About the Photographer
American, b. 1950
JoAnn Verburg photographs in many respects recall traditional genres such as portraiture, still lifes, and landscape photography, but in each case she gently pushes beyond the form in question by using methods such as using multiple frames, which suggests multiple viewpoints. While considering the perpetual question of what remains unseen beyond the frame, or what is excluded in a photograph, Verburg frequently returns to themes such as the passage of time, human relationships, and representations of space and distance.
Verburg works on a number of open-ended series concurrently, leaving one for another before returning at a later time to pick up where she left off. One of her bodies of work comprises domestic scenes that incorporate a newspaper, always from the day on which she was shooting. In some photographs, Verburg's husband appears reading the paper, while in others, such as Secrets: South Bronx (1991), the newspaper is one element in a composition of objects that brings to mind a still life. From one photograph to the next, however, the newspaper intrudes on the serene domestic setting, relaying troubling events such the first invasion of Iraq in 1991 or the destruction of the World Trade Center in 2001. Verburg states in the catalogue for the 2007 survey of her work at the Museum of Modern Art, "The newspaper helps in these pictures to suggest a world outside the frame—invisible, simultaneous."
Born in Summit, New Jersey in 1950, Verburg was surrounded by photography as a child, since her father worked for a photographic paper manufacturer, but her path as an artist was still somewhat unconventional. While completing a BA in sociology at Ohio Wesleyan University, she was closed out of a photography class and instead studied photography independently with a sculpture professor. After working at the Philadelphia Museum of Art for two years, she enrolled at the Rochester Institute of Technology for an MFA in photography, finishing her degree in 1976.
The following year Verburg embarked on the Rephotographic Survey Project along with photographer Mark Klett and historian Ellen Manchester, an experience that would help to shape her outlook as an artist and establish her interests in the ways photography relates to time and space. For this project, the team returned to sites of 19th century photographs by William Henry Jackson, Timothy O'Sullivan and others, re-photographing them from the same position. They also used comparable equipment and waited for lighting conditions that were as close to the original as possible. The results are effectively before-and-after shots, separated by a century in time, revealing changes that are sometimes dramatic, but just as often surprisingly minimal.
After supervising Polaroid's residency program in Boston from 1978 to 1981, Verburg moved to Minneapolis for a visiting artist position at Minneapolis College of Art. She relocated to Minneapolis permanently in 1983 and has lived in the area ever since. She now divides her time between St. Paul, Minnesota and Spoleto, Italy.