About the Photographer
American, 1939 - 2020
John Pfahl's photographs, from his series Waterfalls, speak not only of our awe for and fascination with our environment but also of our capacity to take advantage of it. Showing the United States' waterfalls as alternately sources of power and aesthetic landmarks, Pfahl's works do not disregard the human presence inherent in these landscapes, as other photographers have, but rather examine the effects we have had upon our surroundings. Many of the Eastern waterfalls Pfahl photographs have been exploited for industrialization, while the Western waterfalls are less common and are usually protected by the parks system. Pfahl recognizes that "waterfalls photographed close-up and isolated all look very much the same"; for this reason, he works with a panoramic camera and wide-angle lenses, providing context and complicating the significance of his images.
A native of New York City, Pfahl (b.1939) was educated at Syracuse University (BFA, 1961 and MFA, 1968). His works have been exhibited in solo exhibitions at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; the George Eastman House International Museum of Photography; and the Cleveland Museum of Art, among others. Pfahl has received two National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships, and his photographs are held in many public and private collections, including those of the Museum of Modern Art, the Chicago Art Institute, and The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Now a full-time artist and photographer living in Buffalo, NY, Pfahl has taught as an Adjunct Professor at the University of Buffalo since 1986.