joel sternfeld

I first became aware of Joel Sternfeld when he was shortlisted for The Citigroup Photography Prize at The Photographers Gallery in London, in 2004. They were showing some very odd travel sceneries, like this one of an exhausted renegade elephant, from June 1979.


Later I went and got Stranger Passing signed by Sternfeld.. I felt so nervous as I was waiting in line, when I finally got there, I managed to tell him, that I wanted to copy him. He wrote in my book: “To Alex, with all good wishes for your photography. Picasso said, “I never borrow – I steal.”

Joel Sternfeld, (b. 1944, New York City), is widely regarded as one of the most influential and important fine-art color photographers in the world, noted for his large-format documentary pictures of the United States and establishing color photorgaphy as a respected artistic medium. He has many works in the permanent collections of the MOMA in New York and the Getty in Los Angeles. He has also “raised” and influenced an entire generation of color photographers including Andreas Gursky who borrows many of Sternfeld’s techniques and approaches.

Sternfeld earned a BA from Dartmouth College and teaches photography at Sarah Lawrence College in New York. He began taking color photographs in 1970 after learning the color theory of Johannes Itten and Josef Albers. Color is an important element of his photographs.

Another book, On This Site: Landscape in Memoriam (1997), is about violence in America. Sternfeld photographed sites of recent tragedies. Next to each photograph is text about the events that happened at that location. From 1991-1994 Sternfeld worked with Melinda Hunt to document New York City’s public cemetery on Hart Island [1]. A book, “Hart Island” was published in 1998 [2]. Sternfeld has also published books about social class and stereotypes in America (Stranger Passing [2001]), an abandoned elevated railway in New York (Walking the High Line [2002]), and a book titled Sweet Earth: Experimental Utopias in America ([2006]). A new book containing close-up portraits of delegates debating global warming at an United Nations conference in Montreal, titled When It Changed, is currently slated for publication in July 2007.”

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