BH: Can you talk a little bit about how this project relates to the the idea of fictional accounts that mirror reality?
ME: This gets back to our earlier discussion of Sultan, Dubois and others that have incorporated a sort of “staged-narrative” into their family practice. I’m a hybrid of portrait/observed moments, and interested in this space in between staged and serendipitous, and what that can yield. I’m always observing, and making photographs, but the structure of this series is inherently fiction. It is drawn from my life, but it is not my life. The photographs are of my family, but the photographs are not my family. Does this make sense? I want all of the photographs to strike a note of melancholic memory, a chord with enough resonance to contain beauty and sadness. A visual representation of how I felt during this time in my life – that’s the mirroring reality part.
BH: Is there text?
ME: The only text in the book is a poem I wrote, and an acknowledgments page. I thought about including more text, a statement perhaps, and I really wanted to start the book with a lovely quote by Nayyirah Waheed, but in the end, we kept the text minimal.
BH: Was it a choice to shoot primarily in black and white, or was it just what came naturally?
ME: The decision to work primarily in black and white makes a lot of sense in hindsight, but I have to admit it was a struggle to get there. I kept attempting to fit color photographs into the book, but it never really worked in the way I wanted it to. In the end, we incorporated two color photographs into the book, one at the beginning, and one at the end, printed and displayed differently from the black and white to set it apart. As we talked about before, I’m primarily a color photographer, so it took a lot of wheel-spinning to let go and commit to black & white for this work. Now that the project is over, I’m shooting a mix of color and B&W depending upon the situation, and my mood.
BH: What were some of the highs and lows of putting out a new book? How long was this in the making?
ME: The process of making a book is fairly grueling … You spend years making work, editing down to the core, then there are questions of sequence, design, text, paper stock, every little detail of how the book is bound, meant to feel, and there is a lot of cutting elements that are personal to you. It is still my favorite way to present photographs, however, because of the room for an expressive range that is carefully constructed for the viewer. I started working with the publisher in 2016, so it was at least a year plus in the making.
BH: What did you want this book to say?
ME: I really wished the viewer could find a piece of themselves somewhere in the photographs. Well-crafted images and words have the power of allowing someone to inject themselves into the lives, and emotions of others. The book is almost an invitation to read a family diary. My memories, your memories, our memories – our hopes, desires, fears … what do they share in common? Hell if I know, but I’ve come to accept that we all share more in common than societal structures would lead us to believe.
BH: Can you talk a little bit about what’s next for you, and this project?
ME: Multiple book projects. Feeble attempts at remaining sane. Trying to be home more often. I Love You, I’m Leaving was published with ceiba in the fall of 2017, and three additional volumes of The Invisible Yoke are scheduled for publication between 2018 and 2020. Each body of work has enough photographs to publish, but I’ll continue working on them, and adding to each project, until the publication deadline. In the spring of 2018 I am releasing a collaborative book with my buddy Jared Soares, called Days Before / Days After.
Recently I’ve been teaching, and I really enjoy interacting with hungry students, and thinking about photography through different perspectives. The hope is that teaching will allow me to be home more consistently, to be more selective about the work I take, but that hasn’t manifested yet. Currently it means that I travel each week for teaching, and often for the remainder of the week for commissions or project work. So, I continue to accept freelance work, apply for grants, sell prints … you know, the usual hustle.
Aside from that, I’m making new photographs for a series that I’m planning to continue through 2020. Keeping it loose for now and seeing how that develops.
BH: You have a newer series out, ‘Say Hello To Everybody, OK?’…
ME: This series is still new enough that I don’t want to put too many words to it for fear of boxing it in. The title is drawn from a quote by President Trump with TIME Magazine. The images I have gathered thus far come from a desire to express what I see and feel about my country’s current trajectory, and our increasingly polarized and fractured social consciousness.