The "Studies" projects

The "Studies" projects:

Studies 1994-2000
Studies II : Monk's Quirky Music 1994-2000
Studies III: Color Photographs 2006 - June 2013
Still Life: Homage to Morandi Studies IV 2013
The Creative Process Studies V 2014
The Space Between Color and Black&white Studies VI 2014
Babysitting Photographs Studies VII May 2016
Studies VIII : Sufism 2016 Signs, Veils, The Symbolic Photograph
Studies IX : Lila 2018

Also: The Garage Series 1999-2001

In recent years, when I have felt a need for renewed inspiration and refreshment, I have returned to one of my earlier, favorite projects entitled Studies 1994-2000. The project, which was ongoing for six years, consisted of snapshot size 3.5" x 3.5" silver gelatin prints. I loved making those little pictures inspired by short piano compositions, such as etudes, preludes, etc. I didn't know at the time I was making the Studies images that indeed they were a kind of "preparation" for "larger" works. The Studies photographs had their own visual integrity--despite their size--and yet later they were to be used as source material for other larger forms: the Visual Poems for the Departing Landscape, and the Visual Poems for Triadic Memories, and the Chromatic Field photographs.


The miniature Studies images have a particular magical power for me . . . perhaps because of their small concentrated size. They invoke within me the Epiphany of 1955 which I experienced when I was nearly ten years old (and just before my father died) when I saw a hand full of snapshot prints being offered to me by my cousin. (See my essay Epiphany of 1955 which is included on my blog's Welcome Page).

The attitude with which the Studies images were made is part of their power for me. For six years I worked on this project, generating over a thousand images, effortlessly, joyfully, with great enthusiasm, in a creative atmosphere of total freedom. The Studies are the abundant fruit of a spontaneous-intuitive oftentimes quirky sense of visual invention. There is a directness and immediacy about these little pictures which were quickly made, and thus represent a kind of seeing that comes when I am most fully in alignment with the un-knowable, un-namable force that is my Creative Process.

The Studies photographs often seem quite cryptic in their meaning, unsayable in their conception or intention. In general the images represent a willingness on my part to disregard any conventionally defined or disciplined approach to picture-making. The images are unbound by specific thematic ideas or any subject matter constraints. Anything was possible in the Studies project.

Some of the little square silver gelatin prints were made with 2 1/4" square negatives produced by a particular camera I sometimes used early on, but more often than not the small square images are cropped versions of the longer format negatives produced by a 35mm camera. For the Studies project I gave myself permission--at last--to print only part of the camera made image. This was quite a liberating decision on my part; it enabled me to shoot more quickly, un-meditatively. I was free to decide later what to include and what to take out of any given negative I produced when I was printing.

The "concentrated" nature of the small, square Studies photographs seemed to intensify my experience of the Studies images. And the square format encouraged me to photograph with a certain kind of intense directness. In this regard the square format taught me to honor the center of the image (as opposed to so many compositional conventions that insist that the photographer avoid placing things in the center of the frame). I have become even more interested in the center of the image now that I have discovered and studied Islamic Sacred Art and Sacred Geometry which is based on the Origin Point, the very heart, and source of Islamic Sacred Art. (See my 2011-13 project "An Imaginary Book," especially its Preface.)

When I am making Studies photographs I open my heart as wide as possible to the intuitive, guiding spirit of my Creative Process. This "seeing with the eye of the heart" requires a letting go of old visual habits and unconscious rules; in other words, it requires "Not-thinking" and it requires responding from a deeper inner place within myself that transcends mind, intellect, and language--the interior place of the Heart. Photographing in a thought-free state is a form of meditation in action, and in this state of being I become very receptive to the grace that wants to give visual form to Itself. That is to say, when I am photographing I allow the images to come of their own volition.

This approach to the making of Studies photographs allows me to observe in awe, surprise and amazement at what the Creative Process wants to give me. I watch with fascinated awareness that something greater than myself (my ego, my mind, my intellect) is directing the work. In this regard, I enthusiastically encourage you to view the Studies photographs in the same spirit with which they were created.


Since the 1994-2000 Studies project, many other Studies projects have followed. At the time of this writing (early June, 2018) there are now eight Studies projects, and I am about to embark on Studies IX. The more recent digital Studies photographs share in the same attitude and visual qualities of the earlier Studies photographs, though when I make them into prints they are not as small in size as the earlier silver gelatin prints, they are not always square images, and many are now in color as well as in black and white.

The Studies projects made after 2011-13, after the completion of the multi-chaptered project "An Imaginary Book," have often served as transitional projects within my creative process. They have been times of renewal and preparation for the more concentrated, deeply focused work typical of most of my Sacred Art Photography Projects.

My Homage Photography Projects often qualify as Studies projects. Indeed, studying the work of other artists is a form of studying my own self, my own Creative Process. The Steve Lacy project, for example, and my Homage to Paul Klee are no less Studies projects then my Morandi Still Life project which, I have designated as Studies project number IV.

Finally, I want to explain briefly here why The Garage Series project of 1999-2001 has been peripherally added to the above list of Studies projects. Though it had not been given a Studies project designation, I did make most of the garage photographs in the later part of the very first Studies project of 1994-2000, and the early garage photographs were printed as miniature silver gelatin prints. Later, after recognizing the influence of Morton Feldman's music upon the garage pictures, I created (in 2006) a digital version of the Garage Series and identified it as the first project in a series of three large projects made in Homage to Morton Feldman. (Note: I have also explained this in more detail in my project The Garage Series 1999-2001.)


Trying to organize/categorize the fruit of my Creative Process can often lead to the realization that there are internal connections and overlappings between images and projects that cannot be separated, or explained, or placed within a linear time-frame. Nonetheless there is an overarching unity to the work as a whole. I see it, I feel it, I know it in my heart. An unsayable Unitary Reality is manifesting Its necessary order within my Creative Process, and I am continually learning how to better surrender to that which must be allowed to manifest in any given moment . . .

In other words, my Creative Process is essentially a visual manifestation of grace, images that come from an Imaginal world that transcends the limits of the world of duality--the mind, intellect, language and time. A True Creative Process is preoccupied only with Its Own Essential Holistic order. My duty as an unfolding artist, person and soul, therefore, is to serve Its needs . . . for truly speaking Its needs are My needs.

Having said all that, I find I have come face-to-face with the obvious conclusion that the Studies photographs, in their many and varied incarnations, are no less a form of Sacred Art than those projects which I have more recently (since 2013) been designating as such.

Note: This introductory text has been revised on June 5 and 6, 2018
on the occasion of realizing it is time, once again, to begin
making another Studies Project: Studies IX.