Joe Fretz Photography | Urban & Industrial Photographs


15th Ave. Underpass15th Ave. Underpass

Urban & Industrial Scenes

"Even though you might have these ugly structures, nasty, smelly cars, and dirty streets, when you look at it all as a picture you don’t think of that—you look at it as visual organization. In a way this is the real abstraction—to abstract the visual from the reality..."         Richard Estes, American Painter

This website features my urban photographs, ranging from intimate views of downtown cafes to gritty industrial scenes. From camera capture to final print these images evolve, often taking on a somewhat painterly quality. My process for selecting and editing photographs has developed as a direct result of the ongoing inspiration I receive from the city as a subject.

Photographs As Abstractions

Despite their trusted role in representing reality, photographs are abstractions of the world. They are many steps removed from the range of color and light we are capable of perceiving: they're recorded with a mechanical and/or electronic device (camera), distorted by at least one lens, and further abstracted by being viewed or printed as two-dimensional images composed of pixels, ink, or chemicals. The degree of abstraction depends upon the photographer and his or her skills and intentions. The finished image is an entity separate from the reality it may represent. This is what I believe the great American Photorealist painter Richard Estes was expressing in the above quote. In my photographs the colors, tones, shapes, and compositional structure of the image are as important as the subject pictured, and are therefore often altered to enhance the "visual organization" of a picture.

Beauty of the Commonplace

My photographs depict relatively ordinary urban and industrial settings. I've been shooting such scenes for over 30 years—in places where people don't usually seek beauty. I am fascinated by the infinite permutations of light, shape, and form in these settings, perhaps because of the fact that the structures were designed more for function than for aesthetics. These random visual compositions fulfill my search for beauty of a different sort—an unplanned, unexpected beauty that isn't defined by popular trends, art movements, or commercial appeal, but rather by my sense of design and my instinct as a photographer to discover and reveal an underlying universal order.

In my images I share with the viewer my experience of seeing beyond the flood of stimuli that comprise our daily urban existence, and recognizing a basic, abstract beauty in scenes that we often either ignore or judge as unappealing. If we can do this we broaden our definition and appreciation of art—and of beauty—in the manner suggested by Richard Estes; we "...abstract the visual from the reality." I hope this process is enhanced as you view the images on this site.