Issue #111  9/26/2006
Photographer James Fee Dies From Cancer

By Dean Brierly

James Fee, widely celebrated as a photographic road poet and social critic, died at his home in Los Angeles on September 4, 2006.

Fee's work evolved in discrete yet thematically linked series through which he tackled a number of deeply personal themes. "Photographs of America" lamented America's gradual industrial decline. "Four Days in New York" produced unsettling images of familiar icons like the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State Building. "The Peleliu Project" explored his father's traumatic wartime experiences. A patriot in the best sense of the word, Fee imbued his images with subtle political criticism and an unwavering belief in America's social and creative potential.

Plagued by ill health towards the end of his life, Fee nevertheless allowed a measure of lightness to infiltrate his dark, brooding aesthetic. His last series, titled "For Edmund" (in honor of Fee's friend Edmund Teske), comprised duotone solarizations of desert imagery that gave expression to the peace and serenity he'd been seeking in recent years. Even while suffering from the cancer that would soon claim his life, Fee stubbornly insisted on

performing his own darkroom work (with an assistant), despite the physical effort required.

Fee's legacy encompassed four books, numerous exhibits and countless photographers influenced through his teaching and lecturing endeavors.