Thomas Finke - Photography



Bachelor's degree in Science provides me with a firm grounding in technical skills and problem solving methods that have been further strengthened by my M.F.A. and teaching experience. The years I spent teaching school children have given me the ability to regard my art from a fundamental point of view. In order that others, both young and old, may understand the language and teaching of Art, it is important that the teacher examine his/her own approach, analyzing techniques and subtleties that are usually taken for granted when creating an artwork. I feel a large part of being a successful educator in Fine Arts is tied to active participation and commitment to that field as both an educator and an artist.

Fine Art education requires both professional education and intellectual training. To facilitate the process, the educational curriculum should challenge the student's intellectual capacities; broaden their vocabulary, methods, processes and technology of Fine Art. The syllabus should instill an understanding of the media within the context of a thinking/problem solving structure that provides for the practical application of concepts.

For me, liberal arts education represents a way of thinking, rather than a structure of the study of disciplines. It emphasizes the process of acquiring knowledge of the world and self through reflection upon the work of others. Valuing the general more than the specific, liberal arts education is concerned with modes of thinking, rather than bodies of knowledge.

I strive to teach my students to think critically and to communicate ideas clearly and creatively and I encourage a constant and open dialogue between teacher and student. As an educator, I hope to prepare my students to continue to learn for the rest of their lives to be more than simply practitioners. They should be innovators.



There are countless visual clues threaded throughout these images, but they don't add up to any singular solution. I think it is one of the strengths of this work that it brings together a great variety of fragments without trying to construct any evident whole.


In spite of lazy rhetoric about the "wide open spaces" of the American West, it is a thoroughly plotted, precisely delineated, carved up, parceled out, fenced in piece of real estate, a collection of neatly defined properties. Perhaps the most commonplace of property markers are ubiquitous wire fences, endless miles of them running parallel with the roadways that form their own grids. Only the wind passes unimpeded in all directions. But carried by that wind is a constant supply of human flotsam that snags on the wire fences along the roadsides. It is the evidence of these encounters that serves as the subject matter of my photographs.

The fences, with their vertical posts and horizontal wires, serve as X and Y coordinates to make a kind of graph on which the castoff, windblown rubbish of the American West arrays itself. They prove the point that this is a place of discarded plastic as much as it is a place of land and sky. They chart our wastefulness, our carelessness, our disregard. We are accustomed to ignoring this evidence, to looking past, above, and through the fences to the less encumbered expanse on the other side. But it is salient to be reminded that this display of detritus actually says more about us than the wide-open spaces beyond it.


The concept and construction of personal space is highly variable, both individually and culturally. I am often struck by the ways in which boundaries are marked between one home and another in Japanese cities. The astonishing density of urban populations leaves little room for expansive gestures of identity and separation, but the need to define some degree of individuality and ownership persists. Scrupulous order, casual neglect, idiosyncratic details, improbable gardens, and countless other factors play their roles in delineating one space from another in the midst of seemingly endless sameness. The superficial uniformity that appears to dominate when these environments are seen from a distance dissolves into infinite variety when seen close up. The personal and the cultural are seamlessly fused in these quiet but clear assertions of individual lives taking a stand against anonymity.


The Song Dynasty (960-1279) poet, Wei T'ai, wrote: "Poetry presents the thing in order to convey the feeling. It should be precise about the thing and reticent about the feeling, for as soon as the mind responds to and connects with the thing, the feeling arises from the words; this is how poetry enters deeply into us."

Photographs, like poems, do not explain anything; they present evidence of things seen and they show us ways of seeing. They can be evocative as well as descriptive, ambiguous as well as accurate.

Can I share with you what I felt and thought through the act of showing you what I saw and how I saw it? I believe so, as long as you are open to that possibility.

The evidence presented here is of various small, unprepossessing places, simultaneously resonant and silent, within the fabric of urban Japan. But also present in these photographs, I hope, are intimations of feeling that arise from the particulars that are, like the words from which poems are constructed, intrinsic to the medium.


Like expressions of the face, the attitudes of the body are full of meaning. Some of our gestures and poses are contrived for an audience; some are unconscious and involuntary; or nearly so. All of them send messages about who we think we are, or how we feel, or what we mean - messages we might prefer to disguise, as well as, those we intend to project. The present sample readily suggests the unsurprising conclusion that, we have become less inhibited about expressing ourselves.


I photograph because it makes me feel that I am alive. My images reveal what I perceive to be true about my environment. This series of work entitled "THE GARDENS OF PHOENIX" is my attempt to interpret a new environment. A midwesterner by birth, I found the West, as a frontier, quite different from the West in which I actually resided. Fences, stone and block walls delineate all of the yards and peoples personal spaces. They appear as "battle lines" that are drawn against the "forces" of the desert, destine to contain, whatever it is that they contain. Here we live on the artificial rain that is required to keep our "gardens" lush and green. The varieties of manicured landscaping suggest an almost neurotic precision in the way people nurture a non-indigenous nature. These images suggest a strong nostalgia for the present and the presence of mankind. How else can we explain the careful emptiness, the cultivation of the place? It is both occupied and deserted, neglected and ordered.

© 2009 Thomas Finke