As a college student at Texas A&M University I supported myself as a photographer, an experience which ultimately is to blame for this becoming my vocation. My photographic partner-in-crime was Dave Einsel whom ultimately left A&M when offered a full-time position shooting for the local newspaper. In short-order he moved to The Houston Chronicle where he quickly rose through the ranks to the position of photo editor. We stayed in touch while I worked to make a name for myself in Los Angeles by-way-of New York and have maintained a friendship over the years. Dave lives in the Houston area.
It was during one of our typical “the grass is always greener” phone conversations when we were lamenting the benefits that the other’s job description offered when it occurred to us that it would be interesting to juxtapose our work against one another’s. Dave’s work was held to very specific journalistic standards of objectivity and presenting a scene as an unaltered truth, while I had become a part of the Hollywood dream-machine where the only directive was to incorporate any means necessary to achieve the desired result. In that moment the seed for what was to become The Absolute Truth & Nothing But Lies was sewn.
I wrote a proposal and positioned my image of a model with a hand gun against his image of a young man in a Colombian morgue, I paired his gritty image of human remains as a result of genocide against an elegant nude I shot in the studio of a woman embracing a skeleton. After making several parings along these lines the presentation took the form of a small book which I customized for Catherine Hastedt, the curator of the J. Wayne Stark Galleries at Texas A&M.
Shortly after it was delivered we heard back with the offer of an exhibition. Our timing wasn’t great as the Memorial Student Center that houses the Stark Galleries was in the middle of a massive remodel and the galleries had been moved to temporary quarters. We opted to postpone the exhibit until we could have it shown in the newly renovated space.
We quickly realized the challenges inherent in curating a cohesive show with 1500 miles between us as well as one that would serve as a valid portrayal of each of our own aesthetics while maintaining meaningful communication between our collective archives. Since the images that would be presented as diptychs were shot without that function in mind it forced both Dave and myself to view our own work in a different light when introduced to various couplings.
After a couple of trips to Texas to confer with Catherine and her staff and to get a feel for the space itself we ultimately curated what could be considered three separate shows. In the main gallery the heart of the exhibit was a series of diptychs composed of an image by each of us. Each of the component images was subject to it’s own interpretation but when the pairings were viewed as a single statement each image served to inform the viewer to aspects of the other thus expanding the visual conversation. In that manner and the fact that interpretation was totally subjective to the viewer’s personal baggage, it felt that the exhibit’s interactive component was heightened. In two smaller spaces we each mounted a traditional solo show to define our personal visual languages in an effort to help inform the patrons of our intentions in choosing the pairings we presented.
Prior to the informal discussion during the opening reception both Dave and I were invited to speak to some of the photography classes on campus. We accepted that opportunity with some gravity as we were both reminded of impact that visiting photographers such as Peter Gowland had on us when we were students and the incite into the business that only comes from personal interaction.
The exhibit was well-received; By that mean that it was well attended and created some controversy as was evidenced by comments in the guest book that ranged from high praise to utter disdain. I always prefer a comment with a strong opinion, good or bad, to a luke warm or polite response. I maintain that art that fails to illicit an emotional response of any degree or direction is usually forgotten and therefore ceases to exist in a meaningful way.
The entire experience was amazing, we got to catch up with a lot of friends that we haven’t seen in years. Pat O’Malley who took a chance and hired both Dave and myself for our first staff positions visited from St. Louis, we got to witness how the campus has changed or stayed the same, depending on your frame of reference. We visited a few old haunts, among them the old Aggieland darkroom which for me will always be hallowed ground. In more idealistic times it served as our clubhouse, classroom, crash pad, office, hide-out and far too often…our primary residence.