By the time I reached young adulthood I was obsessed by photography. Photojournalism consumed my every waking hour and thought. My heroes were the famous photographers of the day, Steichen, Stieglitz, Smith, Lange, Evans, and many other photographers working the magazines and books of those days. Every penny I made was devoted to my craft/art, as well as all of my free time and reading. I was trying to make a breakthrough with the art, to take it farther than any one had ever penetrated the understanding one attempts to achieve through art. Hours spent in the library and bookstores proved valuable, trying to understand light and chemistry, journalism and art.
How to communicate through few words? How do you get the point, information, feeling, and mood across? It's a challenge.
When I first entered the Garwood mansion in the late 60's I felt I had found a metaphor for expressing ideas about contemporary society and civilization. I also knew where I could find great companionship, enlightenment, friends and fun. So it was love at first sight and I spent the next few years exploring the idea with my camera. I could use light and timing and compositions and exposure to express what I was witnessing and feeling. It was to be a time study of the mansion; for as long as I could keep my attention active and the house remained I would record on film the events of the house.
At this same time I found a new mistress, my love affair had become confused with rock and roll, my new obsession.
The music scene in Detroit those days has never been matched anywhere or at any time. The best way to describe it is to say it was like an "explosion of creative energy". Rock and Roll had arrived on the streets, halls, theaters, arenas and the ballroom of the Garwood mansion. On the big venue we could describe a good year as one when the Rolling Stones played in Detroit as they did at Olympia in 1969 and I , with my camera, had a close up in the documentary Gimme Shelter. Janis Joplin recorded "Piece of My Heart" at the Grande Ballroom. Cream, the Who, and the Jefferson Airplane all played Detroit those years. On the local front everybody was working, from Alice Cooper in small clubs to Mitch Ryder who was rehearsing on Cass Avenue, planing his first comeback. My friend Barry Kramer had great hopes for his rock magazine Cream. Bob Seger, who we all knew would standout was cultivating his songwriting. Aretha Franklin was a star while still in high school and Motown, well, they were where the world was whirling around. Ted Nugent along with the Amboy Dukes were taking us to that Journey to the Center of the Mind.
By day I was a photojournalist working for the local newspaper, by night I could pursue the dreams of expression that the mansion offered. So for hundreds of hours for the next few years I worked my mind and camera and eye to explore the final days of the Garwood Mansion.
Gar Wood built his mansion on Grey haven Island in 1924 and for sure it was built around his love for music. At the time it had the largest organ in any house in the country. He was a wealthy industrialist who loved racing speed boats and established a record 125 mph on the Detroit River.
Black and white film includes it's own poetry and comes closer to the truth, requires more thought and ends somewhere between a day dream and an actual event. It's as close as any medium can go at getting to the truth. Time is the final ingredient in the study I made with my camera of the Rock and Roll Days at the Garwood.
Now some 40 years later it stands out as one of the great failures of my life. It cost me greatly and never proved to make any money.
So many other things went well in my life; my photo was in the first issue of People magazine. It was a photo of a woman being baptized in a river. I was published with a 'full bleed, double truck' color photo in the last weekly issue of Life magazine. My portrait of Lauren Bacall for her autobiography was on the cover of one of the most popular books of the late 70's. I was named Michigan Press Photographer of the year for three years and many national awards. I won a journalism fellowship from the National Endowment for the Humanities. I exhibited at the Detroit Institute of Arts with the "Michigan People" exhibit.
My photographs were nominated fro Pulitzer Prizes. Prizes never won, other successes never achieved. So I remained a press photographer for the next 38 years or so doing magazine , news, and portrait work. In the meantime I earned a BA in Journalism and a MA in Communication at Wayne State University in Detroit. I taught photojournalism at Center for Creative Studies, University of Detroit, and Wayne, I guess you could say I have been around the block by this point.
And today I am as active as ever, in "Gonzo, the Life and Times of Hunter Thompson" in a work recently completed there are two of my portraits. As mentioned I have an "Andy Worhol" 10 seconds in Gimme Shelter, I was ready for my closeup. My photographs of the Weatherman faction of the Students For A Democratic Society were used in the New York Times Sunday Magazine and are what I guess you call history. If you go to www.American Music Research Foundation you will find thousands of my photographs. Today, I am completing a historical documentary on the history of the American postcard titled, "My Postcard Collection". I work with video now and often wish I would have had it in the good old Garwood days.
It was Captain Billy Gramm who witnessed from his tug in the Detroit River the lightning bolt that burned down the abandoned hulk of the Garwood mansion. It was over in an evening. For sure then, no more curiosity for those who entered, and certainly no longer a center for the music of the time.
As always I have tried to bring the eye of the poet forward, I had gathered and edited my negatives and presented my project to many publishers with my fingers crossed and never once, not even close, was anyone interested in printing my book of photographs of the Garwood mansion and its heyday along the Detroit River.
Some consider the journey of more benefit than than the destination. And so for me the process of photography at the Garwood was more than the final outcome. I acquired my skill and practiced my talent and used artistic expression of the day, like psychedelic art, poetry and other art forms to convey my meaning. Somehow the meaning has been overshadowed by the noise and dribble of contemporary supposed artwork.