Hours of Idleness-A Photographer's Journey in St. Louis

My Best of 2022

1. Historic River Des Peres Sewer Tunnel, from Mound City Chronicle (for Terrain Magazine)

Despite taking a lot of photographs in 2022, very little photography was dedicated to my several ongoing projects (though significant that little bit was). This is due to several intervening factors: 1. my focus on exhibiting has picked up steam; 2. my focus on publishing a photobook has become realized; 3. I had wonderful assistance with my photo organization; and 4. it was hot as heck for a lot of the year.

2. Wainwright Tomb, Bellefontaine Cemetery, from Mound City Chronicle (for Photo Flood Saint Louis)
3. The boys on our Fall camping trip.
4. Ellison (experimentation with new Fujifilm Instax Camera)
5. Alton, Illinois, from Manifested
6. Portage des Sioux (for Photo Flood Saint Louis)

The year began with a couple of lectures, one at the St. Louis Camera Club and the other for the International Photography Hall of Fame. The first was titled, Photography, Art and Community in St. Louis, and it included a history of famous photography made in the city, an outline of my growth as an artist and a survey of my work creating a photographic community with Photo Flood Saint Louis. The second lecture was titled, The Photographic Series, and included a description of various types of photographic series, along with examples from my own work. Both lectures were fun ways of connecting with photographers and audiences outside of my usual spheres, and while I’ve given public lectures many times in the past, it feels rewarding to finally be making my talks more about my own work than the work of others.

In March, I was approached by the organizers of the annual Kristen Peterson Photography Lecture and Exhibition Series, after a recommendation by a PFSTL Member. After interviewing online and in-person, the organizers selected PFSTL as the focus of this prestigious annual event. I immediately began the daunting task of selecting works for the exhibition from our database of over 80,000 images. The selection process took months and initially included almost 120 images. You would think that this part would be the most difficult, but getting more then 70 photographers on board to print, mat, frame and deliver their work was infinitely more hair-raising. This is the first show that I’ve fully curated since 2017. The exhibition opened in October with 94 works exhibited covering the entire history of the organization.

Statement for Exhibition:

Formed in 2012, the mission of Photo Flood Saint Louis is to provide opportunities for photographers in St. Louis to build relationships and networks (both professional and personal), to learn new skills and develop new ideas, and to deepen their understanding of this place where they live.

Members have now crisscrossed the entire city of St. Louis on foot for over a decade, providing a voice for the vibrant histories, people and built environments that together distinguish each and every neighborhood. From documenting city celebrations to investigations into the struggles St. Louis faces or has faced, the organization has woven a complex narrative of this region at this time, with each of the group’s over 600 photographers providing individualized threads.

The 9th Annual Kristen Peterson Lecture and Exhibition Series is a celebration of the group’s achievements. In selecting work for display, Photo Flood Saint Louis Founding Director Jason Gray scoured the club’s archives of over 80,000 images to sequence a display that illustrates the spectacular and diverse artistry of its members. The work exhibited spans the entirety of the organization’s timeline and demonstrates the visual richness of the city of St. Louis.

Photo Flood Saint Louis Exhibition for the 9th Annual Kristen Peterson Lecture Series
Photo Flood Saint Louis Exhibition for the 9th Annual Kristen Peterson Lecture Series
9th Annual Kristen Peterson Lecture Series event announcement
7. Lemay Wastewater Treatment Plant, from Mound City Chronicle (for Terrain Magazine)
8. Independence, Missouri (for Missouri Main Street)
9. River of Raw Sewage in Historic River Des Peres Tunnel Under Forest Park, from Mound City Chronicle (for Terrain Magazine)
10. My Sister Emma, High School Graduation Photo
11. River Des Peres, from Mound City Chronicle (for Terrain Magazine)

In April, after discussions with my frequent collaborator Chris Naffziger, I pitched an idea for an article on the River Des Peres to Terrain Magazine. The Magazine took us up on it, and we both immediately began the complex work or arranging access to sensitive sites and scheduling interviews. Work on this article led us to visiting the River’s (now the city’s largest sewer for both waste and stormwater) spring-fed origins, into the historic sewer tunnels deep underground, and to one of the largest wastewater treatment facilities in the United States. We were able to wrap everything up before our deadline in September, and the issue with our article was published in November. Working on this piece is definitely one of those adventures that I will remember and tell for years.

Article title page on River Des Peres in Terrain Magazine

In May, the winners of the 2022 Regional Arts Commission Artist Support Grants were announced, and I won a $5000 grant to go toward publishing my first monograph, Mound City Chronicle. For those that have followed my work and this blog, you know that I’ve dreamed of publishing my work as a photobook for years. I’ve taught myself the history of art and photography through books checked out through local libraries and purchased in resale shops. My work in this series relates to the photobook directly in both its scale and sequencing. Nonetheless, after submissions to publishers all across the country (and some overseas), my dreams of publishing had all but evaporated due to a lack of funds available to pursue it (both self-publishing and traditional publishing often require upfront financial contributions by the author). I applied for the loan as sort of a last ditch effort, and am ecstatic that I was awarded this opportunity to continue.

My book was essentially complete from my previous work on it, so I only had to acquire and learn some design software to lay it out in the way that my publisher Vedere Press required, which I completed and sent away in August. After two rounds of color proofing, the book was ready to go to print.

Pick up your very own copy here.

Previous iterations of Mound City Chronicle book over the years
Finished product with cloth hardcover and silver foil lettering and 91 full color illustrations on 100# paper.
Silver foil lettering.
12. Control Room, Lemay Wastewater Treatment Plant, from Mound City Chronicle (for Terrain Magazine)
Mound City Chronicle exhibition at Maryland Heights Community Center
Mound City Chronicle exhibition at Maryland Heights Community Center
Mound City Chronicle exhibition flyer

In July, a small exhibition of Mound City Chronicle opened at the Maryland Heights Community Center. This was my first exhibition in this venue and my first in this area of the St. Louis region.

Also in July, my only brother died of a drug overdose at 34 years old. After several years of not speaking, due to his addiction and the behaviors they elicited, we had begun to reconcile our relationship this year. For the most part, he seemed to be doing well prior to his death, so it came as an extreme shock, something that I will probably forever need to contend with. The last time that I saw him alive, I told him how great he looked (his body had recovered some weight and he looked healthy)–I was proud. Scott’s death opened old wounds for me in terms of my own mental health and anxiety. Normal, routine interactions and especially public speaking have become very uncomfortable as a result.

13. Hannibal, Missouri (for Photo Flood Saint Louis)
14. Independence, Missouri (for Missouri Main Street)
15. Independence, Missouri (for Missouri Main Street)

In early August, I was hired to photograph the Missouri Main Street conference in Kansas City. This was the organization’s first in-person conference since the one that I photographed in St. Louis in 2019. The conference takes places over three days and focuses on development, learning, networking, awards, and the achievements of the organization’s members across the state of Missouri, in both small towns and big cities. I always enjoy the camaraderie of the conference’s participants and organizers, and the timing of the job provided a welcome break from reality.

After the Mound City Chronicle exhibition came down in September, I refocused my efforts on getting everyone’s work in shape and delivered for the opening of the Photo Flood Saint Louis exhibition in early October. Essentially a marathon ran at a sprint, this phase found me assisting many Members to print, mat, frame and deliver their work.

The opening and panel lecture occurred on October 6th. Earlier that week, I was interviewed by Webster-Kirkwood Times for a feature on the exhibition.

Me on the panel, alongside PFSTL Admins Mike Matney and Ann Aurbach, and Moderator Jamie Kreher
16. My view from the Panel
Town & Style St. Louis “In the Know” feature on PFSTL Exhibition
17. Historic River Des Peres Sewer Tunnel, from Mound City Chronicle (for Terrain Magazine)

Also in October, an anthotype image of mine was published in the German Foto MAGAZIN, in an article about alternative photography.

On October 13th, I gave a “master class” presentation to photography students at St. Louis Community College Meramec with a lecture titled, Building a Portfolio, Building a Series. This lecture focused both ideas through the lens of my work, and was a part of my commitments with the Kristen Peterson annual event.

Cover of Foto Magazin, October 2022
My work published in Foto MAGAZIN
18. 1904 Olympic Diving Pier, Lake Sherwood (“secret” source of River Des Peres), from Mound City Chronicle (for Terrain Magazine)
19. Group portrait of Conservation Department (for Saint Louis Art Museum)
20. Hannibal, Missouri (for Photo Flood Saint Louis)

November brought the finished copies of my book Mound City Chronicle to my doorstep. The response has been wonderful so far and beyond expectations.

21. My son Ellison, The Nature Institute
22. Shaw Nature Reserve
23. Hannibal, Missouri (for Photo Flood Saint Louis)

Also in November, the first advance press for my next exhibition at the Foundry Art Centre was published. This next exhibition, titled Does a parasite know that it’s a parasite?, will be a major departure from Mound City Chronicle and an opportunity to show another side of my practice.

Exhibition flyer
24. Saint Louis Art Museum (sculpture protectively wrapped during landscaping work)
25. My wife (for Carondelet Yoga Center)
26. Louisiana, Missouri

I am going to end this post with my book signing in December at the International Photography Hall of Fame and Museum. This event gave me an opportunity to share some of the fun, adventurous stories behind the images and to connect with folks interested in buying my book. It was a lot of fun!

I look forward to where this path continues to take me.


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