John Steck Jr.

(American, b. 1980; resides in Chicago, IL)

Using various techniques, such as alternative processes, constructed images, and handmade books, John Steck Jr’s work is deeply rooted in the history and processes of the photographic medium. His series, Lament (2012-ongoing), challenges the idea of permanence in photography. Each analog work is created using silver gelatin paper traditionally used in the darkroom, yet he never fixes the image. In the darkroom, fixer is used to stabilize images on photographic paper or film, rendering the paper or film no longer sensitive to light. Steck’s method causes his images to continue to change and fade over time until they ultimately disappear. Yet because of this experimental process, the lifetime of these images is not clear to either or Steck or the viewer. Scientists discovered ways to expose images to light sensitive paper long before early practitioners were able to fix the images they created.  As fixing technology progressed, the medium became more prevalent and was simplified for commercial uses—allowing images to be affixed to such materials as glass, tin and paper. With his disappearing prints, Steck is challenging a foundational element of photography, namely its permanence. In doing so, he deconstructs the medium to question the distance between the capture of an image and its viewer.

In contrast to Lament, the series, Horizo (2011-2014), is concerned with various interpretations of the horizon line. Steck identifies the horizon as both a physical place and an intangible element of nature, where the sky and sea merge. His photographs show the horizon firsthand as well as in constructed images made to appear vast, aiming to address the ethereal quality of line and the human capacity to interpret two dimensional images as three dimensional spaces. In his book of the same title, Steck lines up the horizon lines of each image from the series across an approximately ten foot long fold-out book.  Regardless of the size, color, or orientation of the image, Steck creates a consistent pulse, emphasizing the uniformity of the line, yet underscoring how varied perception and interpretation can be.

John Steck Jr. completed his MFA in photography at the San Francisco Art Institute (2013) and his BFA in photography from the Massachusetts College of Art & Design (2010). Additionally, he completed a two-year certificate in the Professional Photography Program from the New England School of Photography, Boston, MA (2006).  His work has been exhibited both nationally and internationally. Selected solo exhibitions include: SOMArts, San Francisco, CA (2012); New Visions Studio and Gallery, Scranton, PA (2011); The Stairway Gallery, New England School of Photography, Boston, MA (2009, 2007). Selected group exhibitions include: New Art Center, Newton, MA (2014); Vermont Center for Photography, Battleboro, VT (2014); Icelandic Art Center, Reykjavik, Iceland (2013); Tokyo Institute of Art, Tokyo, Japan (2013); The Center for Fine Art Photography, Fort Collins, CO, USA (2013); and The Photographic Resource Center, Boston, MA (2011, 2006). He has self published numerous artist books through his handmade and small run book company and blog, The Make Book Blog.

Iceland Seascape, Atlantic Ocean, 2013Iceland Seascape, Atlantic Ocean, 2013
Stone window in a cold building, cold Ireland, 2012

Stone window in a cold building, cold Ireland, 2012


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Museum of Contemporary Photography

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