Sunday, June 22, 2008

My Dinner with Doug DuBois

© Doug DuBois
During a holiday visit to Southern California in 2006 I saw the Where We Live: Photographs of America from the Berman Collection at the Getty. In a show filled with great images by American color legends like Shore, Eggleston and Sternfeld, Doug DuBois’ tense and intimate narratives jumped off the wall and stayed with me long after I left the show.

At the time I was just out of grad school and still discovering and devouring the canonical names and images of photography. I had never heard of Doug DuBois. I had no idea he was featured in the landmark Pleasures and Terrors of Domestic Comfort show at the MoMA. I had never seen the hypnotic images from his Family Photos series. I had no knowledge he was a respected photo educator at Syracuse University. Discovering Doug and his work has been one of the great joys of my short time in the photography world.

Shortly after the Getty show I started an email correspondence with Doug. Right off the bat he was open with his advice and heartfelt in his encouragement. He pushed me to apply for the Light Work residency (and may have had a hand in my selection). He even invited me to come up to Syracuse to speak to his class. Doug is the best kind of educator because he doesn’t confine his wisdom to the walls of the classroom.

My Mother’s Scar © Doug DuBois
Friday I was finally able to spend some in-person time with Doug. He showed me 25 years worth of beautiful, rich C-prints from his Family Photo series. Each print feels like a subplot in an expansive epic narrative. The image above of his mother is particularly stunning. It makes me think of my own mother and the pain of seeing one's parents aging and vulnerable. As Alec Soth has said, Doug doesn’t seem to take a bad picture. After seeing the entire series in sequence you can't help but want to go through it again and again. Fortunately, Aperture will be publishing a book of this work in the spring and I will be able to dive into his photos whenever I want.
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