These photographs bring to mind what the poet and teacher Theodore Roethke once wrote: "I wish I could find an event that meant as much as simple seeing." Whether photographing apples, glass vases or cut paper, Robert Kozma's interest in "mark-making" (a term he likes to use) makes it clear to me that a lifetime can be spent exploiting the potential of photography's unique manner of seeing and the descriptive power of its materials.
Kozma works with an 8x10 inch view camera and makes palladium contact prints. "It was the intensity and confrontational power of the seeing with the view camera that made the photographic process 'real' for me (and still does)," Bob explained to me in a letter. With roots in drawing and sculpture, photography was neither favored nor respected when he registered for a photography class, yet he found something unique in the medium that both challenged and complemented, providing a certain and trusted venue that has never ceased to inspire. He sites Jed Devine, a photography professor at SUNY Purchase, as the teacher who introduced him to this process, and the man who remains one of his most influential advocates.
Kozma has been working as an artist and a teacher for 30 years. As a new teacher, I sometimes wonder how he's managed to produce work and carry a simultaneous course load of up to five classes at three different schools. The full answer is too long and complex for this space, but I'm reminded of something the sculptor Anne Truitt wrote in her Daybook: "In the last analysis, to work is simply not enough. But we have to act as if it were, leaving reward aside."
Bob has worked and given generously for 30 years, leaving reward aside and following the voice that "both feeds and describes. "As a teacher, the demand he makes on his students is that they earn the images they make – yet "earning the image" is not simply about understanding materials or mastering process but also learning to respect the significance of one's own history, experience and voice. The lesson I seem to learn time and again is that photographs are not a product, but a process of dealing with our inherent questions, and content emerges from a willingness to surrender to the influences of our individual trials and doubts.
Robert Kozma lives in Putnam Valley, New York. He teaches at SUNY Purchase in Westchester County, NY, Pratt Institute and Pace College, both in NYC. He is a 1990 recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship.
Michael Cardinali is a photographer living in Boston, MA. He teaches at The University of New Hampshire in Durham and Anna Maria College in Paxton, MA.