Sometimes you see someone's work and something just clicks. It makes you stop, look harder and something in your soul say 'yeah!'
That happened to me when I first saw the photography of Wyatt Neumann.
Art often affects us because of a common bond; some common life experience which allows you to see what the other person is trying to express through your eyes and strums a chord.
But in Wyatt's case,it is hard to see any common frame of reference between him and me.
From the outside, he appeared very much the American free spirit, brought up on a hippy compound, a man who spent it seemed a large part of his life riding his motor cycle around the USA, taking any image that took his fancy. I on the other hand are the typical English middle class child, who rules are there to be obeyed and where travel is an unfortunate curse to be avoided at all costs. I doubt if we had ever met in person we would of had much to talk about.
But there was one common element and that was the dad's love of his daughters.
I first came across Wyatt's work when I was writing this blog entry At the time I was annoyed that society was putting barriers in me recording my children's life. Wyatt had had similar issues, when he presented photos of his daughters that some labelled as obscene, rather than what they were, the recording of a child's innocence through the eyes of a father.
In an era where even a suggestion of impropriety to children can create something akin to mob rule these are dangerous territories and it would of been easy for him to turn away, but instead he did what many great artists do, and turned the issue on its head and used the controversy to examine how we deal and treat children in photography.
After that I kept an eye on his work, watching his twitter feed as he sent in photos from his travels (or notes from the road as he called them) and of his two muses, his daughters. As he did I came to admire his ability to present a story from, for me, an often alien landscape. I also loved the way he could get the expression and joy of how children are in your life.
You might have noticed that I have been typing this calling Wyatt in the past tense. That is because I was shocked to learn that Wyatt died recently after a brain aneurysm caused a motorcycle crash. You might say that he died as he lived, on the road, but I doubt that is much consolation to his wife and daughter. Also in some way, his photos of his daughters gave me an insight into his life, which makes his passing feel so much more personal.
It is very hard to safe something consoling after a loss that does not sound trite or vacuous. This is doubly so when talking about a person who you only know through photos or tweets. Also I know it is highly unlikely that anyone of Wyatt's relatives and friends will ever read this obscure blog, but if they do, I would like for them to know how much his work affected me, despite our distance both geographically and culturally, both as a photographer and a father, and in that small way he will live on.
R,I,P Wyatt Neumann Photographer and Father.
There is a fund for raising money for his Wife and daughters here