2014 Genius Award Nominee in Art
If you know his phone number is 206-ODDBALL.
Mugged twice for his Leica camera.
Where the morels are.
It's a little-known fact that the photographer Glenn Rudolph began his creative life a half-century ago as a short-story writer. At that time, he thought photographers were idiots chasing car wrecks and murder scenes, flashing subjects blind and taking off. He hadn't yet wandered into a section of the UW library where they had books of modern photographs by Edward Weston. There were no photography classes in the art department at UW then, so he took painting and made some "fancy" things that look terrible now, he says. Eventually, he dropped his attempt to make Art and just made his art.
He's a photographer whose every picture is a short story. His record of his backyard—the whole Seattle region, where he's lived since age 12—is like any great fiction, off-kilter from reality just enough to be new, but true. "I always manage to be out of tune with just about everything," he laughs while sitting in his miner's shack studio out in the country in Roslyn, a little town 80 miles east of Seattle. He only moved to Roslyn recently, when the city became what he calls "wealth-impacted," which makes Seattle sound like it's constipated with money.
The photos look simple. They are of people and landscapes. You think they're about one thing, but you find out they're about another and another, says Norman Lundin, a figure-drawing professor of Rudolph's at UW in the 1960s. "He was teaching me how to draw naked women, and I didn't have any idea why we were doing that," Rudolph says. "The other teachers were teaching abstract expressionism, or what I call academic expressionism. But there was a fire going. We were breaking away into our own imagery."
Rudolph's pictures unfold as you look. He goes out shooting every single day, picks the one out of a million that he likes, then prints it in his basement darkroom. What preoccupies him is what's gone or hard to catch. He shoots the remains of train tracks, or whizzing trains themselves. He finds farmers in the vanishing farmland of the Kent Valley, or Native people from unrecognized tribes, as hidden and spread around as morels.
Even if he took pictures of politicians in suits, he just sees different. He and his pictures are a combination of daydreamer and no-bullshitter. They're often funny, and have that quality of truth that's impossible to fake. He aims for what the poet Marianne Moore called "the genuine," and somehow, he knows where it lives.