politics go here

A collection of various essays, published articles and prepared remarks over the past 50 years.


Published Articles
Green Pages
Main Street
Worker's Power

Prepared Remarks


Judy Tedder, 1982, a decade before we marriedThanksgiving 1972 was a pivotal time in my life. Returning home for the weekend, I knew that I was facing flunking out of college after only one semester. A long conversation with a friend that weekend convinced me to transfer to the local community college and switch majors from International Relations to Mass Media.

After developing my first roll of film, it was obvious I had found the correct path forward. This photograph came from that first roll of film. The subject was Judy Tedder. A decade afterwards we married.

The photography department at Mercer County Community College (MCCC) in Trenton, NJ didn’t believe in lectures. Yes, there was some ‘class’ time, but the real instructions took place as William Barksdale and Stuart Thomas would sit on stools outside the darkroom, reviewing wet prints straight out of the fixer. One day, after I had struggled for over an hour to get a print I was satisfied with, Stuart nodded his head and said “Yup. That’s one way to print it”. Valuable lesson learned.

During this time the late Louie Dimitia and I took Saturday morning workshops with Jim Coleman at his home in Belle Mead. A psychologist and photographer, Jim brought a unique and very opinionated perspective to those Saturday discussions. He believed that an artist does not 'own' the meaning of a work. Rather, when a viewer looks at a work of art, the viewer interprets it from his or her own perspective. That's probably why I prefer to 'name' my photographs simply by identifying where and when there were taken.

Oftentimes Louie and I would, upon arriving early, open the back door, stepping over Hush, Jim’s killer dog and make coffee, shouting to Jim 'wake the fuck up'.

The highlight of those countless Saturday mornings was the morning Jim arranged to have George Krause join us. We silently cried hearing him speak of the time someone broke into his rented car and made off with six months worth of negatives and work prints.

When the summer of 1974 arrived, I decided to spend the next year working, saving up money to attend a four year school. So the next year was spent working in the Congo. Not the Congo in Africa, but Congoleum Linoleum in Trenton. I was told that I was the first new, full-time hire in a decade. While I doubt if that was true, but by the end of the summer the factory floor was divided between those with 15 years or more experience, and, for lack of a better description, college dropouts and druggies. One friend would take aside every new hire, hand them a map of all the hiding spots in the factory, telling them to memorize and burn it. While working in the Congo, Matt Olszak and I drove into Philadelphia one Saturday and purchased almost matcing Rollei SL35’s (mine was silver; Matt's was black). Louie totally loved to pronounce the name of the 25mm lens I purchased, “Distagon!” he would shout with wild abandon.

During that period Louie and I continued to devote most Saturday’s to photography. Many mornings were spent at the Englishtown Flea Market in central Jersey. The cold winter days there brought the best memories, such as the older man laying beneath a blanket on a couch, yelling at his sons to throw more wood into the 55 gallon metal drums; or the woman in tears we met near the end of the day. She had arrived to setup her table before sunrise, when the weather was in the 40’s. She drove into a large patch of mud just behind her table, and thought she could get help moving the car at the end of the day. She didn’t count on a cold front moving in. By the time we crossed paths, what was once mud halfway up her rear wheels was frozen solid. Lacking shovels, we shrugged our shoulders and walked on.

In October 1974, Matt Olszak and I flew up to Halifax to visit the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design. We were well received and informed that the school reviewed applications as soon as they arrived. While Matt and I were having dinner one night in Halifax, a waitress walked in the front door for the beginning of her shift. Her appearance brought out a huge smile from one of the waiters. His smile quickly disappeared as he waved and said “Hi Mary (or whatever her name was) as she walked past as if he didn’t exist.

My application was sent in early November. Not hearing anything by April, I submitted an application to the Center for Photographic Studies in Louisville, KY, and was accepted within a week. Within a few days, I finally heard from Nova Scotia, wondering why I had never responded to their letter of acceptance. By that time my heart was set on Kentucky, so off I went in August 1975.

Moving to Louisville was the first time living on my own. The first night or two was spent in the downtown YMCA while looking for an apartment. Ended up with a furnished apartment in a carriage house just off of Cherokee Park. $75.00 a month. While I enjoyed living in Louisville, other than some casual portraits of fellow students and the staff, there is very little of the work done there worth looking at. The one exception was a photograph taken one evening during a trip to Chicago. I was walking past a hotel and spotted a wedding / reception through a window. The photograph could have been a still from 'Stella Dallas'.

The Center was the creation of C.J. Pressma, a Louisville native. Housed in an older building near the waterfront, it brought together a small and eclectic group of dedicated young photographers. It felt more like a collective than a school.

After one semester I decided that I wanted to get a bachelor’s degree. As a non-accredited school, the Center was not in a position to award one. So back home to suburban Trenton it was, where I spent the winter and spring working as an assistant to the college photographer, and putting together a portfolio which was sufficient to gain admission to Cooper Union in New York City. A couple of the answers on the application may have helped as well. To “What do you do better than anyone else?” I answered, “Grow hair on my face. And to “What religion are you?” I answered “unorthodox Trotskyist.”

While the two years at Cooper improved my art, my attention and time was split between photography and politics. As someone who has always been interested in history, some of my best work done at Cooper are the casual portraits / snapshots of students and professors, capturing a period of life as an art student in the East Village in the mid-1970’s.

Living in the city reinforced the approach to photography first developed at MCCC; quick and casual compositions with a reportorial approach … never crop, use natural lighting as much as possible and never use a studio. When I think of the work done during that time, the time at Cooper always merges with the two years spent in the city and across the river in Hoboken afterwards as a single stream. My best work was done walking the streets, camera in hand. One of the classes was led by Joel Meyerowitz. This was my first experience working seriously in color. Without meaning to, I violated two of his firmly held beliefs; never include words in a photograph, and the image must always be sharp. Another class was led by Eve Sonneman, a sweet, sweet lady.

As a graduation present, my older sister Polly gave me a Rollei 35. Dear God, what a terrific camera. When it was lost a decade ago my heart was broken. When son #1 gave me a Rollei 35 as a Christmas present in 2015, I screamed with joy. While I enjoy my digital Nikon SLR, it’s nothing compared to the Rollei SL35, the Rollei 35 and the Kowa 6 in my collection.



There are two books I remember reading during the summer of 1980. One was Barbara Tuchman’s A Distant Mirror. The other described how the development of photo-lithography severely affected the printing industry in 19th Century America. Within a decade of it’s appearance, tens of thousands of skilled jobs in America were eliminated by this new technology.

A few years after reading that book (whose name I no longer remember – I passed it on as a gift to David O. Johnson whom I worked for at Princeton Polychrome Press), one of the first set of desktop published films appeared on my light table. Impossible to register, we stood there laughing at how amateurish they were. Not sure if we did the best we could with them, or sent them back to the agency that supplied them.

Jumping forward a decade and a half, not only were journeymen 4/C strippers antiquated, but as a skilled desktop publishing technician my job was being automated once again, this time to the point were most of my time was spent making sure that the correct set of digital files were in the proper pipeline. Realizing that any high-school graduate could do the same work I was doing, I found myself haunted by the photo-lithography revolution / displacement of the 19th century and quickly realized it was time to find a different profession.

Because transitioning to the web seemed like the quickest course, I began teaching myself how to build web pages. Before telling this part of the story, a few words need to be said about the transition between the light table and desktop publishing.

In the winter of 1991 my wife and I and our two sons moved from Trenton, New Jersey to eastern New York State. Having spent a decade as a journeyman 4/C stripper, I found myself a cog in a large machine, grinding out as much work as possible on 12 hour shifts. Shortly before I was hired, my new employer had dipped their toes in desktop publishing, establishing a Macintosh / Scitex based department. With everyone in my department banging on the door to move into the digital department, I took a more subtle approach, telling the department head that I also would like to move into digital, but was willing to wait for an opening and would not mention my desire to do so again. The soft approach must have worked because I was in the next  transfer group.

Having spent my entire life in the graphic arts, between photography, typography, platemaking and stripping, I had ZERO experience with computers. At least I had mastered how to login and logout of a terminal before going to Boston for two weeks of Scitex training. While I kinda-sorta learned the basics of color correction in Boston, I had no idea what a file was and how it could be found. The high point of my ignorance was when a supervisor walked up one day and said “Dave, do you know DOS?” and I responded truthfully, “No, I never heard of him.” The supervisor walked away shaking his head. It was a couple of years before I understood that conversation.

Returning to the print to web transition narrative, the late Netscape Navigator had a built in html editor called Composer which I used to build a couple of rudimentary sites. The progressions beyond that included using BBEdit to code by hand; Dreamweaver; ColdFusion Studio for database driven sites; migration to php for creating custom cms systems; to where I find myself today, utilizing Joomla, Wordpress, Drupal and NationBuilder.

Long gone is that day I stood in front of my light table at Princeton Polychrome Press, thinking I love what I do and I can see myself doing this until the day I retire.

The clients listed to the right are a combination of sites I've designed & maintain; designed by me & the client maintains; clients with existing sites I do maintenance for, as well as past clients.


About ...

In August 2001, after 24 years of working for a paycheck, I left the safety of steady employment in the rear view mirror and headed off for the local coffee bar. It was time to become a stay-at-home dad and help raise my children full time. 

As my hair turned to grey, and now white, and as the numeral 50 became 60+, I find myself looking back over the past fifteen years, when I began starting life all over again as a self-employed web developer. 

With the children out on their own and eight years as Village Mayor in the rear-view mirror, I find myself looking forward to what comes next ...

David Doonan
Member IWW Industrial Union #560