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Laura McPhee was born in Manhattan and grew up in central New Jersey. She earned her BA from Princeton University and an MFA from Rhode Island School of Design, and is currently a professor at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design. She lives in Brookline, MA.

She is noted for her stunning large-scale landscapes and portraits of the people who live and work in them.  She is currently working in the desert west of the United States where she is chronicling visual stories about time, both geologic and human. A serpentine river cuts deep incisions in the land over ages. A gold mine on the edge of the Black Rock Desert has the earth slashed open and its ruddy interior revealed.  A still-life found at the edge of an alkali flat reveals intricate details of daily life—a tiny plastic toy among shards of glass and rust, a penny, machine parts, and desert varnished tin cans.  All contemplate the unintended consequences of humanity’s attempts to control and manage nature and how we use the earth and to what ends.   A meditation on our material lives and on climate change, the images depict our paradoxical approaches as we at once protect, alter, and extract from the land.

Awards & Honors

McPhee is the recipient of a number of grants and residencies, including a Fulbright Scholars Fellowship for work in India and Sri Lanka, and a residency in Idaho from the Alturas Foundation. She was also awarded a New England Foundation for the Arts fellowship and a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation fellowship.


McPhee’s work has been widely exhibited in both the United States and abroad.  She has been a part of exhibitions at several institutions, including the Amon Carter Museum, The Chrysler Museum of Art, The DeCordova Museum, The J. Paul Getty Center & Museum, The Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, The Los Angeles County Museum of Art, The Peabody Essex Museum, and The Saint Louis Art Museum.  She has had solo shows at The Boise Art Museum, Benrubi Gallery, The Carnegie Museum, Carroll & Sons Gallery, Gail Severn Gallery and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, among others.  Most recently, her work has been exhibited at the Yale  Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library as a part of the exhibition Eye on the West: Photography and the Contemporary West and at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, as part of the exhibition Ansel Adams in Our Time.


McPhee’s publications include No Ordinary Land (Aperture, 1998); River of No Return (Yale University Press, 2008); Guardians of Solitude (Iris Editions, London, 2009); Gateway: Visions For An Urban National Park (Princeton Architectural Press, 2011); The Home and the World: A View of Calcutta (Yale University Press, 2014).  Most recently, she was included in a series of books published by Kris Graves Projects entitled LOST.

Selected Collections

Metropolitan Museum of Art,New York, NY

J. Paul Getty Center Museum, Los Angeles, CA

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, CA

Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA

Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, TX

Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, CA

Nelson-Atkins Museum, Kansas City, MO

Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, MA

International Center of Photography, New York, NY

Saint Louis Art Museum, Saint Louis, MO

Amon Carter Museum, Fort Worth, TX

Rhode Island School of Design Museum of Art, Providence, RI

Boston Public Library, Boston, MA

Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, OH

Addison Gallery of American Art, Andover, MA

Boise Art Museum, Boise, ID

Nevada Museum of Art, Reno, NV

Museum of Photographic Arts, San Diego, CA

The Hood Museum, Hanover, NH

Columbus Museum of Art, Columbus, OH

The Gap Corporation, San Francisco, CA

The Art Museum, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ

Rose Art Museum, Brandeis University, Waltham, MA

Davis Museum, Wellesley College, Wellesley, MA

Alturas Foundation, San Antonio, TX

Spencer Art Museum, University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS

List Visual Arts Center, MIT, Cambridge, MA

The Art Museum, Bowdoin College, Brunswick, ME

The University of Maine, Augusta, ME

La Salle Bank Photography Collection, Chicago, IL

Reader's Digest Corporate Collection, Pleasantville, NY

Polaroid Corporation, Cambridge, MA

Fidelity Corporate Collection, Boston, MA

Princeton University Graphic Arts Collection, Princeton, NJ

Mercer County Cultural and Heritage Commission, Trenton, NJ

Akron Art Museum, Akron, OH

The Kemper Museum, Kansas City, MO

DeCordova Museum, Lincoln, MA 

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