Joel Sternfeld

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Joel Sternfeld
Sternfeld-Joel Essen-Folkwang-Mus 160711.jpg
Sternfeld in 2011
Born (1944-06-30) June 30, 1944 (age 69)
New York City, New York, United States
Field Photography

Joel Sternfeld (born June 30, 1944) is a fine-art color photographer noted for his large-format documentary pictures of the United States and helping establish color photography as a respected artistic medium. He has many works in the permanent collections of the MOMA in New York City and the Getty Center in Los Angeles. He has influenced a generation of color photographers, including Andreas Gursky, who borrows many of Sternfeld's techniques and approaches.

Sternfeld earned a BA from Dartmouth College and teaches photography at Sarah Lawrence College in New York. He began taking color photographs in 1970 after learning the color theory of Johannes Itten and Josef Albers. Color is an important element of his photographs.

American Prospects (1987) is Sternfeld's most known book and explores the irony of human-altered landscapes in the United States. To make the book, Sternfeld photographed ordinary things, including unsuccessful towns and barren-looking landscapes.

Another book, On This Site: Landscape in Memoriam (1997), is about violence in America. Sternfeld photographed sites of recent tragedies. Next to each photograph is text about the events that happened at that location.

From 1991 to 1994 Sternfeld worked with Melinda Hunt to document New York City's public cemetery on Hart Island, resulting in the book "Hart Island" (1998).[1]

Sternfeld has also published books about social class and stereotypes in America (Stranger Passing (2001)), an abandoned elevated railway in New York (Walking the High Line (2002)), and Sweet Earth: Experimental Utopias in America (2006).

When It Changed (2007) contains close-up portraits of delegates debating global warming at an United Nations conference in Montreal.


  • 1977: Rencontres de la photographie, Arles
  • 2011: Joel Sternfeld – Farbfotografien seit 1970, Museum Folkwang, Essen, Germany
  • 2011–2012: Joel Sternfeld – Color Photographs since 1970, Foam Fotografiemuseum Amsterdam, Netherlands
  • 2012: Joel Sternfeld – Farbfotografien seit 1970, Albertina, Wien, Austria



  1. ^ Hunt, Melinda; Joel Sternfeld. Hart Island. ISBN 3-931141-90-X.

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