A Short Biography
May 25, 1998
MY LOVE AFFAIR WITH PHOTOGRAPHY AS AN ART
I remember to this day how I approached my father and asked
him if I could buy a 12 dollar, plastic Kodak Brownie Box Camera.
I had to ask his permission to buy any articles with my allowance
money. I was so happy when he approved! And that was the start
of a long love affair with photography.
Started photographing my brothers and sisters,....my friends
in the neighborhood and occasionally a trip to some workplace
or garden to photograph any eye catching view.
Joined the camera club of my high school. We all photographed
student activities. I even had some of my photographs published
in the school's year book. Photography fascinated me very much.
The idea that I could "catch" a view that I was observing in the view
finder of a camera and then later see the finished picture, was such
a profound experience. Something of a time machine that could
visually carry me back to a special moment,..especially a beautiful
moment. In the spirit of the true artist,..I was able to catch
the moment forever.
I was 16 when I purchased my first camera and one year later
I purchased a "real" camera. It was a Yashica. A Japanese
copy of the famous German Rolleiflex twin lens camera. What
pure delight to look through the view finder, searching for a
beautiful moment to catch. Better than going fishing.
No hook was needed to catch an image,..just a nimble finger
and a hair triggered intuition to follow the feelings that were
passing in view. All I had to do was wait for the "right moment".
The moment that would best sum up the feelings of that present
moment in life. The feelings of a person,....the beautiful
arrangement of some flowers delicately hanging on,....the design
of a bridge,...the outline of a tree in silhouette during a
beautiful sunset,...the reflection of dancing diamonds on the
shoreline of a beach,...the grace of a bird in flight,...the
joys,..the tears,..the expressions of tender love a child
expresses for the mother or father,..the compassion of a mother
soothing a crying child. There was so much that could be
"caught on film",...to be preserved forever.
Photography will always be the best method for an artist to
record in detail,...the story of life,...with instant flicks of a
finger,...rather than the traditional artistic method of the past,
where an individual spent weeks, perhaps months, constructing
with oil paint, lead pencil or water colors, an accurate record
of the reality taking place in front of the beholder.
Photography records and captures life,..at the speed of light,
allowing you to paint with light the fleeting moment,...gone in
reality,..but captured for posterity.
I studied photography at Santa Monica City College, California
in 1961-63. I started that very same semester to exhibit a few
photographs in the school library and then tried other localities.
Photo shops, schools, coffee houses, libraries, a hospital, an
airplane factory, restaurants,...just about any free wall space was
good enough for my pictures.
In this fashion my photographs became quite popular among the
young in the Bay Area of Los Angeles during the years 1962-67.
I exhibited at UCLA, San Diego College, Los Angeles Photo Center,
The Unicorn Theater (La Jolla), The Insomniac Coffee House (Hermosa
Beach), The Ashgrove (Hollywood), and the Los Angeles City Hall.
I saturated the area with my pictures.
Once when I traveled to New York with some of my friends to pick
up a prize that I won In Rochester, New York,..I was able to get a
feel of New York. It wasn't a "love at first sight" situation.
New York was another world which made me feel uncomfortable. The
fast talking hectic way of life did not suit my temperament. It
was simply too slick for my existentialist way of life. But I
realized that I had to expand, to spread my work physically,
I had to change my "campaign grounds",.....I was already famous
in Southern California and would no longer be news for any media
coverage of my exhibitions.
The L.A. Times covered my City Hall exhibition in 1964, and
I understood that I would no longer be news for another 5 or 10
years. So I had to make a big change,...to avoid stagnation.
Since I wrote off N.Y. City as my next campaign ground ,..I
thought the typical thing to do, would be to travel to Europe,
to do as most artists do,...who are thinking big . Paris was the
place to be. The West Bank was the scene to do. But it turned
out to be Sweden by pure coincidence. And there I've been living
as a permanent tourist for the past 30 years now.
When I moved to Sweden, the first nine months I spent in
Stockholm,.....moving from acquaintance to acquaintance. I had
to hit the road , had to move 12 times! It was rough during this
time. I managed somehow, with the passage of time, to put
together a collection of my photographs to start exhibiting again.
I was doing an average of one exhibition a month,...for a run
of more than 3 years and then when I was awarded the city's Cultural
Award, I received the distinction of being a recognized artist .
The wording for the prize read..... For helping to advance photography
as an art .
Only once have I been invited to hold an exhibition, and
that was in California, back in 1965. Most of the time I had
to go out hunting exhibition space for my pictures. And
certain places that were free of
charge,...like libraries,...are now no longer free of charge.
I quickly lost interest in exhibiting. I just couldn't afford
to exhibit the way I used to. After all the years of exhibiting,...
doing more than 85 one-man-shows, I now felt I was stamping the
ground,..getting nowhere fast. It wasn't until I purchased a
computer that I found a new way to share, to show my work to the
general public. Internet is a new beginning. Now I have a
gallery of my own,..open 24 hours a day,..every
day of the week! And here's where you've found me today.
Carl D. Toothman
July 21, 1998