Robert Thurlow (Salem, MA) is a MFA graduate from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston and holds a certificate in photography from the Maine Photographic Workshops (Rockport, ME) as well as a B.A. in Humanities with a concentration in photography from Bradford College (Bradford, MA). Currently, he teaches at Salem State College (Salem, MA) and Curry College (Milton, MA). His exhibition and award record includes selection for the Danforth Museum of Art's 2005 New England Photographers (Framingham, MA), Cambridge Art Association's 2004 National Prize Show , and the Essex Art Center's 2003 Juried Show (Essex, MA), among many others.

Featured online are selections from two series: Self-Iconolatry , self-portraits printed on wood, and Self-Consuming , portraits of the fast food industry. In Self-Iconolatry , he coats liquid emulsion on plywood panels onto which he then prints photographs of himself wearing various shirts. In Self-Consuming , an ongoing series, he documents his trips and meals at different fast food restaurants. Sentiments of humor and alienation emerge in all of his works; his sheer repetition of single images or ideas serves to enhance and challenge notions of pop culture and the banality of the everyday.

- Leslie K. Brown, PRC Curator

Click here for Thurlow's web site


The subjects of my photographs are landscapes, people, and the environments that we create and inhabit. Through photography, I am interested in exploring ordinary themes such as plastic facades, alienation, and the incessant repetition of daily routines, as well as the individual's place in highly stylized surroundings. My photographs are organized in series that serve to expand the limitations of the single image and at the same time point out its ironies. Series that I have worked on include “Self-Iconolatry,” self-portrait photographs printed on wood; and the “Self-Consuming” series, color photographs exploring the world of fast food.

The “Self-Iconolatry” series explores the contradiction between the sacred art of iconography and the profane with a sense of humor by creating modern day icons of the everyday self. In the series “Self-Iconolatry,” self-portrait photographs are printed on raw plywood panels. The series references the modern world and the early days of photography by using readily available plywood upon which a hand coated silver gelatin photographic emulsion is applied to create unique self-portraits on wood. The plywood refers to the home improvement craze as well as a “do it yourself” attitude in a pre-fabricated world, whereas the hand coating of photographic emulsion harkens back to an earlier era of historical photographic processes. The images are self-portraits wearing different shirts that serve to give visual clues of identity. The results are a kind of modern day self-iconolatry. The series captures the feeling of immortal remembrances and transcendent reverence that reflects the spiritual nature of icons with a kind of a wink and a nod at today's pre-fabricated world and the artist's ego.

“The Self-Consuming Series” consists of color photographs of fast food and self-portrait images in fast food restaurants. This series of photographs began in May of 1999 when I started to use the camera that I keep with me to make images that document my fast food eating habits. The series serves to investigate my relationship to one of the most banal components of American pop culture, the fast food restaurant. In all the photographs there is a sense of self-consciousness. The photographs attempt to commemorate the very ordinary occasion of a meal and the environment within which that meal is consumed. The series reflects a sense of irony, humor and suburban dread.

-Robert Thurlow



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