About the Photographer
American, b. 1949
Todd Watts graduated from the School of Visual Arts in New York in 1971 and shortly after began his career as a photographer in the city. The following year he was commissioned to photograph the construction of the World Trade Center by its lead architect Minoru Yamasaki. His photographs from 1972 depict the monumental twin towers from multiple vantage points as they neared completion. A compelling record of an architectural icon and a massive development project, the work has taken on a new resonance since the destruction of the towers on September 11, 2001.
As his artistic career progressed, Watts turned away from the documentary orientation of his early projects. He approaches his more recent works as an exploration of a question and as a catalyst for personal reflection, and manipulates his photographic imagery or augments it with other visual elements. Watts's Passenger Pigeon works (1997) draw on his interests in the dynamism of nature and environmental change. He captures landscapes from an aerial perspective in his black-and-white photographs, looking down from an airplane. He then makes gelatin silver prints, adding a dye transfer process that gives each of the images an ominous red- or yellow-colored tint. Many are presented in painted, unconventionally shaped frames, taking the form of a circle or an oval set at an angle, which lend the works a certain visual energy. Watts conceived these images not as singular pieces but as a larger installation, composed of multiple elements. When he exhibited the works at the Museum of Contemporary Photography as part of the 1997 exhibition Scientia Artifex, Watts covered the photographs, the frames, and the long wall on which they were hung (from floor to ceiling), with over 5000 black silhouettes of small human figures that appear to be flying, floating, or falling.
Watts is also known as the printer of Berenice Abbott's work in the 1970s and 1980s. He met the renowned photographer in 1974, through their mutual publisher, Parasol Press. Although he was only in his early twenties at the time, Watts had established a reputation as a talented printer and he began to print Abbott's work for her. For the summer he temporarily relocated from New York to the small town of Blanchard, Maine, where Abbott lived at the time. Between the years of 1979 and 1986, Watts printed seven more of Abbott's portfolios. In the late 1990s, after Abbott had died, Watts relocated his own studio from New York to Maine, where he has resided since.