John Chiara (American, b. 1971)

With his own hand-built, large-format cameras, John Chiara (b. 1971; San Francisco, CA) exposes light directly onto photo-sensitive paper, manipulating early photographic processes to yield images of his surroundings that are at once recognizable and eerily distorted. Chiara developed his method while studying photography at the University of Utah, finding that his process lent greater weight to the object of the photograph itself, allowing it to slowly transform and mature as it moves through the artist's handmade apparatus.


One of Chiara's most significant bodies of work is that documenting the historic architectural fixtures of Manhattan. For this series, the artist handcrafted a custom 50" x 40" camera to capture the city's soaring verticality in kaleidoscopic color and with hyperreal clarity. Through the camera's precision barrel lens, images are projected directly onto a scroll of color photograph paper. During exposure, Chiara burns, dodges and filters the light entering through the camera's lens, effectively mimicking the conditions of a darkroom, where the the temperature of light and spectrum of color can be manipulated and controlled. Working this method, the artist inverts light and shadow as well as color to cast images of the city in otherworldly hues. At times resembling x-ray images, views seen through night vision goggles, or blueprint drawings, Chiara's unexpected palettes jolt the eye from its malaise of familiarity to a heightened awareness of detail and the rich collage of textures that is New York City.


Work by John Chiara is held in numerous institutional collections across the country, including those of the Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco, CA; George Eastman Museum, Rochester, NY; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, CA; and Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA, among others. The artist has presented solo exhibitions internationally, including at Galerie Miranda, Paris France; Jackson Fine Art Gallery, Atlanta, GA; Budapest Art Factory, Budapest, Hungary, and Haines Gallery, San Francisco, CA. Chiara has exhibited work in prominent group exhibitions at the Kunstmuseum Solothurn, Switzerland; Santa Barbara Museum of Art, CA; Museum Bärengasse, Zurich, Switzerland; and Denver Art Museum, CO, among others. The artist currently divides his time between San Francisco and New York City.