on a long journey hitchhiking throughout Europe with a view camera on my back. Later encounters and workshops with Minor White, Harry Callahan, and, most recently, Peter Turnley brought me gradually but fervently into street photography – a form that I have devoted myself to in both urban and rural settings for the last six years. Until my retirement last year, I served as a dean and teacher of English and photography for Montclair-Kimberley Academy (New Jersey), San Francisco University High School, and Collegiate School (New York). I received my B.A. from Wesleyan University and Ph.D. in English from Boston College. Over the last several years, I have been fortunate to have had a steady showing of my work in New York, international, and regional galleries and to have published in a variety of print and online magazines, including a Spotlight article in the current issue (December 2018) of B&W Magazine. [Official Website]
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