Twenty Roses

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These twenty portraits are visions of students, friends, and teachers at Woodlawn School, an alternative public high school in Arlington, Virginia where I taught photography. They were made over a two-month period on warm spring days in 1977. Their creation came about as a result of a need for flesh and blood in my life and work. I had found that photographing objects, spaces, and the relationships of forms – no matter how tense of how elegant – to be personally unsatisfying, and that making “political” documents mostly frustrated me. I felt that I had been viewing life through the camera as an outside observer – removed, abstracted, and alienated from what I knew to be important, healing, and real. These portraits were a step into the real world; they were the first “real” portraits I had ever made. In doing them, I found myself soaking into the person before me. Hpoefully, a seed of this experience can be planted elsewhere…

The small image at the top? For me, it serves not so much as a caption but as an approach to the understanding and recognition of the person it accompanies. It is a secret (and now open) channel of exchange between me and the sitter. They are gifts, recognitions, avenues, kisses, prayers, hugs, and smiles shared between two people.

I see these images as opened love letters.

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