Recently, I had a self portrait contest on Facebook. Well, guess what? Over 100 people entered! I asked Sean Corcoran, curator of prints and photographs at The Museum of the City of New York to be my co-judge for this contest. Having a big macha like Sean judging with me probably helped the turnout. Sean is not only a great guy, but a true lover of photography. It was a pleasure working with him on deciding a winner for this contest. I think this may have been the toughest contest to judge so far. Many excellent photographs were submitted. It took us a while, but we found a winner.
The winner is Don Hudson. I have to admit my ignorance, right here and now. I did not know Don's work and neither did Sean, but did we pick a winner this time! Don Hudson is not a good photographer; he's an amazing photographer. I love his work and am now a big fan. Here is a chance for everyone to get to see Mr. Hudson's work and hear what he has to say. Pay attention folks! This guy is the real deal.
Hi Don...Lets just get right into it.
Who were your first photographic influences?
I'm not sure where the initial bug came from. For all I know, it could be some sort of genetic predisposition. What I remember is, when I was an early teenager, my family went on a vacation to Florida, I wanted to be the one photographing the trip. I still have those pictures. A little later on, when I got to high school in the late sixties, I became friends with a couple of other photographers who shot for the yearbook and introduced me to the darkroom.
I was (and still am) a big introvert. The high school social scene was something I never felt comfortable with, but the darkroom? That became a place where my true self could expand! It was both a sanctuary from the pressures of the outside world and a space that allowed for a creative experimentation with the medium. At the time, it was less about the camera image as about a unique representation of a particular time and space and having fun with the materials. I did all the classic darkroom tricks: solarization, high contrast, blowing up small sections of the negative, even burning part of the negative. Those two guys, who encouraged me to build my own darkroom, were my first big influences. They also suggested the sense of camaraderie that was possible within the game of photography.
How do you classify the type of photography you do?
A little more background: After high school and three years of fooling around at college, I came to a realization that photography was about the only thing I really liked to do. I decided to go to art school. While I was there, I began to study both the history of photography and learn the technical skills necessary for proper processing. This education and knowledge led me to a profound respect for how the camera and film could describe the world of surfaces before me. So much so, that from that point until today, I can not alter what the camera has seen.
My job is as a collaborator, as accepting what the machine does best, hopefully providing some intelligent direction. My job is to trust that together we can come up with an image that speaks to both what the world looks like transformed by the camera and what that transformation might say about my own relationship to its appearance of truth. It's a fascinating game to me.
Tell me about the first time you realized, this is it, I want to do this forever!
I would say that it was after the second year of art school. By then, I had decided that it wasn't worth it for me to spend any more money pursuing a degree. I didn't want to teach and I didn't want to become a commercial photographer, not that there is anything wrong with that. I just wanted to go out and get a job to make money, live my life, and make my own photographs. So that's what I did, for about 40 years now, with some peaks and valleys. I proudly consider myself an amateur photographer.
I see you're in a photo collective. How does it work?
I've been a member of Burn My Eye collective since early this year. I'm still a relative newbie there, so I couldn't give you chapter and verse on its generation or history. I can tell you that I was vetted by the group and invited to join. We have a private Flickr group where we "meet" to share, encourage, argue and collaborate on various personal and group endeavors. It is very much an evolving sphere of energy that ebbs and flows based on input from the members.
As someone who, up to this point, has spent most of his photographic "career" in the pre-digital analog world, it is personally energizing to me to be part of collective made possible by the internet. Though, it can be challenging to have conversations over different time zones and through a medium where it's sometimes tough to convey nuance. That said, I feel hopeful that our collective will be able to focus its energy on producing some thought provoking and interesting photographic "products" into this image drenched world.
Tell me four things you love to do that have nothing to do with photography.
1. Listen to music. Jazz, blues, soul, garage/psychedelia mostly, but almost anything creative. Almost as important to my life as photography.
2. Spend time at our family cottage in northern Michigan, away from the internet and the digital world for a while.
3. Hanging out with my grand kids (though I've usually got my camera at the ready).
4. Sitting on our backyard deck under the maple tree with my wife enjoying a glass or two of wine as the sun sets, on a warm summer evening.
And finally, what object or possession have you owned for the longest time?
Interesting question. I'm tempted to say my own consciousness, but I'm not sure I'm still in complete possession of it! My mom long ago threw out my baseball card and comic book collections. I'd have to say it's my 40+ year old negatives. I can't think of anything older that I still have, and certainly nothing as valuable.
Don, thanks so much for being so open and candid.
See more of Don Hudson's work here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/seefood_vol1/