James Cagle

Industrial Still Life 6a (Denderah), 2011. Archival pigment print. 12 x 18 inches. Courtesy of the artist.

Sturgeon Bay, WI


In 2007, James Cagle began documenting the dilapidated remnants of the Portland Cement Company in Manitowoc, Wisconsin. His resulting photographic series, Industrial Still Life, reveals a beautifully dense and evocative world filled with broken and crumbling structures alongside discarded industrial equipment. Although this Wisconsin-based cement plant was once celebrated as the “most modern in the country,” Cagle found its collapsing remains evocative of nineteenth-century expeditionary photography, particularly documentary photographs of Egyptian ruins. The artist skillfully combines these narrative references to the ancient world with the more formal qualities of his chosen medium. In tightly composed images, Cagle captures chance arrangements of geometric and organic shapes, textured surfaces, overlapping lines, and saturated colors. This interaction of formal elements reframes reality, and offers compositions so detailed they demand concentrated attention—and reward the viewer with the discovery of things normally unseen.


James Cagle was born in Tennessee, grew up in Indiana, and now lives in Door County, Wisconsin. He took his MFA at Michigan State University in 1963 and is Professor Emeritus of Art at St. Norbert College in De Pere, Wisconsin (1963–2007). He is a photographer and filmmaker whose works have been shown in the 5th Experimental Film Festival in Brussels, the Athens International, and at the Art Institute of Chicago, Yale University, Harvard University, and Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, among other institutions.