Artist’s statement

Mark Citret at Monterey Museum Exhibit

Photography is simply a function of noticing things.
Elliot Erwitt

In the early 1990s, having been a full time photographer for over 25 years, I began carrying a 35mm camera with me at all times. Hardly a radical action, but given how I was “raised” as a photographer—in the tradition of the large format tripod mounted camera, it was a move that went somewhat “against the grain” (if you’ll pardon the expression). Photographing was something that I had always done with deliberation and sustained concentration, and a large and bulky camera. What I began realizing was that I was missing a lot of pictures. I was constantly seeing photographs I wanted to make, and usually in situations where the thought of making photographs was far from my mind—while driving the kids to school or doing any number of day to day errands. In those circumstances it would be impractical to have my camera gear with me and, even if I did, impossible to take the time to stop and work.

So the idea was to use the small camera to make a quick “sketch” of whatever it was that had caught my eye, and subsequently make an effort to get back to the scene with ample time and the big camera to “do it right”. Seemed like a good plan, but there were a couple of problems with it. The first was that it was simply impossible to “get back to” all the spots where I had jumped out of the car and quickly “sketched”. There were just too many of them. The second, and more profound problem, was that when I did go back with the view camera, even if the time of day was the same, the light similar, and I was standing in the same spot, the picture I had “sketched” before was nowhere to be found on the ground glass. Something intangible was always missing. (Perhaps it was nothing more than the spontaneity of the initial reaction, an ingredient I’ve learned to trust and rely upon). This would have been unbearably frustrating were it not for the realization that I already had the picture I wanted– on 35mm film exposed “on the fly” with a hand held camera. How absurdly simple—why go on looking for something I had already found? Another thought suggested itself to me: the obvious, (though given my photographic “upbringing”, startling), realization that quantity of negative has nothing to do with quality of seeing. We are constantly surrounded by what the photographer Lou Stouman eloquently referred to as “ordinary miracles” (the title of one of his books). The Camera is a wonderful means of bearing witness. Which particular camera doesn’t really matter.

The photographs in this exhibit and catalogue were made with big cameras on tripods and small cameras handheld. What they have in common is that they all point in a direction to which I have always been drawn. It’s perhaps best described as a fascination with the mundane and the commonplace, which for a moment, because of a quirk of the light, some momentary whimsy or fleeting recognition, become, for lack of a better word, beautiful. In such moments, Daly City, California (my home) or Kanab, Utah become every bit as alluring and stimulating as Paris or New York. And New York or Paris, in the myriad and utterly ordinary masks they usually wear, can be every bit as exotic as Kanab or Daly City.

Mark Citret
Spring, 2002