Rule Breakers: Doug Fogelson

“I never want to see another picture of ________.” Industry veterans share their pet peeves on themes in contemporary photography. In this series they present their “rule” along with five photographs that break the rule in an effort to show that great work is the exception to the rule.

Rule Setter: Kyohei Abe, Executive Director, Detroit Center for Contemporary Photography
Rule Breaker: Doug Fogelson

I never want to see another picture of experimental photography. It has always struck me that formal material explorations create meaningless visual elements. A deeper meaning is often not present. In the instances when the work is guided by concept, it is often too convoluted to be unpacked by viewers not in the “know.” The bulk of experimental photographic work won’t even provoke you to question that deeply. More often than not, it is received as a nostalgic medium used at face value. 

Doug Fogelson has consistently produced imagery that is visually seductive, yet conceptually challenging. He investigates the relationship between humanity and our environment as well as photography’s relationship to itself.

When I first visited Fogelson’s studio in a spacious industrial building in downtown Chicago, where he experiments with his materials and produces all of his works, I was impacted by the laboratory quality of the process-drenched walls. Through simple chemical alterations, Fogelson creates a direct visual link from the degradation caused by human impact on the natural world. The simplicity of the metaphor created by chance chemical reactions to natural imagery complements the experimental nature of the work.

The imagery functions on a palatable level for the average “picture viewer” while dually servicing those well versed in photographic dialogue with intellectual provocations. Raising the conceptual credibility of the work, Fogelson uses photography to engage his viewers in a critique of humankind’s relationship with the natural world.

Fogelson’s chemical explorations turn traditional experimental photographic practice on its head. Nostalgia is not a key player here, and the breathing room created in its place provides ample space to contemplate the medium of photography as well as the current global climate.
—Kyohei Abe

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