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June 25, 2011

TALKABOUT: Bill Cottman

I have been making photographs since 1969. In high school I wanted to be a commercial artist but my school did not offer guidance in this area so I became an engineer and photography became my tool for self-expression. Early on, I tried to make photographs that looked like paintings in the hope of being accepted as an artist. I learned the rules of composition and looked at work by the masters; Weston, Strand and Adams. They photographed magnificent places and people and then produced technically perfect prints. Later, I discovered Winogrand, Cartier-Bresson and Frank; photographers of ordinary people and places. Their work was done on the streets, quickly and casually but with careful consideration for the descriptive quality inherent to the medium. Much later, I discovered VanDerZee, Parks and DeCarava; black photographers working in all the styles the medium offers while consistently documenting the lives of black people.

My creative process builds upon two questions: Why? and How?. The engineer asking how to employ techniques of the medium to yield effective outcomes. The artist asking why am I seeing and feeling this way.

My work is a social landscape of diverging, converging and intersecting stories. I make exposures intuitively, memorizing each one and routinely reviewing them through my filter of daily living.

Surface Tensions is the working title of a collection of stories from my experiences and investigations. Ancestral stories providing explanations for present day situations, revealing some to be allusions to the truth. Occasionally the prospect of a future outcome disturbs the daily flow and adjustments must be made to maintain the surface tension.

For TalkAbout I am planning an illustrated talk about two unfinished poems, "getting here from there" and "me, my self and eye."

Conversation begins at 2p. Free and open.