|Mark Klett is best known for developing innovative methodologies for rephotography. His primary interest throughout his career has been the nature and effect of time on the landscape, including geologic time, cultural time and autobiography. As Chief Photographer for the Rephotographic Survey Project (1977-79), Klett pinpointed the precise vantage points from which 19th century photographers such as Timothy O’Sullivan and William Bell made their photographs. This work enabled contemporary scholars and photographers to understand the technical, political and aesthetic decisions that they made. Klett work was part of a new reconsideration of the modernist landscape photography epitomized by Ansel Adams, captured by the 1975 George Eastman House exhibition, New Topographics. (Klett has remarked that he was one of the few people to see the exhibition.) Thus, the Rephotographic Survey Project is really part of a transition away from modernism.
Author of 13 books, he went on to produce the Second View: The Rephotographic Survey Project (1984) Third Views, Second Sights (2004) and Yosemite in Time(2005) rephotographic projects in which he returned to iconic sites of the American West: notably Yosemite National Park, the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone National Park. He expanded his examination of 19th century photographers to include Eadweard Muybridge, W.H. Jackson and Carleton Watkins and added 20th century photographers such as Ansel Adams and Edward Weston. In Second View Klett paired 19th century images with contemporary views of a particular site, placing them side by side. However, in the Yosemite in Time and Third View images, he incorporated the earlier photographs into his own contemporary landscapes, pursuing an investigation of what he has called the “density” of image making; that is why photographers were drawn to the same specific point of view at different moments in time. Klett or evidence of his presence (a hat for example), often appears in his own photographs, as an homage to 19th century photographers. Perhaps the image that best articulates his interests as landscape photographer and historian is Four Views from Four Times and One Shoreline, Lake Tenaya 2002, published in Yosemite in Time. Klett incorporates photographs by Ansel Adams, Edward Weston and Eadweard Muybridge within his own digitally stitched together panorama. One other signature of Klett’s work is the emphasis on collaboration. Klett has frequently collaborated with former student Byron Wolfe (Third View, Yosemite in Time and photographs from the Grand Canyon series) and writer Rebecca Solnit (Yosemite in Time).
Mark Klett’s most recent projects have been solo endeavors. In 2004 he received a Guggenheim Fellowship, which allowed him to produce a series of images called Time Studies. These smaller scale, more intimate images are the result of long exposures ranging from 10 minutes to 48 hours and continue Klett’s interest in the way the camera captures the effect of time on the landscape. His most recent book, Saguaros, was published in 2007. (2007), After the Ruins (2006), Yosemite in Time (2005), and Third Views, Second Sights (2004).
Klett uses a 4 x 5 view camera to make his photographs. In earlier work, he used Polaroid positive/negative film leaving an irregular frame around his images that resembles the rough edges of glass plate negatives used by 19th century photographers. The edges were trimmed for aesthetic reasons prior to their inclusion in handsomely bound albums. In later work, Klett still often relies on a 4 x 5 view camera. However, digital techniques allow him to drop multiple images by different photographers into one of his own photographs and pinpoint each photographer’s view.
Mark Klett received a B.S. in Geology from St. Lawrence University in Canton, in 1974 and worked for the U.S. Geological Survey from 1974 to 1977. He obtained his M.F.A. in Photography from the State University of New York at Buffalo, Visual Studies Workshop program, in Rochester, NY in 1977.
Mark Klett’s work is in the permanent collections of numerous museums in the United States and Europe including the Amon Carter Museum, Fort Worth, TX; the Art Institute of Chicago, IL; the Center for Creative Photography, Tucson, AZ; the George Eastman House, Rochester, NY; the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, CA; LA County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, CA; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, TX; The Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY; NGAW; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, CA; TMMP; Victoria & Albert Museum London, England; the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY; La Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Paris; the Canadian Center for Architecture, Montreal; the High Museum, Atlanta; The Nelson Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City; The Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.; the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; the Museum of Photographic Arts, San Diego; the National Museum of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. ; the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography, Japan; Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, The Netherlands; International Center for Photography, New York, NY; and Yale University Art Museum, New Haven, CT.
Mark Klett is a Regents’ Professor at the Herberger College of Art, School of Art at Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ and has taught at ASU since 1982.