Douglas James "Doug" Fulton was a photographer, writer, and long-time outdoor editor for the Ann Arbor News; a passionate environmentalist, and a notable photographer of blues musicians.
Fulton was born on April 5, 1928, in Abingdon, Illinois, where his father ran a walnut lumber business, and in 1939 he moved with his family to Tucson, Arizona, where his father worked as a train dispatcher.
Fulton graduated from high school in Tucson in 1946 and attended the University of Arizona where he majored in German and French, graduating in 1949. From there he briefly attended the University of Chicago on a scholarship, then transferred to the University of Michigan where he received his M. A. in Linguistics in 1951.
Fulton was drafted during the Korean War and served in the USAF with the Office of Special Investigations in Washington, D.C. and the 4602d Air Intelligence Service Squadron in Colorado Springs. Following his service, he came back to Ann Arbor to pursue a doctorate in Linguistics at the University of Michigan. With the photographic skills he learned in the Air Force, he landed a job as a freelance photographer and freelance writer for the Ann Arbor News -- and promptly fell in love with the newspaper business.
Ann Arbor News
Fulton lived in Ann Arbor from 1954 through 1983 and worked for the Ann Arbor News through this period. During his 30 years at the News he was a voice for conservation and a documentarian of the city's diverse community, with an eye and ear -- and passion -- for its music. He also had an introspective side for the quiet beauty of Washtenaw County’s parks and natural spaces.
Fulton photographed every aspect of the community. Even early in his career, his photography and writing frequently filled a full page in the Ann Arbor News and his photographic assignments covered a range of subjects: portraits, public school events, sports, fashion shows, parades, and theatrical performances.
Yet it was through his 20-year column, “A Naturalist’s Journal,” which ran from 1962 through 1983, and as the News’ Outdoor Editor from 1968 on, that Fulton was able to advocate on behalf of local and national causes he cared about: habitat preservation, outdoor education, environmental issues, and the burgeoning city and county park systems.
Among his many community roles, Fulton served on the Mayor’s Committee on Natural Resources; he was involved in the landmark 1970 ENACT Teach-In at the University of Michigan; he taught outdoor education for the Ann Arbor Public Schools, and he served as president of the Board of Directors for the Ann Arbor Ecology Center.
Further afield, Fulton was active in statewide campaigns to make Sleeping Bear a national recreation area and was instrumental in the preservation of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. He also helped author the Michigan Wilderness Law, the first law of its kind in the nation. Alongside these causes and projects, he wrote enthusiastically about his favorite pastimes -- from fishing and hunting to birdwatching.
Throughout his career, Fulton took his camera to parks, wetlands, and other natural areas. He took it on his travels around the state and across the country. Along the way, he perfected his craft and won dozens of awards for his nature photography and writing from various regional and national organizations, including the Michigan Press Photographers Association, the Associated Press, Look magazine, and the Michigan Audubon Society.
Ann Arbor's Counter Culture
Fulton's camera was also present for seminal counter-cultural events in the city's history, including the 1969 South University riot, student protests, and rallies. He caught performances at the Canterbury House, he wrote a record review column for the Ann Arbor News, and he was there for the many free rock concerts in the city's parks.
AADL has hundreds of Fulton's photographs taken at the free rock concerts in the city's parks and other performance venues.
But it was Fulton's passion for the blues, sparked during an early formative year while briefly attending the University of Chicago, that led to his indelible portraits of the blues musicians who performed at the original Ann Arbor Blues Festival and subsequent Ann Arbor Blues and Jazz Festivals.
His portraits capture this electric moment in Ann Arbor history and many of these photographs have graced the covers and pages of books, journals, and albums over the years.
Listen to Doug's brief interview with Howlin' Wolf.
Fulton took an early retirement from the Ann Arbor News in 1983 due to health problems and returned to Tucson, Arizona. His wife, Anna Fulton, to whom he was married in 1950, joined him in 1988 after retiring from the Ann Arbor Public School system. The couple had two children, Bruce Fulton and Andrea Fulton-Higgins.
In Tucson, Fulton served as the interim director of the Tucson Botanical Gardens. He also continued his long-time interest in blues music as a board member and then president of the Tucson Blues Society; as editor of the bi-monthly newsletter, Blues Beat, and as editor of the society's Blues Greats calendar. He also continued to take photographs of blues performers in concert and at regional festivals, and he brought the “Blues in the Schools” program to Tucson area schools.
Exhibit: Capturing an Era: The Progressive Lens of Doug Fulton (June 10 to September 5, Downtown Library)
PULP interview with Fulton's daughter Andrea Fulton-Higgins about her father's life and work.