Don Hudson's Life In Photography

David J. Carol


Don Hudson has been taking pictures for over 40 years. I think Don takes pictures for many reasons, but I'm not gonna tell you what I think. Instead I asked Don to tell me first about a specific photo he took of Malcolm X on a lone television out on the sidewalk. Then I asked him about his life in photography. Here's what he had to say:

"You had to pick that one. I’m looking at the contact sheet now. There are five versions of the shot from the same vantage point, one with a person next to the TV, two with a dog in front of the TV, and one with a person in the distance on the sidewalk to the left.  The one we’re talking about is the first shot of the five. And I don’t remember anything about the circumstances surrounding the image. I can tell you that it was on the University of Michigan campus in Ann Arbor and it was shot on Plus-X film.  These were the early days for me and I did mix in Plus-X with Tri-X. 1974 was the year I left art school (College for Creative Studies in Detroit), and judging from the seasonal look of the shot, I’d say this was made within two months of leaving school (I don’t have an exact date on the negative sleeve, just the year). I went there two years, learned a lot, and left, figuring I could save my money and learn the rest as I went along.  

I was 23 years old at the time and got a job in Ann Arbor working in a small print shop. 1974 was also the year I met my wife-to-be Gene on Memorial Day weekend (long story). On the same contact sheet, there is a picture of her behind the wheel of her 1968 Pontiac Tempest (with 350 V-8 engine). We had a lot of fun and adventure in that car. Later that same year, on the weekend after Thanksgiving, we drove the car up to her family’s cottage in northern Michigan to get the snow tires and wound up driving back in possibly the worst snow storm in our lifetime with the snow tires in the trunk!

It was through Gene that same year that I met the person who would turn out to be my closest and longest running co-conspirator in the photography game. She told me that she knew a guy who was her college roommate’s boyfriend and was also into photography and taking pictures all the time. We met and became friends and through him I got acquainted with several more photographers in the Detroit area. That’s how it was done back then, before the internet.  So, although I don’t remember the specifics surrounding this shot of Malcolm X, it was one of those pivotal times for me. I met my future wife, my best friend, and took a big step out into the photographic world.

From 1974 to early 1978, Gene and I lived in Whitmore Lake (a small town just north of Ann Arbor) and then Ann Arbor, after we were married in 1976. During this early period I made several long trips, Philadelphia for the Bicentennial, two trips to Texas, and a long trip to the western US. In 1978, we moved to the small town of South Lyon, also just north of Ann Arbor, where I have been ever since.  From the very beginning of my coming-of-age photographically, about 1972, the core of my relationship with the camera has been one of respect for how it is able to transform the world I observe. This is fundamental to me, and I suppose others as well, and it imposes rules that I have always followed… no manipulation and no cropping. I accept wholly that the dumb machine can know things about this existence that are hidden from me. It is my job, as the allegedly intelligent one in the relationship, to use the power of the camera to hopefully reveal a new truth buried in the flow of time. I have always had a day job outside of photography to support myself and family. On the weekends and when I had time off, I wanted to put myself in situations of concentrated social energy —parades, festivals, special events, etc.— and this I did in both Detroit and the small towns on the outskirts. In 1979 and 1981, our two daughters came along and, by the mid-eighties, I was photographing mostly my family and less and less in the outside world. By the nineties and into the early 21st century, I was only photographing sporadically. Aside from two outliers made in 1987, it is this period from 1973 to 1984 that the book From The Archives chronicles.

Sometime in the mid-aughts, I decided to shake myself out of the photographic doldrums and sold all my analog gear and bought a DSLR. In 2009, with a desire to begin re-engaging with the outside photo world, I joined Flickr and started posting this new digital stuff. Later in 2009, I began to mix in some of my old black and white material from my archive.  It started to get some interest and I was having fun.  And I also found out that there were others like me who had followed a similar trajectory with their photographic life. It was sort of mind-blowing to me that this old work was getting a second life in the digital era. Nothing I could have ever imagined when I was making them a generation and a half ago. Near the end of 2010, with maybe a couple hundred posted by then, I got an email out of the blue from Maxime and Claire of Editions FP&CF asking me if I wanted to make a book. Wow! Sure! It was a total collaboration. I even made the scans for the printer. To me, the book stands as a humble testimony to the breakdown of time and space.

Since the book has come out, I have joined the international photo collective Burn My Eye. We are an interesting and talented group of photographers from around the world, arguing with and encouraging one another and seeking to show our work. I’m also working on making an exhibition-quality portfolio of prints from my archives to both show and sell. Last month, I retired from my day job and besides having more time to shoot, I want to spend time traveling to meet some of my virtual friends I’ve made in the last few years."

Thank you Don for your candor, humor and honesty. It's quite refreshing!

See more of Don Hudson's work here.



PDN August 2016: The Fine-Art Photography Issue



Tout VTS


Tout VTS


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