Aaron Dougherty

Kansas City, MO


+1 816 531 8604

Northtown...in 3D!

On one level, the idea of photographing in 3-D is just a transparent gimmick to get people to look at my photos—like Lady Ga Ga wearing a meat dress. But on an entirely more sincere level it is an attempt to draw them into looking at what they might not otherwise. There was a buddhist monk named Bodhidharma who according to legend stared at a wall for 9 years in deep concentration; and when he grew frustrated with being unable to stay awake in his meditations, cut off his eyelids. I can’t realistically expect anyone to give these photos of walls more than about 20 seconds attention, never mind inflict disfiguring self-mutilation. But there is some value—I think—in looking at admittedly banal scenes with more than a casual glance, and if it takes something like anagrams and 3-D glasses, I’m certainly not too proud.

Besides, I find it pretty hilarious: the idea of presenting flat, two-dimensional scenes in three dimensions. And to heighten the experience of visiting humble Northtown, all the more so. Don’t get me wrong, North Kansas City—or as we locals fondly regard it, the “Paris of Southwest Clay County, Missouri”—is a beautiful place! But this is certainly no collection of kitten videos or gorgeous sunsets.

I’ve been meditating on such walls (and modest back-alley architecture) as these for a lot of years without any good, conscious justification. And I’ve come to question the formal schooling I’ve received that would have me subdue the world with pre-conceived intentions and “artist’s statement”. I’m trying to un-learn such mental hamstringing and am growing to trust my eye. I accept these walls and poles and wires as a sort of visual koan, or Rorschach inkblot test and resist assigning too much meaning to them. Words can only poorly represent a tiny fraction of the full spectrum of possible thought—the fewer I use to try to explain photographs, the better.


This series started with the vacant lot in near Grinders and has grown into a vague contemplation of what is ‘open-ness’. The photos loosely represent or are precipitated by the various meanings of the word. Some are open in an architectural sense, space contained by enclosing walls or elements. Some are open in the sense of “allowing passage”. Some are open as in “undetermined”. Some capture conflicting aspects of openness: open to the elements, but closed to trespassers.


I've written multiple ‘statements’ about this series, and changed its name (from Painted), but when you get past the rationalization, what the photos are really about is willful blindness.

Photos of Noble Savages Enduring Wretched Circumstances

This series of photos is an attempt to challenge the assumed inherent dichotomy manifest in linearity, be it tangibly spectral or temporally idiosyncratic. And in the next paragraph, a graphic account of wild animals ripping the flesh from careless tourists.


    This series has evolved over time. It started as a contrasting between the front-side, public facade of a building vs. its back-alley utilitarian face. I’ve shifted the emphasis to an exploration of the way buildings are finished when the builder doesn’t care about the looks of his structure. There is very often a simple elegance resulting when the “design” is driven by cost and expedience.

    Apologies to all the web-surfers who land on this page looking for something else.

    Cranes + Starlings

    These photos are of roughly the same patch of sky around the construction site of the IRS building in Kansas City. The cranes went away when the building was completed, but the birds still flock over SW Boulevard at dusk every winter evening.

    Funnel Cake

    These are photos taken at the 2009 SantaCaliGon Days Festival in Independence, MO. I was drawn to the grassroots entrepreneurial spirit on display at this event in a year that was by all economic accounts the most miserable of my lifetime. The odd assortment of aluminum siding installers and home-made root beer bottlers are not unlike so many amoebas in a reef, straining the waters for food.


    People seeing me with a camera asked what I was taking pictures of.  At first I told them about wanting to record the look of a place threatened by an Eminent Domain ruling.  Their eyes glazed over - too many words.  Then I said, "I'm an artist, blah, blah, blah...".  Glazed eyes.  So I edited my explanation to the essentials.  "This place - the colors, the people..."  A guy in his station wagon considered this and took a bite on his cigar, "It's a junkya'd".  I shrugged, "It's beautiful."  He made the slightest head tilting gesture that said, "You're nuts, but if you like it, knock yourself out". 

    The ‘junkyard’ is a few square acres across the street from the new home of the Mets on Willet's point in Queens.


    These are from a trip my wife and I took in 2015.  Rick Steves told us in his book Spain, that “As you step off the boat, you realize that the crossing (less than an hour) has taken you farther culturally than did the trip from the US to Spain.”  Twenty four hours on the ground in the city proved him right.

    Fine Print
    all images and content copyright Aaron Dougherty