Making pictures became a private activity, a marked shift from the editorial work that had regularly put my photography and my name in front of millions of people all over the world. Furthermore, my life-long approach to taking photos—going to places that interested me and patiently looking—didn’t fit with the long hours I was giving to my new job. It took a year or two to figure out another approach and then another to start producing work that I thought was worthwhile.

My pictures became tightly focused on my family, both nuclear and extended. I devised an efficient working method, doing studio portraits in short, scheduled sessions, then using small prints to create grids of pictures that suggested the power dynamics of family groups. I had few opportunities to show my work to anyone and none to publicly exhibit it. Still, I was glad to be doing it.

—Rock In A Landslide


Lizzie laughed and said, “You’ve made me into one of the children.” I rearranged the same images to mean something different.


The people who populated the art world, where I was now hoping to gain citizenship, liked my work, but their bureaucracy moved slowly. The museums, the institutions for posterity, scheduled programming three and four years ahead and were interested in a lifetime of work. Their pace couldn’t have been more different from that of daily newspapers and weekly magazines. I was impatient, I felt that I didn’t have the personality to promote myself in the art world, and I held my own magical belief that some curator would realize how great my work was and touch me with their wand. Meanwhile, I was not developing an identity as an artist—I was developing an identity as an administrator.

I was disappointed that my dream of a natural confluence between teaching and art world stature had proven illusory, yet I was happy to be making a decent living, and I gradually paid off what remained of our bank debt.

Rock In A Landslide

Kelly Nowels