Speak to me of home


Why am I so drawn to travel? What is the source of this wanderlust? Will it eventually be satisfied?

When I reflected on my photography, and this love of distant places, I began to ask myself these questions. I wanted to go deeper and explore not just the place itself, or even the dream of it, but why am I having these dreams? What’s the source?

It’s taken a few years to come up with a theory – I was searching for Home.

Even when I was a child, one of my earliest memories was laying on the floor of my living room with an atlas, poring over the maps, wondering what adventures and mysteries awaited. I realize now that, even in my childhood home – the only one I’d ever known at that point – there was an innate desire for something…somewhere…else.

But what is home? Is it a place? Is it “heaven”?  Is it just being with the person you were meant to be with?  Or maybe the quest itself is home.

I wanted to capture this search in a photographic way. To do that, I needed to really search how I felt when I traveled as well as exploring the questions mentioned above.

What you see in the series online is a portion of overall series, which I intend to publish as a book at some point. Will it ever be finished though?  Will I find Home?  I have no idea, but I love the way that this direction has forced me to look deep inside and then translate those thoughts and emotions into a photograph.

You can view Speak to me of home here.

I’d love to hear your thoughts.



P.S. I’m planning on redesigning my site and moving to a new platform. I appreciate your patience in the meantime.

The Darkroom Underground magazine

I have some exciting news!  I’ve been asked to be on the advisory council of a brand new magazine:  The Darkroom Underground.

It’s founded by Tim Layton, a fine art photographer who specializes in capturing the beauty of nature, primarily with large format film, and processing traditionally.

Here’s an overview of the magazine from Tim:

The focus of The Darkroom Underground publication is rooted in art, imagination, and brought to life through the creative souls that share their most personal thoughts and experiences.

Photography has evolved over the last 175 years to a place that the 19th and 20th-century photographers could have never imagined.  In spite of the proliferation of technology and digitalization of just about every area of modern life, people still have a strong desire to create handmade artwork in the darkroom.  Photographers that have only used digital gear are discovering the joys and mysteries of darkroom photography.

The Darkroom Underground publishes a balance of technical and creative articles in every issue along with featured photographers and their portfolios.

We are pleased to offer editorial from internationally recognized photographers and writers and also publish articles and portfolios from our readers.

I’ll be talking primarily about the creative process itself rather than gear.  Any magazine that welcomes a dialog about photography today, I’m excited about.

You can check out the website here:  The Darkroom Underground.  Please subscribe and support the arts!


The Myth of Technical Perfection


I had an interesting exchange with the Executive Director of The Center for Fine Art Photography a few days ago that has me absolutely baffled.

I had submitted some images for consideration for one of their exhibits, and they were rejected due to “technical errors”. What baffled me was that the exposure, contrast, etc, was exactly what I had envisioned prior to taking the photos.  Granted, some of them, okay many of them, wouldn’t be considered technically perfect by digital standards.  I didn’t expose to the right (I wouldn’t even  know how to do that), they didn’t have wide dynamic range, etc.

The cameras I use are heavily customized and rather unconventional, specifically to give me the look that I want. I want to convey emotion, not show off technical perfection.

The conversation with the Executive Director, a man whom I had assumed would understand artistic expression, went something like this (paraphrased):

Him: Your photos lack dynamic range

Me: I know, they’re very high contrast for a reason.

Him: They’re underexposed too.

Me: Yep, exactly as I envisioned.

Him: But that’s not the proper exposure.

Me: What is “proper” in art?  Who determines that?

And it kind of went downhill from there.

It reminded me of the scene in the movie Dead Poets Society (above) where the textbook uses the Pritchard Scale for Poetry to graph how good a poem is, which is obviously ridiculous. Robin Williams wisely has them rip those pages out of the textbook.

I can imagine the Impressionists having those same discussions during the Salon de Paris, when it first burst onto the art scene. How dare they not paint in the approved style?

I’m in no way comparing myself to the greats of Impressionism, but I’m baffled why someone in such a vaunted position could, in 2016, still be bound by the “approved methods”.

Don’t let yourself be bound by conventions. Art will only move forward when people try new things.  Things that will make some people feel uncomfortable.  As long as it makes you, as an artist, happy, that’s all that counts.


A New Chapter Begins

“Pictures are often made for no other reason than that the act demonstrates the power of the photographer over time, the partial fulfillment of a deeply rooted wish.” – Ralph Evans

Tomorrow, the movers come and a new chapter in my life begins. I’ll be leaving Seattle and moving to Chicago to work for the wonderful charity and service organization, Rotary International (the headquarters for the Rotary Clubs around the world).

When I look back at my life, it’s taken the form of a series of chapters. First, growing up in Toledo, Ohio, followed by the Navy north of Seattle (and gaining an extended family), and working on flight simulators around the world. Then came living in Montreal, a city that I fell in love with, along with some dear friends there and nearby.

The current chapter has been in Seattle again, this time for 16 years. When I look back at my time here, it’s amazing how quickly it’s gone by, but also incredible how much living has happened during that time. Love and loss, pleasure and depression, fun, stress and the beauty that is the Pacific Northwest.

So why am I leaving such a beautiful place to move to Chicago? A few reasons, primarily the wonderful opportunity to work for Rotary International and be able to give back to the community. On a personal level, I think I was just ready for a new adventure as well.  Chicago is a wonderful city that I look forward to exploring.  I’ve made big moves before, but this one is a bit of a leap of faith. While I’ve visited Chicago a couple of times, and liked it a lot, I definitely don’t know it as well as other cities that I’ve made a major move to. Sounds like an exciting adventure to me.

What does any of this have to do with my photography? Everything, really. I want to capture the dream and emotion of this new place as I’ve done with others.  It will also play a big part in this project that I’ve been working on the last couple of years all about the concept of Home. How does a new place that you’ve been placed into become “home”? I have no idea, but it will be interesting to explore. Or is it really a place that defines home?

There is one more chapter after Chicago, and that’s retirement. I don’t know when that will be, or where it will take place, but that will be a fascinating adventure as well.

And that’s what life is all about, isn’t it? Find someplace, or someone, that you find fascinating and open your heart to it.  What happens next will be unpredictable, adventurous, and undoubtedly wonderful.

Talk soon,


The Source of Inspiration


What is the source of inspiration?

Is it the Muse, who places her gentle hand on your shoulder and whispers in your ear? Is it the excitement of having a new piece of gear? Is it seeing another artist’s work and realizing what is possible? Or is it diving deep inside yourself?

In my mind, inspiration can come from only One True Source: Love.

Passion for your subject, passion for life, passion for someone you love…it all comes down to love.

With love, all things are possible. The future is wide open. The doubts that nagged you at your lowest depths suddenly seem so trivial to be non-existent.

I see so many photographers who are on the never-ending quest for technical perfection. I know this will sound contrary to what I’ve been saying, but I actually have no problem with that. If it gives them joy, then go for it.

But it will never be art.

Art comes from a crazy place – a place that can’t be fully defined, no more than love can. It can’t be measured in megapixels or sensor size. It’s measured in emotion and depth of feeling.

Once you’re able to allow yourself to dive into the deep pool of passion, you’ll realize it’s not as scary or intimidating as it seemed from the outside, in fact it’s rather peaceful. Your purpose and mission in life becomes clear, and that brings clarity and serenity.

Keith Carter has a passion for his home town. Ansel Adams for Yosemite and the West. Clyde Butcher for the Everglades. Vermeer for light. It goes on and on.

Find your passion, open yourself up to all it entails, and the gentle but powerful Muse will be standing beside you forever.

Talk soon,


(Thanks to my friend Quinn Jacobson for the initial Plato quote)

About a book


“Art is never finished, only abandoned.” Leonardo da Vinci

Some of you know that I’ve been working on a book for months now.  It was supposed to be out at the end of last year and I still haven’t finished it.

What you see above is a proof book – the final book won’t look anything like that.  I used it for sequencing, editing and testing form factors.  And it will never see the light of day.

Why not?

I’m just not happy with it. It doesn’t convey the emotion that I want it to, I still don’t have the sequencing exactly right, and I still haven’t decided on the final structure.

I’ve learned a lot in the process.  All about bindings, printing techniques, minimum orders (yikes!) , editing, sequencing, how books are laid out, and the myriad of options to make a book play as a cohesive object.

The biggest challenge for me is the printing.  The photos inside have a unique quality that I have yet to see in a printed page.  They require inky deep blacks and brilliant whites in order to create the impact I need.  That works great on a photographic paper, but is very hard to find in a printed book.  I’ve done tons of tests, met with lots of printers and haven’t met one that could do it at the price point I need/want.

High-end custom printers can quickly approach $700 – $800 per copy, and while I want this to be a “legacy project”, I just can’t justify that cost in my mind.

So I’ve set it aside for the moment.

I need to look at the very definition of a book and see if I can come up with a creative solution that can still retain the qualities I need in order to feel like this project can be called complete.

It’s a frustrating time right now, but I need to wait until I can discover the solution.

Until then, thank you for your patience.


Interview for On Landscape magazine

I was very honored to have been interviewed for On Landscape magazine, out of the U.K.  Steve Coleman did what he called a “slow interview”, meaning it was done over e-mail and there was time given between the questions so that I could carefully consider the answers.

Steve is a wonderful photographer out of Australia, and is always striving to go deep into the meaning and thought-processes behind photography, rather than talk about gear.  I appreciate that point of view and wish more photographers would give that due consideration.

At first, I was a bit hesitant about doing the interview, as I don’t really think of myself as a landscape photographer, but then I realized that I don’t really have a classification or label for what I do, so I didn’t stress about it.

You can read the interview here.

I hope you enjoy it.


P.S.  About that book…the next post will explain where I’m at with it.

Where are the photos?

You may have noticed that I haven’t been posting many photos lately.  For a good while, actually.  Here’s why:

For the last two years, I’ve been working on a new photo project.  It’s different than my previous work.  I wanted to go deeper, more into emotions, motivations and interpretation of a theme.

It’s been an intensely personal experience that I’ve only recently revealed, to even my closest friends.  In fact, to date, I could count the number of people who have seen the work on one hand.

The shooting itself is complete – at least this chapter – and I had planned on sharing it online this week, but I’m not.

The goal of the project was to make something tangible and lasting – a legacy project, if you will.  As such, I’ll be publishing this as a fine art book.

It won’t be an inexpensive book printed by an online company.  The physical form that the book takes will be an integral component in the experience.  The materials used, the methodology, the technique, will all contribute to tell the story.  It will be a very limited edition available to collectors of the medium.

I’ve already engaged with a studio that will collaborate with me to put it together.  This process will take a few months, unfortunately, which means that you won’t see any new photos from that series posted online until then.  My target date for launch is October.

I’m very excited about the direction that this is heading and appreciate your patience.  I’ll do my best to make it worth it.



The photos on the wall

The gang
More than 30 years ago, I took the photo above. At least I think I did – doesn’t matter. It shows many of the people who were my second family after I joined the Navy. I was stationed on Whidbey Island, Washington. At the time, I knew nothing of the world, but knew I wanted to go places I’d never been.

Photos have the power to change lives; even ones you think are inconsequential. In 1979 I was stationed in Millington, Tennessee, attending technical school, when I saw a small 3×5 photo of mountains filled with pine trees taped to my roommate’s locker door. When I asked about it, he said that was where he grew up – near Seattle, Washington. A few weeks later, we were asked to fill out our “dream sheet” of where we wanted to be stationed when we finished school. I chose Whidbey Island, just based on that one photo. To my surprise, I got it.

Family is an interesting concept. You’re born with it, but if you’re lucky, friends can become family. My best friend Mike, shown above with the Zapata mustache and crouching in the center of the table, became like my brother, and still is to this day. All because of a 3×5” snapshot taped to a locker.

Yesterday, Mike and I went to revisit some of our old haunts on Whidbey (we both still live in the Seattle area). We visited Toby’s Tavern, in Coupeville, where Mike (and others) once got thrown into Puget Sound, where we shot darts, and where our friend Boone once said “You know, I’ve never walked away from a fight” when someone insulted his wife – and one punch later the offending jerk was on the floor.

After Toby’s we headed to Oak Harbor, where the Navy base was (is) and visited the Oak Harbor Tavern, where we attended quarter-beer night almost every week.

That’s when we received the surprise of the day.

On the wall were two photos – the one above and the one below. Both faded, neither technically very good, but man, did the memories come flooding back. There was Murph, who was like a second father to me when mine died shortly after I arrived at Whidbey. Whitey, who was once handed a written reprimand by the Navy for swearing too much and responded with “What the fuck is this?”. Dave, Katie, both Brad’s, and more. Each recognition was followed by stories, memories and laughs.

Next to it was the photo below, not sepia-toned, but turned brown by years of cigarette smoke (now banned) and stapled to the wall. That’s Murph in the hat, me in the striped shirt with my back to the camera, Chuck writing something, and Kelly the bartender, who’s still running the place. I think this one was taken a bit later judging by my hair length. Likely mid-80’s after I was out of the Navy. Photographer unknown.

The emotions that were evoked by these photos were palpable yesterday as we were transported to good times years ago. Those feelings are rare and precious…and all happened because of a 3×5 photo of some trees taped to a locker.

30 years from now, RAW converters may be a relic from the past, but the memories that you capture and print now will endure. Go. Print.

Like desert seeds awakened by a first rain, the memories will come back to life and it will be as if they never left.


Me - and my second dad