Midwest Photographers Project: Scott Fortino

About the Exhibition

A Chicago police officer for twenty-three years, Scott Fortino (United States, born 1952) used to think of his job and his artwork as diametrically opposed. After returning to graduate school for photography in 1998, however, he realized that his uniform facilitated access to restricted places rich in photographic potential. In addition, while on duty, he found that he could not arrest his visual curiosity. He was continually discovering places to revisit with his camera.

In his photographs of institutional spaces, Fortino explores the psychology of confinement and protection. Observed with an almost clinical formality, his pictures of Chicago public school classrooms and police station holding cells, both highly structured and regimented environments normally filled to capacity, resonate through the absence of human presence.

Fortino works with methodical precision. By selecting scenes in which fields of color and line flatten out space, Fortino confines our attention to the interior details that the rooms’ occupants have left behind. Brightly colored walls and graffiti evidence attempts to reverse the deadening and leveling affects of the bland institutional environments, as well as the very human need to assert independence and individuality in the face of restriction and impersonality.

Scott Fortino has a BA from Columbia College Chicago (1980) and an MFA in Photography from the University of Illinois at Chicago (2001).

-Karen Irvine, Associate Curator