Olivia Parker

Olivia Parker

1941 –


Olivia Parker is one of the foremost still-life photographers of her generation. She draws inspiration from the histories of art and science, using natural light to transform ephemeral objects, both natural and man-made, into images for contemplation.

Image: Olivia Parker, Self Portrait

Olivia Parker is an American fine-art photographer known for her elegantly simple yet evocative still life imagery inspired by the history of science, the natural world, toys and games and 17th century Dutch and Flemish masters.

Born in 1941 in Boston, Massachusetts, she graduated from Wellesley College in 1963 with a degree in art history.  She began her career as a painter, but by 1973, she had turned her attention to photography, creating photographic assemblages of natural objects that she collected on her walks.   These early arrangements of shells, flowers, and feathers, interpreted through her mastery of natural light and form, spoke of memories and mysteries.   Later she introduced man-made documents into the collages, for example maps and charts, but she continued to utilize her unique inner vocabulary of objects to express visually complex and profound ideas.

Throughout her career, Parker has experimented with a variety of camera formats including 4 x 5 to 12 x 20 in black and white and up to 20 x 24 in Polaroid color.  In 1995, while on crutches for a year after a skiing accident, she transitioned to digital photography and found new ways to make photographs.  Most recently she has been working on a series of images that are her imagination’s take on what was going on in her husband’s mind as he went through Alzheimer’s, photographs that would not have been possible using a large format camera.

Olivia Parker has had more than a hundred one-person exhibitions in the United States and abroad, and her work is represented in many major private, corporate and museum collections, including The Art Institute of Chicago, The Museum of Modern Art in New York, The Museum of Fine Arts – Boston and the International Museum of Photography at the George Eastman House.  At present she has a major retrospective at The Peabody Essex Museum. Her published monographs include Signs of Life (1978), Under the Looking Glass (1983), Weighing The Planets (1987) and Order of Imagination (2019) published by the Peabody Essex Museum.


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