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© 2001 Jim Newman

John Fago studied and practiced painting but turned to photography in the mid 1970s. His first job out of college was as a goat herdsman in Abiquiu, New Mexico, where he delivered goats milk to and borrowed books from Georgia O'Keefe. After moving to Telluride, Colorado in 1974 he opened a vegetarian bar/dancehall and helped start a community radio station. In 1979 he left on the first of many extended photographic journeys, traveling for six months in Asia and North Africa. In 1981-2 he lived in Cusco, Peru and began contributing photographs to the Christian Science Monitor, a relationship that continues to the present. He has been in China on three occasions: first in 1979, again in 1983-4, when he traveled to many remote places just open to Westerners for the first time since 1949, and in 1986, when he had the special opportunity of spending a month in Lhasa, Tibet, during the brief period when the Chinese allowed Tibetan culture to flower in the midst of winter. Currently, he is pursuing a multi-year project in Brasil. His "beat" is people and culture. He alternates photographic journeys with time spent in the darkroom in Vermont.

A long-standing involvement in music led him to photographing the Cajun and Zydeco music scene in southwestern Louisiana during 1984-85. Photographs from this period were included in Ann Savoy's book Cajun Music -- A Reflection of a People. In addition to his photographing trips to Asia, Central America, and South America during the past decade, he has photographically documented the Composer-to-Composer festivals at Telluride from 1988 to 1991, and, subsequently, the Other Minds festivals from 1993 to the present. His Other Minds and Composer-to-Composer photographs have become a central record of these unique events. His continuing international travels allow him the opportunity to visit and photograph composers like Conlon Nancarrow (Mexico City) and I Wayan Sadra (central Java) in their homes and studios. His images have appeared on many CD covers including the Kronos Quartet and Rykodisc’s Cubanismo. His work is well represented in the recent Rolling Stone/Harry Abrams publication American Roots Music. Fago prints reside in permanent collections including the Smithsonian’s National Gallery of American Art in Washington, D.C. and the Center for Creative Photography in Tucson, Arizona. John Fago has done residencies at Light Work in Syracuse, N.Y. and the Djerassi Resident Artist Program in Woodside, California. In 2001, he became a MacDowell Fellow.

In 1980 he lost his right leg, above the knee, to bone cancer. This has not slowed him down: after six months of chemotherapy, he sailed a 42-foot ketch from Nova Scotia to Cape Ann, Massachusetts, and later learned to ski on one leg. In 1983 he developed an interest in prosthetics and rehabilitation. Following studies at the UCLA School for Rehabilitation Medicine, he has taught prosthetic techniques in Mexico, Cambodia, and Cuba, as well as working and photographing for organizations for disabled persons.

John Fago may be reached by email