Slap Tag

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 artform not sanctioned by the ‘artworld’s’ gatekeepers?

A hooligan defiling somebody elses’s property?

(and before you call the police, 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.


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.  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.  A brief search of the internet turns up an excellent paper by María Cabrera Vergara,  The portrait of Industrial Artefacts: the Trigger of a New Appreciation  a good read, and of particular interest to a photographer who’s also an architect in remission...


This series is a divergence from my battered and abused original Painted series.  That group of photos got shuffled, culled, expanded, renamed, re-edited—and is still in flux.  Pulling these from those clarifies both I think.  Though my generalized ‘Artist Statement’ HERE still applies equally to both. In Painted I’ve been collecting images of unintentional artwork found on buildings around the city.  Some of these are just paint jobs carried out without a lot of concern for appearance.  Many are the result of graffiti being ‘removed’.  In the latter, there’s a sort of dialog in paint going on between hoodlum-with-spray-can tagging walls, and building owner.  Building gets tagged, owner paints it over.  If you subscribe to the notion that ‘art’ is ‘expression’ then these represent a sort of anti-art that nevertheless result in some very painterly compositions.

West Bottoms

I approached this collection as a way to ‘exercise my eye’.  I left the tripod at home, and went on a walkabout, like a visiting photographer from Romania might do. Gabby—wassup!

No plan or concept in mind, though I did consciously try not to look through the camera, but into it and see the image ‘on the ground-glass’ in two dimensions.  So to speak.

The west bottoms is a wonderful mix of architectures, ranging from very old utilitarian buildings that are still around from Kansas City’s gritty cow-town past, and proud masonry warehouses—some abandoned, many converted into apartments and condos.  What remains in the area amongst highway and freight traffic, vacant lots, and drifters spans a full spectrum of neglect, decay, and rebirth.  As a photographer I feel some guilt picking such  'low hanging fruit’, though I don’t imagine an occasional indulgence will ruin me.


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.

These photos started out as 3D anaglyphs.

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.


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 an odd dichotomy between ‘open’ vs ‘enclosed’.  And if you want to get analytical about it, maybe ‘loss’ vs ‘potential’.  There may or may not be any more to it than that.  But after getting Near Grinders, I unconsciously began to 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 re-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.  Though I am beginning to reintroduce some of the axed images and have even added one.  Maybe it’s going to gel, finally.  Stay tuned.


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.

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 is not unlike so many amoebas in a reef, all of them straining the waters for food.

For a tortured rationalization of my general artistic approach, click HERE.

All images and text copyright Aaron Dougherty