The Prince of Possibility
By Sharon M. Scott
Doug Prince's hallucinatory interpretations of contemporary life will be on view in the Photographic Archives Gallery on the lower level of Ekstrom Library until March 24th. In this exhibition, appropriately titled All Possible Worlds, time melts, geography converges and reality expands. In Prince’s photography, floors turn to dirt, girls swim with lightening, and cows attend suburban picnics.
Tunnels, caves, and ladders leading underground are reoccurring themes with in this exhibition. Combining allegory and obscure symbolism with snippets of everyday life, Prince uses the camera to literally and metaphorically investigate that which lies below the surface.
“Photography gets all this credit for being real” admits Photography Professor Mary Carothers, “but actually, it is a 2-D representation of something else.” It is this something else that Doug Prince hopes to unveil. Pools of water and empty corridors occupy Prince’s photographs as if to make room for an approaching dream. Instead of looking at these images to discover some truth, Carothers explains, “Prince’s photographs are more mysterious and more intriguing as possibilities.”
In the 1970’s Prince taught at the University of Florida with the photography guru Jerry Uelsmann. In this time before Photoshop, they each developed darkroom techniques for seamlessly combining two or more negatives to produce one surrealistic image.
Only a couple of the thirty+ images currently on display were manipulated on a computer. The rest were hand printed by the artist specifically for this show. “It is amazing to think that someone can edit photographs like that in a darkroom,” says University of Louisville photography undergrad Jessie See Tai. “It’s so easy today for us to pull a photograph into a photo-editing program and add or remove a thing, but the chemical-process manipulations that Prince did take a lot of skill.”
Unlike Uelsmann’s hyper-surrealistic images such as a naked woman levitating over the ocean or a great roast beef sandwich looming the sky, Prince’s scenes are as believable as they are impossible. In Prince’s world polar icecaps float in Roman fountains and roadkill vomits in the presence of McDonald’s hamburgers.
With these photographs Doug Prince disrupts the concept that photography documents reality and replaces it with the knowledge that things are never quite what they seem. Bill Carner, official Photo Wrangler of the University Photo Archives, sums the show up perfectly, “Prince’s photographs are so prosaic that a lot of them could be straight photographs at first and then you go what’s all this mud on the floor in front of the hippopotamus?”