NPR logo American Landscape Photographer Joe Deal Dies At 62

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.

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.