[click "Play" for John Fago on his photography and Telluride]
Fago claims to have been born at a very young age of artist parents: dad, an animator and mom, a painter/journalist. Growing up just outside New York surrounded by creative types, Fago never once considered a real job. At college, he studied painting but switched to photography in the mid-1970s. His robust career has included extended photographic journeys to Asia and North Africa. He is currently pursuing a multi-year project in Brazil.
John Fago first visited the Telluride region in 1969. While mailing postcards in Ouray, he struck up a chat with an old miner. The guy was so desperate for company, he tried to bribe Fago into hanging around, offering him any one of the five houses he owned. The magic and madness persisted when he returned to Telluride in the mid-1970s to open a bar/restaurant on the site of what is now La Marmotte, a place locals dubbed “The Monastery of the Insane.”
Fago’s first girlfriend lived in a room above the Sheridan Hotel bar. Most nights, the couple was awakened by the exodus at closing time, 2 a.m., but one particular night the noise preceded bright lights bouncing into to the room from the street. Two guys had carried a 16-millimeter projector up the long steep stairs to the empty adjacent room and were projecting “Deep Throat” onto the then rundown Victorian storefronts across the street. It was a telling introduction to the special relationship between Telluride and film, which began a year earlier with the first Telluride Film Festival, in 1973.
Fago crashed his first Telluride Film Festival in 1974, the year he moved to town, sneaking in through the old laundry in the Sheridan Hotel, and crawling across the stage behind the screen and into a side box. Twenty-four years later, in 1998, Telluride Film Festival co-founder and former director Stella Pence gave the young photographer carte blanche to document the action on the streets and in the lines.
As of this year Fago is no longer the Telluride Film Festival’s man on the scene, because the request from the head office was for digital images and he could not bring himself to retire his old Leica. After 12 productive years, however, the photographer has about 1500 archival silver gelatin prints going into the permanent collection of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, about 75 of which are on display over the long Labor Day weekend at the Telluride Gallery of Fine Art,. The opening of the show is today, Tuesday, September 1, 5 – 7 p.m. The exhibit will be up until the lights in theaters dim on September 7.
For a walk down memory lane and insights into fine art photography, press the “play” button and listen to John Fago’s podcast.