Gelatin silver prints are printed by
Fuller from 4x5 negatives. They measure 11x14 and 16x20, are offered in open editions.

Archival pigmented inkjet prints, printed by Carlos Mandeloveitia of Tru Res, and published by Cattle Track Press, are offered in editions of 50. They measure 30x38.

Portfolios are also available.


Etherton Gallery
135 South Sixth Avenue
Tucson AZ 85701

Phone. 520.624.7370


It comes as no surprise to learn that William Fuller, photographer of skyscrapers, was born and raised in the great cities of the American Midwest.

He started life in Cleveland, moved to Waukegan – in the shadow of Chicago, epicenter of architecture – and then to Pittsburgh. And he's spent much of the last 30 years making images of the modern city, stripping its towers down into elegant modernist compositions of shape and shadow.

The surprise is that he's lived almost as many years in the wilderness of northern Arizona, in the high desert of a national forest, 13 miles from the nearest town, 100 miles from the nearest big city. Secluded in his remote home and darkroom with his family, he revels in "solitude, peace and wildness."

But he's continually drawn to the big city, finding little disconnect between his home and his subject. In his mind – and eye – the urban jungle and the desert wilderness are of one piece.

"I find that there is a common band between the solitude and space in wilderness, and the quiet beauty and vast expanse of city," Fuller notes. "The canyons, pinnacles and spare compositions exist in bath places."

City and wilderness are both places of extremes, way beyond human scale: think monumental skyscrapers, towering mountains, the city's concrete cliffs, nature's limestone chasms. And like much of the sweeping western wilds, Fuller's cities are almost wholly unpeopled. In his black and white photographs of Chicago, San Francisco, Denver, Houston – the great American metropolises – there is not a single human being. His cameras capture only what people have built, aiming for "the quiet beauty that can still be found in the din of city life."

Fuller avoids the teeming hordes by photographing high and wide with his large-format view camera, avoiding streets at the bottom of the concrete canyons. He pictures towers at their highest heights, scraping against the sky, like the church-like structure in Houston, Texas, 1985. And he's far enough away that the windows like those in Embarcadero Center, San Francisco, California, 2000 are distant patterns, not portals into the human activity inside.

"I reject the role of urban documentarian," he says. "I spend a lot more time looking at work by Cezanne and (Modernist painter) Charles Sheeler, Edward Weston and Picasso than Eugene Smith or Lee Friedlander, or even Ansel Adams."

Smith, for instance, wanted to photograph the essence of place in his Pittsburgh project, rendering row houses, paper boys, clotheslines, smokestacks. Fuller does the opposite. As a modernist, he strips such places down to their bare essentials, turning vibrant cities into near abstractions. Most of the time, his anonymous buildings could be Anywhere, USA.

Admittedly, their standardized international design helps. The Embarcadero Center could be almost any office block in nearly any prosperous city anywhere in the world, from San Francisco to Dubai. But banal apartment blocks and office towers readily lend themselves to the abstraction Fuller is aiming for. He turns their plainness into pattern, their simple geometries into rhythmic compositions. His coolly contemplative pictures arrange our built space into a Modernist poetry of light and dark.

The Embarcadero buildings are slacked against each other like so many boxes, their black windows and while concrete forming a checkerboard. Denver, Colorado, 1984, is a formalist assessment of the geometries of the city. Its cubes and trapezoids and blocks thrust into the sky, angling against soft-edged clouds.

Often, as in the arresting Chicago, Illinois, 1987, Fuller starkly contrasts the built landscape with the yielding sky, but some of his pictures avoid nature entirely. No sky, no clouds, no earth, no horizon intrude. The architecture takes over the entire picture plane. That's the case with Chicago Athletic Association, Chicago, Illinois, 1981. Sandwiched between two other buildings, this venerable structure gets a head-on portrait. Its arches and columns, side by side with strong verticals of the adjoining buildings, make an all-over flat pattern picture. And the old building's ornamentation gives it some distinction: it's recognizable in a way that Fuller's generic modernist towers are not.

Fuller believes that "anyone working in black and white owes Adams a large debt for showing the possibilities of black and white." But, he adds, "I have no interest in the technical aspects of photography, other than I make the best quality prints I can. My interest is in the form and composition. Art. What was it one of the winners said at the Academy Awards? 'Make art! ' Repeatedly. That's it. " – Margaret Regan

All images are copyright by William W. Fuller.