Michael Light

Michael Light

Fellow: Awarded 2007
Field of Study: Photography

Competition: US & Canada

Michael Light is a San Francisco-based photographer and bookmaker focused on the environment and how contemporary American culture relates to it. His work is concerned both with the politics of that relationship and the seductions of landscape representation. He has exhibited extensively nationally and internationally, and his work has been collected by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, The Getty Research Library, The Los Angeles County Museum of Art, The New York Public Library, and the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, among others.

For the last fifteen years, Mr. Light has aerially photographed over settled and unsettled areas of American space, pursuing themes of mapping, vertigo, human impact on the land, and various aspects of geologic time and the sublime. A private pilot, he is currently working on an aerial photographic survey of the inter-mountain states, tentatively titled Some Dry Space: An Inhabited West. Mr. Light’s Guggenheim Fellowship supported this project.

Another strain of his practice has been to rework familiar historical photographic and cultural icons into landscape-driven perspectives, often with an aerial component, by sifting through public photographic archives. His first such project, Full Moon (1999), used lunar geological survey imagery made by the Apollo astronauts to show the moon both as a sublime desert and an embattled point of first human contact. His last archival project, 100 Suns (2003), focused on the politics and landscape meanings of military photographs of U.S. atmospheric nuclear detonations in Nevada and the Pacific from 1945 to 1962. Mr. Light’s books have been published in nineteen different editions worldwide.

Michael Light is represented by Hosfelt Gallery, San Francisco, Craig Krull Gallery, Santa Monica, and Wiesehofer Gallery, Cologne.


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