In General

Words are able to represent only the tiniest fraction of possible thought.  They can only provide waypoints in a continuous spectrum of meaning, and then only by convention.  We can all speak the word ‘joy’ but that single syllable can only begin to communicate one individual’s actual meaning or emotion to the mind of another.  And more to the point of photography, words have very limited power to explain or describe images.  Words come from the brain’s left hemisphere, images are ‘seen’ and recognized in the right.

And yet the ‘art world’ demands written statements.  Best I can do is this:

I find words, concepts, and statements are antipathetic to my work as a photographer.  I personally struggle to silence the verbal narrative that happens involuntarily in my mind as I look at the world.  My eye and right hemisphere will find some view or scene that resonates in a way I can’t verbally describe, so I willfully attempt not to try.  And to conceptualize an artistic goal in advance, or to rationalize the capture afterwards destroys that wordless experience.

The exercise I employ most in my work is photographing buildings, walls, telephone poles that aren’t pretty, aren’t ugly (to my mind, anyway) — just banal.  Meaningless scenes that posses no intrinsic beauty or quality, represent no particular issue or subject.  Visual Rorschach Tests.  Koans.  The more I can strip away the distracting noise my verbal left hemisphere creates, the better my visual right hemisphere can operate.  And these banal scenes hold my eye for reasons that, say, a blue sky does not.  Not sure why, but I can’t focus my eye or my mind for more than a moment on a blank sky or even a cloudy one.  It might be that my brain needs something to process, something to consume and digest.

I may eventually add ‘subject’ as an element in my work — I can imagine a day when my mind is quiet enough to see an image that contains ‘meaning’ or even a ‘message’, but for the time being I will continue with these wordless meditations.


These fantastic structures are all over the place here in my  back yard — so to speak.  And yet it was only recently that it occurred to me to photograph them, when I came across the patchwork patterns on the silos in #22 and 24.  But I’m late to the party.  I remember vaguely from my own studies in architecture years ago that Le Corbusier was fascinated by grain elevators and silos, but I didn’t know his interest was piqued by photos taken by Walter Gropius.  More on that in excellent article HERE.

I have divided these into groupings based on familial similarities in order to clarify what I’m looking at.  There is some overlap, but I’m trying not to overthink the individual taxonomies:

Grain I — Elevators and silos in a departure from my usual ‘no subject’ bent and (more on that, HERE),

Grain II Abstracts — Graphic abstractions/compositions pulled from the elevators and silos.  I also like the idea of calling these: Exceptional Banality.  I dunno.

Backsides II

For this collection, I thought I’d landed on Unpremeditated for a title after a lot of struggle to find the correct word.  It’s an unwieldy one with its ‘meditate’ crusted over by the barnacles ‘un’ and ‘pre’ and ’ed’, but it’s got the meaning I’m after: “not characterized by willful intent and forethought : not planned in advance“.

That meaning is appropriate on at least a couple levels — there was no beauty intended by the original creators of these walls with their pipes and cables and brackets.  And these back alleys are not so dependably high yielding in beauty as, say Muir Woods is.  Eduction was a close second: “to bring out (something, such as something latent)”.  Or distillation... 

You get the idea.

But in the end, I’ve resurrected the name from a collection of photos I’d started back in the 1900’s using 6 x 9 cm film in a view camera.  You can see those HERE.  What I’m seeing in these, I first discovered in those.

These are only a minor evolution in the thread I was pursuing in most of my work; all the same motivations in my General Statement apply here as well. Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 5 Feb. 2024.


So is this just another case of an entitled white guy appropriating the work/culture of black and brown artists?  Or am I a curator, shining the light of recognition on an art form not sanctioned by the ‘art world’s’ gatekeepers?

A hooligan defiling somebody else’s property?

(before you call the police, know that these are compostable, biodegradable paper and barely stick anyway.  They’ll be gone in a week.)

Less Than 90

Brand new collection, so bear with me...

These incorporate a variant that escapes the single-point-perspective square appoach I normally employ.  In a sort of Eureka Moment I have allowed the third dimension to intrude:  these are captured from an angle smaller than 90° off the subject plane.  

Not a big deal maybe.


This has grown into a collection of spaces defined by architectural elements.  Not sure what it means yet.
So far what I’m seeing is the conflict between ‘open’ vs ‘enclosed’ and ‘loss’ vs ‘potential’.  There may or may not be any more to it than that.  After getting Near Grinders, I unconsciously began to analyze and rationalize what it was I was seeing and pretty quickly the ‘concept’ ran out of control ahead of the ‘vision’ —  the verbal half of my brain had taken over from the non-verbal.
So I’m examining these.
What you see here is a ruthlessly culled version of the original series including only those photos that most closely represent what my eye initially saw in that first vacant lot.  I hope to add more, so stayed tuned…


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.

I’ve been meditating on such walls 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 preconceived 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.

Northtown in 3-D!

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, 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.

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.


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.


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.

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.

Event Horizon

My Grandfather, while he was alive, loved cameras and owned (at least for a little while) most all the finest cameras available in his day - Rolleis, Leicas, Canons, Alpas, etc. - and he took photos mostly of family in stiff poses, and endless repetitive snapshots of flowers in the garden.  When he died, my grandmother offered me grocery sacks full of his slides.  She was throwing them out because one of his buddies wanted the empty slide carousels they were stored in.  My Event Horizon photos are an homage to the joy of taking photos, and to all the photographers whose life’s work will eventually spiral into the grocery sack of oblivion.

The title Event Horizon is a reference to the frontier zone around a black hole, within which nothing can escape.  Light that passes too close is sucked in; light skating just outside the black hole’s reach will be bent off course, but whizzes on by.  


These typical 1930's (give or take a decade) buildings in or near downtown Kansas City were built with nice materials and detailing at the street facade for patrons and passers-by to enjoy, but were enclosed on the other sides with whatever low grade brick was cheap and available, usually with little attention to appearance.  Utility was the only ‘designer’.  Manifest economy.  We've invented uglier ways to finish ‘unseen’ buildings since, but brick was the choice in those days if you wanted more than just wood siding.


Each of these is photographed at arm's length to relate the creator's working distance — and presented as triptychs to convey the border-less nature of the works.


Detroit Zoo in 2005.  A tourist’s outing with his (then) daughter-in-law.


These photos are my personal assualt on the Rule of Thirds.  Instead of following that compositional trope, I purposley center each image—and try to avoid including any ‘subject’ at all.  No face, no architectural feature.  No ‘thing’ that has meaning, no element that the photo is ‘about’.

all images and text copyright Aaron Dougherty