Museum Exhibition Catalogues, Monographs, Artist's Projects, Curatorial Writings and Essays
Joel Sternfeld's breakthrough project was the classic photobook American Prospects (1987), which established his lucid balancing of strong color, crisp detail and quiet irony. Sternfeld’s vision is that of “someone who grew up with a vision of classical regional America and the order it seemed to contain, to find beauty and harmony in an increasingly uniform, technological, and disturbing America.”
Joel Sternfeld was born in New York City in 1944. His photographs have been extensively exhibited, notably in Three Americans at The Museum of Modern Art, New York, in 1984, and more recently in Stranger Passing at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and On This Site at The Art Institute of Chicago. Sternfeld's published work includes Walking the High Line, a series of photographs of the abandoned elevated railway in Manhattan's Chelsea district, and Treading on Kings, photographs of protesters at the G8 summit in Genoa, Italy.
Published by Steidl. Text by Theodore E. Stebbins Jr.
In his 1992 book Campagna Romana: The Countryside of Ancient Rome, Joel Sternfeld (born 1944) focused on the ruins of grand structures with a clear warning: great civilizations fall, ours may too. Now in Rome after Rome, containing images from the previous book as well as numerous unpublished pictures, Sternfeld’s questions multiply: Who are these modern Romans? What is their relationship to the splendor that was? What is the nature of sullied modernity in relation to the Arcadian ideal? The Campagna—the countryside south and east of Rome—occupies a special place in Roman (and human) history. With the rise of Ancient Rome, this once polluted, malarial landscape was restored by emperors and thrived, with some 20 towns and numerous wealthy villas on the rolling plains among the mighty aqueducts that fed water to Rome. After the city fell, the Campagna once again became desolate and dangerous. Sternfeld updates this history for the contemporary eye.
In 1836, the landscape painter and conservationist Thomas Cole completed "View from Mount Holyoke, Northampton, Massachusetts, after a Thunderstorm (The Oxbow)," his iconic painting of the Connecticut River where it bends like an ox yoke. Nearly 200 years later, Joel Sternfeld walked into the field depicted in the lower right quadrant of Cole's painting--which he had first photographed in 1978 while traveling for his seminal American Prospects series--and began making almost daily photographs. By 2006, the oxbow in the river was crossed by an interstate highway and the destructive effects of progress which Cole had so feared were making themselves apparent globally as climate change. This volume collects 77 of the quietly haunting photographs that Sternfeld made over the next year-and-a-half. His choice of subject matter--a flat, unremarkable corn and potato field--signals a conceptual stance away from previous nature depictions: His field is neither beautiful, nor sublime, nor picturesque. Its flatness offers an eloquent emptiness, as well as a vessel for the true subject of this work--the effects of human consumption upon the natural world. Following Sternfeld's Sweet Earth: Experimental Utopias in America and When It Changed, this volume resounds with political and cultural implications.
As laissez-faire market forces sweep the globe and the earth's future seems endangered, the dream of living in concert with nature and with one another is increasingly essential. A common human longing throughout history, the utopian community ideal has taken root firmly in America over the past 200 years. In Sweet Earth: Experimental Utopias in America, Joel Sternfeld looks at 60 representative historic or present American utopias. Neither a conventional history nor a conventional book of photography, Sweet Earth brings together what might otherwise seem disparate, individualized social phenomena and makes visible the community of communities. This tradition of thinking has ancient, universal precedents. When Thomas More wrote Utopia in 1516, he gave a name to an idea that had included the Epic of Gilgamesh, Plato's Republic and the Old Testament's and he started an argument. Francis Bacon (who believed in utopia through science) and Jean-Jacques Rousseau (utopia through nature) soon joined the debate, but it was the harsh changes in daily life engendered by the factory systems of the early Industrial Revolution that brought an urgency to the discussion, as seen in the writings of David Owens, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. While the early social theorists were largely European, it was in the fluid environment of young America that true utopian communities were built and utopian experimentation flourished. In the years between 1810 and 1850, hundreds of secular and religious societies bravely tried to build a “perfect” life for their members. In the twentieth century, experimentation began again, reaching a fever pitch in the turbulent days of the Vietnam War. Some of the late-1960s communes still survive and continue to flourish. The 1990s and the early years of the new millennium have become yet another hotbed of social experimentation. The co-housing movement is sweeping America with at least 70 communities fully completed and occupied and numerous others planned. At the same time, the rapid global expansion of sustainable communities known as ecovillages has been widely adopted in America. This book by one of America's foremost artists includes a photograph of each community and is accompanied by brief text that summarizes the most salient aspects of the history or organization. A book that functions both as art, as well as a hopeful guide to alternative ways of life.
Joel Sternfeld's photographs of the scene of environmental activist David Buckel's self-immolation
In the early morning of 14 April 2018, David Buckel walked into Prospect Park in Brooklyn and set himself alight. He was a distinguished attorney whose work to secure social justice and LGBT rights had won national acclaim. At the time of his death at the age of 60 Buckel had left the practice of law and was working on a community farm in Red Hook, Brooklyn. In an email sent to the New York Times moments before his death, Buckel decried the increasing pollution of the earth. He expressed the hope that his death by fossil fuels would encourage others to be better stewards of the earth. Joel Sternfeld happened to be in Prospect Park on that day with his nine-year-old son. Returning the next day, he began to document the gradual regeneration of the site as a means to honor the hope that climate change might be reversed. Our Loss is the latest book by Sternfeld on the effects of climate change, following Oxbow Archive (2008) and When It Changed (2008).
Published by Steidl. Text by Joel Sternfeld, Suketu Mehta.
In 2003, Frank Gohlke (born 1942) and Joel Sternfeld (born 1944) were commissioned to photograph one of the densest concentrations of ethnic diversity in the world--the borough of Queens in New York City. After more than a year of photographing everything from corner bodegas to the borough’s boundaries, Gohlke and Sternfeld had not only captured the complicated dynamic that sustains Queens and its myriad communities, they had also evolved a theory of landscape photography, in which landscape is a visible manifestation of the invisible emotions of its inhabitants. Gohlke’s Queens consists of streets, houses, fences, gardens, parklands, shorelines and waste spaces, the territory where human arrangement contends endlessly with the forces that undo it: unruly vegetation, weather, rot and decay. Sternfeld focuses on the borough’s shops, restaurants, mosques and temples. With an essay by acclaimed writer Suketu Mehta, this book becomes a powerful instrument for understanding a landscape that seems to defy interpretation.
Published by D.A.P./Distributed Art Publishers. Text by Kerry Brougher, Andy Grundberg, Anne W. Tucker.
First published in 1987, Joel Sternfeld’s American Prospects is the classic photo record of 1980s America. This definitive edition, made with new plates and including one additional photograph, offers a spectacular, funny, sad and soberly riveting portrait of America’s diverse possibilities and prospects in the Reagan era. From the famous “Wet n’ Wild Aquatic Theme Park” in Florida to “The Space Shuttle Columbia Lands at Kelly Air Force Base” in San Antonio, Texas; from melancholy images of beached whales in Oregon to beautiful views of Yellowstone National Park and Bear Lake in Utah; from post-tornado Nebraska to a previously unseen photograph from the series, “Bikini Contest, Fort Lauderdale, FL, March 1983”; the sublime contradictions and tragicomedy of this volume are without doubt one of the greatest accomplishments of color photography, all the more fully realized in this splendid new edition. An essay by Kerry Brougher, Chief Curator at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, considers the historical context of Sternfeld’s book and the pivotal role that American Prospects has played in the evolution of contemporary filmmaking and art photography. A major exponent of color photography in America, Joel Sternfeld was born in New York City in 1944. He has received numerous awards including two Guggenheim fellowships, a Prix de Rome and the Citibank Photography Award. Sternfeld’s other books include On This Site (1997), Hart Island (1998), Stranger Passing (2001), Walking the High Line (2002), Sweet Earth (2006), When It Changed (2007), Oxbow Archive (2008) and First Pictures (2011).
Published by Steidl. Contributions by Adam Gopnik, John Stilgoe.
Since March 2000, photographer Joel Sternfeld has been documenting the abandoned elevated railway, the High Line, which runs down the West Side of Manhattan. Sometimes a river of grass, sometimes more like wheat fields of Canada, this unique ruin permits contemplation of nature, and of cityscape. Walking the path of this true time landscape, experiencing the seasons as they unfold in a ribbon within the vertical architectural landscape of New York City, Sternfeld has created a suite of images marked by quiet grace and formal rigor. In Walking the High Line, as in all of his work, landscape is read as a social and cultural indicator. A major exponent of color photography in America, Joel Sternfeld was born in New York City in 1944. He has received numerous awards including two Guggenheim fellowships, a Prix de Rome and the Citibank Photography Award. Sternfeld's books include On This Site (1997), Hart Island (1998), Stranger Passing (2001), Sweet Earth (2006), When It Changed(2007), Oxbow Archive (2008) and First Pictures (2011).
Published by Steidl. Contributions by Douglas R. Nickel, Ian Frazier.
Over a period of 15 years, Joel Sternfeld travelled across America and took portrait photographs that form, in Douglas R. Nickel's words, "an intelligent, unscientific, interpretive sampling of what Americans looked like at the century's end." Unlike historical portraits which represent significant people in staged surroundings, Sternfeld's subjects are uncannily normal: a banker having an evening meal, a teenager collecting shopping carts in a parking lot, a homeless man holding his bedding. Using August Sander's classic photograph of three peasants on their way to a dance as a starting point, Sternfeld employed a conceptual strategy that amounts to a new theory of the portrait, which might be termed The Circumstantial Portrait. What happens when we encounter the other in the midst of a circumstance? What presumptions, if any, are valid? What, if anything, can be known of the other from a photographic portrait?
I went to Central Park to find the place behind the Metropolitan Museum of Art where Jennifer Levin had been killed. It was bewildering to find a scene so beautiful … to see the same sunlight pour down indifferently on the earth. As I showed the photograph of this site to friends, I realized that I was not alone in thinking of her when walking by the Met. It occurred to me that I held something within: a list of places that I cannot forget because of the tragedies that identify them, and I began to wonder if each of us has such a list. I set out to photograph sites that were marked during my lifetime. Yet, there was something else that drew me to this work. I think of it as the question of knowability. Experience has taught me again and again that you can never know what lies beneath a surface or behind a façade. Our sense of place, our understanding of photographs of the landscape is inevitably limited and fraught with misreading. --Joel Sternfeld. Between 1993 and 1996, Joel Sternfeld photographed 50 infamous crime sites around the US. On This Site contains images of these unsettlingly normal places, ordinary landscapes left behind after tragedies, their hidden stories disturbingly invisible. Each photograph is accompanied by a text describing the crime that took place at the location. This is the first Steidl edition of On This Site, originally published in 1996 to great acclaim.
Published by Steidl. Contributions by Jessica May.
This is the first book of Joel Sternfeld's largely unseen early color photographs. In 1969 Sternfeld began working with a 35-mm camera and Kodachrome film, and First Pictures contains works from this time until 1980. Here Sternfeld develops traits that appear in his mature work: irony, a politicized view of America, concern for the social condition. But there are also pictures that bear little relation to his later work: color arrangements that parallel those of Eggleston, as well as street photography which Sternfeld ceased making in 1976. The photographs in First Pictures were made at a time when color photography was struggling to assert itself against the authoritative black-and-white tradition, making this book a revelation both in Sternfeld's oeuvre and in the history of contemporary photography. A major figure in the photography world, Joel Sternfeld was born in New York City in 1944. He has received numerous awards including two Guggenheim fellowships, a Prix de Rome and the Citibank Photography Award. Sternfeld's books published by Steidl include American Prospects (2003), Sweet Earth (2006) and Oxbow Archive (2008).
Published by Steidl Photography International. Text by Jonathan Crary.
What Parisian shopping arcades were to the nineteenth century and capitalism, Dubai's luxurious mega-malls are to the new millennium and late capitalism. The Baudelairean flâneur, who patrolled the avenues as a detached observer, today is replaced by the phoneur, a wired wanderer who uses a cell phone to text, call, Web-surf and snap digital images on the fly. The ubiquitous cellphone camera has already become a valid tool of civilian journalism. Celebrated photographer Joel Sternfeld visited Dubai in 2008, documenting its new malls with the consumer fetish object du jour, the iPhone. In this volume, the photographer's twelfth photobook, Sternfeld counters the popular myth that the United Arab Emirates is the Persian Gulf's Disney World, locating subtler social strata and interactions. Included is an essay by Columbia University art historian, Jonathan Crary, who considers the implications of Sternfeld's mobile gaze.
Published by Steidl. Text by Gretel Ehrlich, Jeremy Leggett.
Of the impetus to create the photographs in When It Changed, Joel Sternfeld writes, "Future generations are going to wonder about us, the inhabitants of the Earth when the climate began to change." These 55 portraits document attendees at the eleventh United Nations conference on climate change held in Montreal in 2005, each accompanied by the subject's statements about the evidence of shifts in his or her home country's weather and wildlife. A detailed chronology of what has been termed "humanity's greatest challenge" offers an efficient means to grasp the scientific and governmental response to global warming, as well as its projected consequences. The testimony here is dark, but Sternfeld's title When It Changed may also refer to a more hopeful scenario: At the Montreal conference, the United States worked, as it had for years, to undermine discussions about the Kyoto Protocol. Leading newspapers predicted the end of the international effort to mitigate climate change. But one night, after the U.S. delegation had walked out of a late meeting, the nations of the world joined together without them and agreed to take a step forward. In his testimony, Mohammad Reazuddin, the delegate from Bangladesh, says, "My voice may be small because I am from a small country. But those who will be washed away, their voices must be heard."
Published by D.A.P./Distributed Art Publishers. Essays by Kerry Brougher, Andy Grundberg and Anne W. Tucker.
Originally published in 1987, Joel Sternfeld's now-classic view of America is here remastered, redesigned and reprinted at a larger, brighter, truer scale. Finally, photography and offset printing techniques have caught up with Sternfeld's eye, and this new edition of American Prospects succeeds in presenting Sternfeld's most seminal work as it has always meant to be shown. A specially-commissioned essay by Kerry Brougher, Chief Curator at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, considers the historical context in which Sternfeld was working and the pivotal role that American Prospects has played in the course of contemporary filmmaking and art photography. In American Prospects, a fireman shops for a pumpkin while a house burns in the background; a group of motorcyclists stop at the side of the road to take in a stunning, placid view of Bear Lake, Utah; the high-tech world headquarters of the Manville Corporation sits in picturesque Colorado, obscured by a defiant boulder; a lone basketball net stands in the desert near Lake Powell in Arizona; and a cookie-cutter suburban housing settlement rests squarely amongst rolling hills in Pendleton, Oregon. Sternfeld's photographic tour of America is a search for the truth of a country not just as it exists in a particular era but as it is in its ever-evolving essence. It is a sad poem, but also a funny and generous one, recognizing endurance, poignant beauty, and determination within its sometimes tense, often ironic juxtapositions of man and nature, technology and ruin.