Read an exclusive interview with John Dugdale
Internationally renowned photographer John Dugdale creates poignant and stirringly intimate imagery using 19th century photographic processes and a 19th century aesthetic. At the age of 33, Dugdale had a transformative experience of nearly total blindness due to a stroke and CMV retinitis, an HIV-related illness. Completely blind in his right eye, Dugdale found himself seeing with less than twenty percent visibility in his left eye. While blindness ended his successful commercial photography career, he found himself free to explore his fine art, using friends and family members as studio assistants.
He unconventionally works with some of photography’s first techniques from the 19th century by employing large format cameras, creating cyanotype prints, platinum prints, and using the albumen process which dominated photography from the 1850s to the 1880s. His 19th century sensibility emphasizes the poetics of his work and the transcendence of time and place, seemingly transporting the viewer to a different era. The stirring and poignant imagery is largely composed from memory and as Dugdale himself says, “The mind is the essence of your sight. It’s really the mind that sees.”
Born in 1960 in Connecticut, John Dugdale’s interest in photography started at the young age of twelve with his first camera that was a gift from his mother. Dugdale attended the School of the Visual Arts in New York City as an undergraduate where he majored in photography and art history. Dugdale would then become engaged in a successful decade long commercial career in photography working for such clients as Bergdorf Goodman and Ralph Lauren before losing much of his eyesight in 1993.
Dugdale has exhibited in over 25 solo shows in galleries across the world and his work has been included in group shows at such museums as the High Museum of Art in Atlanta and the Miami Art Museum, while his photographs are included in such collections as the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston. Dugdale has been inducted into the Royal Photographic Society in Bath and he has spoken on the BBC, NPR, at various universities and other public and private engagements where he continues to discuss his 19th century aesthetic and questions pertaining to what it means “to see.”