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From 1967-1972

Kurt WestfallWhen I graduated Merritt Island High School in June 1967, the world was in upheaval. The Beatles dominated the pop charts, acid rock was on the rise along with recreational drugs, and Nixon was the favorite to be elected in the fall. I entered the University of Florida that June a few days after graduation because I loved learning and couldn't wait to grow up.

My buddies and I loved to wrestle with The Big Issues. Like life and death, god and religion, love and hate, politics and war, truth and beauty. Fortunately I had my camera to help express my thoughts, and by greater fortune, I discovered the first book of images by a young artist named Jerry Uelsmann. Heavily influenced by Magritte, Dali, and other surrealists, Uelsmann pioneered and perfected camera and darkroom techniques to combine images to create visions that forced the viewer to think about The Big Issues.

By greater fortune still, Uelsmann taught beginning photography in the art department at UF. I took a class from him in 1971 and he taught me how to pre-visualize the finished work when looking through my camera, and how to allow serendipity to alter that vision in the darkroom. I began photographing puzzle pieces to be assembled later in the darkroom, a habit which I still practice. I think of the process as similar to taking words and phrases, and combining them into sentences and stories.

I'll never forget sitting in the lawn with him one day when he showed me some Edward Weston prints he got from the Witkin Gallery in exchange for some of his own. We discussed them at length, and I noted his perverse joy when he found a few dustspots on the master's work. Weston was mortal!

Meanwhile, the Viet Nam War was on TV every night and on the minds of all young males. It showed up in my work. "The Hunter", above, a print I did in 1972 took me 30 hours in the darkroom. Non-stop. Sleepless. But I never noticed it. In the dark my mind left my body and merged with the projected images. When I resurfaced, I thought it was the same day, six hours later. I had lost 24 hours but gained myriad insights.

In 1972 my friend Kurt Westfall and I had a two-man show at the Safety Harbor Art Center in Florida. Westfall is pictured at the top of this page in "reflections on Kurt." When the show ended, driving back to Gainesville, I picked up two hitchhikers from Detroit. I took them all the way home, resolving to get a high-paying job in an automotive factory, and stay one step ahead of the draft board.

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