Born in the Midwest, Charles began his study of photography as a pre-teen, in order to document a family trip to the Gettysburg battleground, one of his earliest experiences in grappling with the implications of cross-cultural conflicts. He gained further insights into the clash of cultures – both religious and national – when he transferred from a Catholic primary school in Ohio to an evangelical Christian missionary high school in Korea, due to his father’s job relocation. Additional knowledge of the complexity of cultural constructs was gained by moving to Japan after living in Korea, and realizing that much of the history he learned in Korea was subject to reinterpretation from a Japanese perspective.
Charles’ education includes a Research Fellowship in Media Production at Nihon University’s College of Fine Arts, additional study at Aoyama Gakuin University and the Inter-University Center (all in Tokyo, Japan) as well as art history and media production classes in the US and courses at ICP in New York, along with training received in the photography darkrooms of the 8th US Army base in Yongsan, Seoul, Korea. He laments that in spite of his professional media experience, he still needs help keeping his computer networks updated.
Having photographed teddy bears in twenty-eight countries on all seven continents, and given the geographic distribution of his Facebook friends and collectors, Charles considers himself justified in his self-reference as a “world renowned teddy bear photographer.”
The question everyone asks:
“Why teddy bears?”
I like them. Most people like them. If they don’t, they’re often the sort of people with whom I don’t feel any need to associate.
They are anthropomorphic. They are wonderful metaphors. They have individual personalities, once you get to know them. They become involved in lots of different activities and adventures. They develop their own stories.
They are very loving and forgiving, even when I drop them. They never complain to OSHA. They negotiate easily, and compromise quickly.
They can say things I can’t. They let me question the status quo and point out inconsistencies in our mass political and economic culture.
The questions no one ever asks:
Is that bear an American or a foreigner?
Is that bear white or black?
Is that bear a Democrat or a Republican?
What religion is that bear?
Is that bear gay or straight?
Meaning and Intent:
People ask me: “What does this photo mean?”
I answer: “To you, or to me?”
I like to challenge perceptions and expectations and force a critical reevaluation of unexamined preconceptions.
I believe in the saying, “You can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make it drink.” I like to add, “You can lead a man to wisdom, but you cannot make him think.”
If my photo makes you smile, then I’m happy for you. If it makes you think, then I’m happy for myself. What it makes you think is up to you. There are a variety of valid interpretations, just as there are a variety of paths in life. If yours is internally consistent and meaningful to you, then it may be right for you. If you sense dissonance, then perhaps a reconsideration is in order.
I like to engage themes of self-identity and create emotional connections. I like to reverberate among cross-cultural artifacts and icons, cultures and people. I like to create unexpected juxtapositions inviting contemplation and reflection.
I am lucky to have colleagues who understand my work and interpret it to others more eloquently than I can myself.
I provide clues and glimpses, and assemble large meaningfulness from small silliness. The Big Picture is built upon the accumulation of many Small Pictures, each with their own stories and private knowledge. Our material world is similarly assembled from molecules built from individual and distinct atoms, each with their own characteristics and frequencies.
You can’t trust atoms. They make up everything.
I structure my images to invite a multitude of interpretations and reactions on a number of levels, while knowing the surface level will predominate for most observers.
I call this artistic vision, "Deep Superficiality."
Click "Ruggles and Little Rug at Baker Beach, San Francisco" to read more about this concept.