Competition: US & Canada
Clark University; Lesley College
Stephen DiRado, a Worcester, Massachusetts, resident for over twenty-eight years, lives in a triple-decker along with family and friends. His summers are spent on Martha’s Vineyard where he has immersed himself into its island-wide community.. Always staying close to home, DiRado relentlessly documents the world around him. Many of his subjects span decades of scrutiny.
DiRado’s first one-person exhibition at the Grove Street Gallery, Worcester, in 1984, Bell Pond, depicts a portrait of a blue-collar community residing on Belmont Hill in Worcester. Over the next three years he documented a shopping facility in decay just a few blocks from his home, befriending employees, families, individuals, and gangs of teens. The Mall Series project culminated in a one-person exhibition at the Worcester Art Museum and was honored with a 1985 Finalist Award from the Massachusetts Artist Foundation and a 1986 Fellowship from the Massachusetts Artist Foundation.
The Martha’s Vineyard project began in 1987 with modest photographs of friends and relations. Over the course of the years it has expanded to include portraits of beachgoers, seaside landscapes, architectural and urban images, even photographs of the night sky—a very personal, poetic take on the island and its people. In 1991 this project received fellowships from the Massachusetts Artist Foundation and the New England Foundation for the Arts . Numerous solo exhibitions have featured different aspects of this large body of work: Beach People, deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum (1992), Stephen DiRado’s Beach People, Vineyard Museum, Edgartown, MA (1994), Nighttime, Afterimage Photography Gallery, Dallas, TX (1997), Celestial Photographs, MTA Transit for Arts, Penn Station, New York, NY (2001–02), and JUMP, deCordova Museum Sculpture Park and Museum (2007). The Massachusetts Cultural Council awarded DiRado a fellowship for his series of portraits of island hipsters in 2011.
DiRado’s ongoing Dinner Series, commenced in 1985, is a complex narrative and works on many levels. Growing up within a large family that prided itself on the ritual of preparing and serving dinners for family and friends, Stephen continues this tradition with his immediate family, extended family and academics—all sharing meals on a rotating basis. He documents emotionally charged gatherings using his 8×10 film camera. This work is also time-based: styles, foods, aging subjects and changing environments date each image. He photographs hundreds of dinners each year. Dinner Series received a fellowship from the Massachusetts Cultural Council in 2003 and has been the subject of two solo exhibitions: Houston Center of Photography in 2002 and the Fitchburg Art Museum, Fitchburg, Massachusetts, in 2008.
Gene DiRado, Stephen’s father, succumbed to Alzheimer’s over a span of twenty years. Up until his death in 2009, Stephen documented their relationship as it changed from Gene’s paternal role to Stephen’s transition as caretaker. With Dad was an endearing investment for the DiRado family. This project received a Finalist award from the Massachusetts Cultural Council in 2007. And in 2009 a Clark University, Higgins School of Humanities, Research Project Grant.
Mr. DiRado is a Photography Senior Lecturer in the Visual and Performing Arts Department at Clark University in Worcester.