The Professional Artist Series is presenting Douglas Coon’s photography in a show titled “Airports, Deserts, and Hillsdale” at the Sage Center for the Arts Daughtrey Gallery, beginning Oct. 26.
Born in Hillsdale, Mich., Coon attended Western Michigan University where he majored in television, film production, and history. He’s been a photographer since junior high and has been the college’s photographer for 20 years. Five years ago he started teaching the college photography classes.
Junior K.C. Ham, who is taking Coon’s class, said she enjoys his instruction.
“He’s fun, very upbeat, likes to get our opinion on things, and is looking forward to us going to the show so we can critique his work,” she said.
Coon said he thinks this show is a good representation of his work. He said it will be fun to get his student’s perspective on the pictures. Ham expects he will get only positive feedback.
“He really knows how to frame a shot,” she said. “The different techniques he talks about actually show up in his work, and a lot of the stuff I’ve seen in class is really eye catching.”
Professor of Art Samuel Knecht agreed. “Doug Coon’s artistry in photos continues to amaze and delight,” he said.
Knecht said Coon’s work involves broad and surprising contrasts of subject and composition.
“The current show might seem to some to be the work of not one but several photographers,” he said.
“Airports, Deserts, and Hillsdale” may not be the most conventional show, but Coon said he likes the diversity.
“I have a short attention span, so I’m always interested in doing a variety of things,” he said.
Coon said outside of college-related photography he does not do much studio work. He likes to travel. Landscapes, both urban and natural, abstract geometric shots, and slice of life pictures are all glimpses he enjoys capturing.
“I love motion,” Coon said. “I’m kind of a nutcase about light.”
The pieces in this show were all shot digitally. Coon said there are aspects of film photography he likes, but in general he prefers digital, especially when it comes to color.
“His command of digital photography is rooted in his film and chemistry years,” Knecht said. “He is sensitive to the language of photography and its revelation of light as a consequence. The light in his photos lends a kind of transcendent beauty.”
Preparations for the exhibit began last December. A newer development in his repertoire, metal prints, make up a portion of the collection. Some are printed on a film or membrane that lies on the metal, giving the print a glossy sheen, while others are printed directly on the metal, adding texture and a sterility that fits many of the shots involving airports and urban scenes.
Coon says photography is probably the hardest medium with which to convey a sense of the artist, because it is very mechanical. Ham said that despite the difficult medium, Coon’s photographs manage to maintain a distinct personality. Knecht agreed.
“He moves beyond options for superficial picturesqueness into images that are fresh and accessible,” he said. “Further, he steers clear of slick Photoshop gimmicks that appeal to duller minds. Instead he composes his pictures with consummate care for fresh aspects of design, pattern and color.”
Coon said he dislikes over-intellectualization of photography.
“I don’t think photography tells a story so much, but reminds people of something,” he said. “If you overthink it, it tends to get sterile and heavy handed.”
The exhibit will be open through Nov. 18 with an Artist’s Reception on Nov. 3.