About the Photographer
American, b. 1954
Stephen Marc documents and interprets history with a focus on the African-American experience. As part of the Changing Chicago documentary project in the late 1980s, Marc chose to record everyday life on the South Side during the late 1980s. One of the largest documentary photography projects ever organized in an American city, Changing Chicago commissioned thirty-three photographers to document life throughout Chicago's diverse urban and suburban neighborhoods. The project was launched in 1987 to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the invention of photography and the 50th anniversary of the Farm Security Administration documentary project, which provides its inspirational model. Changing Chicago honors the tradition of the FSA project, but it moved away from its predecessor's ambition of inspiring social change towards the more general goal of providing a nuanced description of the human experience in a particular geographic area. Sponsored by the Focus/Infinity Fund of Chicago, the project was organized with the support of the Museum of Contemporary Photography, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Field Museum of Natural History, the Chicago Historical Society, and the Chicago Office of Fine Arts, Chicago Public Library Cultural Center. In the spring of 1989 the five institutions mounted concurrent exhibitions devoted to the project. Marc’s images for the project feature a "straight photography" style, where scene is constructed with little intervention or creative manipulation from Marc. What remains are emphatically ordinary moments—such as adults strolling along busy avenues and children playing in their neighborhoods—with each image composed with attention to expressive gesture.
In the mid-1990s, Marc diverged from the documentary style he became so known for and created photomontages from pictures of the Underground Railroad’s sites, conductors, and documents as well as images of contemporary life. By connecting over 500 years of African-American history and culture, this project releases artifacts from the linear notion of time and space to reveal a different perspective of a common historical narrative. While each series explores different perspectives, every work similarly features a style reminiscent of graffitied murals. The project comprises works from a number of series over a significant stretch of time: Soul Searching (1994-2001), Walking in the Footsteps (2000-2006) and Passage on the Underground (2000-2009).
Born in Rantoul, Illinois, Stephen Marc completed his BA from Pomona College, Claremont (1976) and MFA from the Tyler School of Art, Temple University, Philadelphia (1978). His work is included in the collections of the Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris; the California Museum of Photography, Riverside; the Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago; the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; and the National Museum of American Art, Washington, DC. After teaching for twenty years at Columbia College Chicago, he moved to Arizona in 1998. Marc currently serves as a professor at the Herberger Institute for Art and Design at Arizona State University, Tempe.