Norman Mauskopf is a W. Eugene Smith Fellowship recipient who has had four photography books published: A Time Not Here, Dark Horses, Rodeo, and, most recently, Descendants, about Northern New Mexico Hispanic culture. His photographs have been included in solo and group exhibitions, including two shows at the Visa pour l’Image festival in Perpignan, France. Over the course of his 40-year career, Norman has completed a wide range of assignments for numerous corporate clients and magazines, including Wired, Islands, Travel + Leisure, Outside, and Rolling Stone. This is Norman’s 17th year teaching for The Workshops. A selection of his work can be seen at www.vervegallery.com.
Directed and Edited by Wes Sheridan
Music: “The Encouragement Stick” by Doctor Turtle
Assisted by Stefan Wachs
I was gonna leave town for the holiday but I got a jaywalking ticket in Pasadena and while I was waiting for the guy to write me the ticket I sat in the car and I turned on the radio and by accident or by design I heard an advertisement for a rodeo that was coming to Pasadena on the 4th of July and I had never seen a rodeo or Cowboys or anything and so I thought well let me go see if I could maybe photograph at this rodeo and I took a photograph of these three Cowboys at Twilight the stadium lights shining on them and I thought boy this is the first picture that I've taken that says something about an aspect of American culture of the American West and the American cowboy my beginnings in photography in terms of social consciousness was purely self-indulgent you know there were no lofty goals but I wanted to find out if I could make money in photography I wasn't that happy in economics so I would sneak out of work after lunch every afternoon go to photo assignments I photographed anything at everything you had to sort of piece together your impressions of what a photography career was like from little bits and pieces that Rodeo picture was sort of the first spark that photography could change people's perceptions of things and had a social purpose and I took this picture and then it led to another rodeo in another rodeo and and I ended up you know doing this book on a part of American culture when I'm doing my projects and I think of these people being a part of the continuum of their culture in American history that makes me feel like I have this special entre I've been given this gift I like to think of you know my beat is America it's almost like I'm in a movie somehow it's like pinch me am I really here at this church service early in the lake and Mississippi for this baptism I do a lot of reading I listen to the music that's associated with these cultures country western music the case of the Cowboys blues in gospel music and Mississippi sort of 1920s jazz of the racetrack and and by putting it into into this historical context that's where I get my inspiration and that's how I sustain myself on these projects it's all part of why I am where I am that got me to that spot I have to pick the right person the right background the right moment to press the shutter and that is intuitive and you can prepare for those moments but you can't think about them while you're there photographing and I prepared myself through all these experiences dealing with people dealing with light dealing with different backgrounds and problems there were always people who wanted me not around at the rodeo the racetrack the churches the Blues clubs the car shows you know you learn to spot who who those people are because they could make life miserable for and I think you need that anxiety I say this all the time if you go out and you're and you're real comfortable when you're photographing your pictures are gonna be real comfortable too and and that's not really what you want you you want your pictures to be stimulating and you know you want them to stimulate something in someone and so you have to be stimulated and a little anxious nervous and excited there's always that hurdle of having to sort of like screw yourself up and say those two words you know excuse me I'm so-and-so and I'd like to take your picture that feeling never goes away that's a real key to unlocking the secret make friends with anxiety you hear that make anxiety your best friend you