© Michael Eastman
Digital C-type print
Michael Eastman has established himself as one of the world's leading contemporary photographic artists. The self-taught photographer has spent four decades documenting interiors and facades in cities as diverse as Havana, Paris, Rome, and New Orleans, producing large-scale photographs unified by their visual precision, monumentality, and painterly use of color.
Eastman is most recognized for his explorations of architectural form and the textures of decay, which create mysterious narratives about time and place. He still relies on capturing the image on film and sometimes prints the smaller scale works by hand himself. He draws inspiration from the photographers such as: Eugene Atget and Walker Evans. Like these great documentary photographers before him, Eastman holds the authenticity of the image as his highest goal. He shuns the use of artificial light and uses long exposure times instead, patiently waiting as long as it takes for the natural illumination of the room to expose his film properly.
Eastman has been referred to as a contemporary urban alchemist, magically transforming everyday objects and surfaces into textured planes of beauty. In his series Havana, we see decadent, magnificent interiors that have been ravaged by time and neglect. The rooms – populated with lonely, worn out chairs and dusty picture frames – speak of anonymous, past lives. These works stand in contrast to Eastman’s group of photographs taken across Italy: those places are often immaculate, luxurious. We get no real sense of the people who have passed through those rooms, only that there must have been many of them.
Many of the photographs have appeared in Time, Life, and American Photographer, and they reside in the collections of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the International Center of Photography, The Art Institute of Chicago, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and other prestigious institutions. His books include Vanishing America (2008, Rizzoli) and Horses (2003, Knopf), which is now in its fifth edition.
Eastman lives in St. Louis.