Daily Picture Show

American Landscape Photographer Joe Deal Dies At 62

Photographer Joe Deal had quite the CV. His photographs were featured in the small but seminal 1975 photography exhibition "New Topographics: Photographs of a Man-Altered Landscape," which actually had new life last year, when it was reassembled by George Eastman House.

Deal was a professor at the Rhode Island School of Design and dean of the School of Art at Washington University in St. Louis. He received fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment of the Arts.

  • Sunlight and Shadow, Missouri Plateau, 2005, from the series West & West
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    Sunlight and Shadow, Missouri Plateau, 2005, from the series West & West
    Joe Deal/Courtesy of Robert Mann Gallery, New York
  • Grassfire, Flint Hills, 2006, from the series West & West
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    Grassfire, Flint Hills, 2006, from the series West & West
    Joe Deal/Courtesy of Robert Mann Gallery, New York
  • Wash, Red Hills, 2007, from the series West & West
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    Wash, Red Hills, 2007, from the series West & West
    Joe Deal/Courtesy of Robert Mann Gallery, New York
  • Indian Bingo, Morango Reservation, California, 1974
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    Indian Bingo, Morango Reservation, California, 1974
    Joe Deal/Courtesy of Robert Mann Gallery, New York
  • Malibu Beach, California, 1978, from the series Beach Cities
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    Malibu Beach, California, 1978, from the series Beach Cities
    Joe Deal/Courtesy of Robert Mann Gallery, New York
  • Playground, San Bernardino, California, 1984, from the series Subdividing the Inland Basin
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    Playground, San Bernardino, California, 1984, from the series Subdividing the Inland Basin
    Joe Deal/Courtesy of Robert Mann Gallery, New York

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Needless to say, he was accomplished. The photographer died June 18 after a long battle with cancer, at age 62.

His most significant contribution to the medium arguably came with that 1975 exhibtion, when he and a handful of renegade photographers indirectly challenged the likes of Ansel Adams. One might say they altered the landscape of contemporary photography.

They were photographing landscapes, but they weren't after beauty in the classical sense; they were fine-art documentarians, capturing how man had altered the American landscape. That genre of photography, for artists like Deal, was no longer about the sublimity of nature; it was about the intersection of civilization and wilderness. Not mountains, but suburban sprawl.

That intersection is a theme that permeated Deal's work throughout his career. And it's a theme that curators and historians are continuously revisiting, too; as of July 17, "New Topographics" will be at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. You can listen to Deal discussing his work here.

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