Joe Doherty is a nature photographer, a political scientist, a statistician, a fair housing expert, and a husband and father. He began his professional photography career at 16, taking environmental portraits of alumni for the development office of his high school. After graduating he apprenticed with glamour and editorial photographers in Los Angeles, before opening his own studio.
Throughout the 1980s he photographed a wide range of subjects, from natural disasters to Hollywood actors, and his work appeared in Time, Paris Match, Geo, and The Advocate. The birth of his son led to a career change, and he earned a PhD in Political Science from UCLA. He joined the UCLA School of Law in 1999 as the associate director of the Empirical Research Group, a new center devoted to the quantitative study of the law and the legal profession. He eventually — inevitably — returned to photography and decided to dedicate himself to it full-time once again.
When he left UCLA in 2016 one of his colleagues remarked, “you’ll be doing the same thing, but in a different medium.” She was right. The challenge of both statistics and photography is to bring meaning from chaos, to measure, arrange, and analyze the world, and to communicate what is found. This is true whether the subject is the police use of force or aspens lining a creek in the fall. While each is a snapshot in time, telling the story requires years of preparation and thoughtful study.
His current projects include an exploration of the revitalized Owens River, which, thanks to lawsuits and pressure from environmental and native groups, is becoming a vital habitat once again. He hopes to turn this into a group show by the end of 2018, sponsored equally by the Sierra Club and the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. He is also beginning a documentary about the 40-and-over men’s senior baseball league in which he plays, to capture the emotional as well as physical aspects of playing baseball at an age that is well-past when most people give it up.
His work has been exhibited at the G2 Gallery in Los Angeles, and he is a regular contributor to the Sierra Club publication Focal Points.
In nature I experience joy, peace, awe, apprehension, sadness, curiosity. In my work I try to convey those emotions to the viewer while connecting the image to a specific place. I want the viewer to develop an emotional connection with that place, because it is only by connecting that people will believe nature is worth preserving. In preserving nature, we preserve ourselves.