Don Hudson – From the Archives

EDITIONS FP&CF has released a book of Don Hudson’s photographs called ‘From the Archives.’ I’ve admired Don’s work for several years now and edited a feature of it in 2010 here on LPV. Don asked me to write a piece for the book. I was honored to do so.

You can buy ‘From the Archives HERE

The Patient Photographer

One of the frequent complaints about contemporary photography, especially on the internet, is that we’re flooded with a constant stream of images, most of which don’t deserve our attention. While that complaint certainly has merit, I think the benefits of this stream of photographs outweighs the challenges it presents. If it weren’t for this stream of photographs, many of us would never have seen Don Hudson’s archives. Or Vivian Maier’s archives, or the archives of all those other photographers out there who have spent years documenting their cities, towns, communities and families.

I discovered Don’s work on Flickr. I can’t remember when exactly, or how really, but somehow his work made it into my daily stream of images. It’s interesting how we choose to construct our streams on the internet? For years, I spent most of my time looking at images on the web. The bad far outweighed the good, but when you find your way to the archives of someone like Don Hudson, then the web becomes magical and you realize there’s a whole new universe of photography to explore.

It’s been amazing to watch Don thrive on Flickr. It’s as if all his hard work was leading up to this point. For many serious minded fine art and documentary photographers, building a following on Flickr sounds more insulting than something to be proud of. But for Don, and many others who now have the opportunity to share their work with an audience, the internet has been their big break so to speak, not that they’re necessarily seeking recognition for their work, but finally finding an audience that appreciates it after all these years, must be a great feeling.

Where does work like Don’s fit in the great history of photography? I’m not sure and I’m not sure you’d find any consensus amongst experts. It’s mostly a state of perpetual confusion these days. Don has spent years documenting his community of South Lyon, Michigan which is a suburb of Detroit. The majority of the photographs were made from the early 1970s to the mid 1980s. From Don’s perspective life in Middle America is rather leisurely. You spend your free time going to parades, the Friday night football game, fairs, carnivals, rodeos and the family vacation.

Through Don’s wry wit and freewheeling compositions these events and moments come alive in a way that illuminates life’s absurd little moments. In Don’s photographs the order and calmness of life in Middle America starts to unravel, providing a small glimpse of the chaos beneath. In these photographs we live on the edge that exists between the order we create for ourselves and the chaos that always threatens to undermine our tranquil lives.

Don’s photographs are out in the world now. Where they fit into the history of photography is anybody’s guess. Some people will find them interesting, others may find them derivative and boring. For me, this type of documentary work, from the archives of studios and thoughtful photographers like Don Hudson, are invaluable to our culture. In Don’s work we have a vibrant document of a time and place from an individual that knows it intimately.

Bryan Formhals
Queens, New York – May, 2012

  • gumanow

    Don’s book is fantastic. So happy to have it on my shelf. Always bring it down to get inspiration. Great article Bryan. Thanks for posting this.