Photography Center Acquires the Lynn Stern Archive

The UA Center for Creative Photography has aquired the photographic archive of Lynn Stern.
April 6, 2012
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The Center for Creative Photography, part of the University Libraries at the UA, holds more archives and individual works by 20th-century North American photographers than any other archive in the world. The archives of more than 60 major American photographers – including Ansel Adams, Harry Callahan, W. Eugene Smith, Edward Weston and Garry Winogrand – form the core of a collection numbering more than 90,000 works. The Center for Creative Photography has an integrated program of preservation, access and education that celebrates the history of photography and its contemporary practice. For more Information, call 520-621-7968. 

Dispossession (1990-1992) is a series of 12 composite works in which human skulls are set against a luminous white fabric, in counterpoint with Stern's face portrayed as a death mask beneath them. The theme of Dispossession is not actual death, but the mind's preoccupation with it and the human struggle to cope with mortality. (Photo courtesy of the UA Center for Creative Photography)
Dispossession (1990-1992) is a series of 12 composite works in which human skulls are set against a luminous white fabric, in counterpoint with Stern's face portrayed as a death mask beneath them. The theme of Dispossession is not actual death, but the mind's preoccupation with it and the human struggle to cope with mortality. (Photo courtesy of the UA Center for Creative Photography)

Photographic works produced by Lynn Stern now will be housed at the University of Arizona Center for Creative Photography.

The center, or CCP, acquired the Lynn Stern Archive, a collection that contains a complete set of fine prints from all of Stern's editioned series, as well as her early works, work prints, negatives, correspondence and annotated library.

"We are delighted that Lynn Stern has chosen the Center for Creative Photography as the permanent home for her archive," said Katharine Martinez, the CCP's director.

"Lynn is an artist of great depth and accomplishment. Known for her profound imagery and subtle tonality, Lynn Stern's exquisite prints rank with the best-known photographers of her generation," Martinez added. "Her archive will allow researchers, curators and photographers to better understand the highly disciplined imagination of this extraordinary artist."

The central concern in Stern's work is luminosity. In 1985, she began using a naturally backlit translucent white fabric to convey the essence of light.

For instance, Unveilings (1985) features flowers juxtaposed with the folds of a glowing white fabric, and Whiteness (1987) focuses solely on the purity of light.  

In Veiled Still Lifes (1994-2003), Stern photographed vases behind a translucent black fabric, creating a dark, textured luminosity.

In all of her series, the space between objects becomes as important as the objects themselves.

Born in New York City in 1942, Stern's aesthetic sensibility was influenced by the collection of abstract expressionist painting and sculpture assembled by her father, David Solinger.

Stern graduated with honors from Smith College, where she majored in English and minored in music. Hoping to become a film editor, she apprenticed briefly at Ross-Gaffney Films, then married architect Robert A.M. Stern, and worked as his photographic archivist. She became interested in photographic composition while assisting his in-house photographer, Edmund Stoecklein.

In 1977, Stern studied at the International Center of Photography in New York City, but soon found herself at odds with a curriculum that was oriented toward photojournalism. She left to study privately with Joseph Saltzer, and then printed with Paul Caponigro for one year in 1981.

Early influences included Caponigro, Edward Weston and the 19th century American luminist painters. Later influences include the writings and black paintings of Ad Reinhardt and the work of Francis Bacon.

A life-long resident of New York City, Stern divorced Robert A.M. Stern in 1977 and married architect Jeremy Lang in 1980. She has one son, Nicholas, from her first marriage, and three grandchildren.