1980 to the present
Once in a while, however, a photographer will still take the limited goals of formalism and produce remarkable pictures, proving, I suppose, that some people will be good photographers no matter how they handicap themselves.
One such overachiever is Jim Dow, whose intriguing color prints were recently shown at the Robert Freidus Gallery in New York. He was one of the participants in the Courthouse Project, organized in 1976 by Seagram's, and many of his images reflect a continuation of interest in the kind of interiors that serve as stage sets for quotidian rituals: barber shops,billiard halls, diners, Masonic lodges, small-town movie theaters. In these pictures Dow confronts and solves various formal problems, notably the rendering of color under low light conditions, and at the same time imparts a large measure of the dignity these uninhabited places seem to retain from the days and nights of their use.
But Dow is most startlingly successful when he sets about solving the formal problem of making multiple panel panoramas in color with an 8x10 camera. What distinguishes the results is not their technical success, but the aesthetic continuity Dow manages to maintain with his other work, and its literal and metaphoric expansion. He has chosen as his subject sports stadiums, sites of mass ritual that are, in a sense, the cathedrals of our age.
It is clear when looking at Dow's interiors, that he has a strong affinity for most of the places he photographs and, by extension, for the human concerns they imply. But I'll assume, for my own purposes, that he chooses stadiums not only because of a similar affinity but because of formal considerations: they lend themselves well to the triptychs and tetraptychs which allow him to break out of his accustomed format, offer muted but unusual color patterns, yet aren't the landscapes that are the subject of most panoramic photography.
But as with his other work, he seems to view the monumental structures with an almost intimate fondness. What he finds and shows to us with a combination of awe, affection and melancholy, is astonishing and wholly unexpected.
Owen Edwards, American Photographer - 1980