Chris McCaw (American, b. 1971)

Chris McCaw (b. 1971; Daly City, CA)  is a photographer who focuses on distilling the intrinsic relationship between photography and the sun. Experimenting with photography from childhood, the artist is fascinated with the medium in all its iterations, working from an early age to document California’s skateboarding, zine, and punk scenes in the mid-1980s. While pursuing his BFA, he fell in love with the simplicity of large-format cameras, and experimented vigorously with various printing processes and began building his own cameras. 


Navigating between literalism and abstraction, McCaw has worked to both accurately capture our place in a cosmic landscape in motion, as well as using the graphic lines and dots burned by the sun in abstracted compositions. The artist equips his large-format cameras with powerful lenses typically used for military surveillance. Instead of film, McCaw inserts expired fiber-based gelatin silver photo paper directly into the camera. Pointing the lens at the sun, McCaw makes recordings ranging from thirty seconds to as long as 84 hours. The sun, intensified by the lens, scorches its path across the paper while creating a solarized image of the landscape or seascape below – a “direct positive” image made in-camera, without an intervening negative. Seeking to extend the duration of his photographs, McCaw has made four trips to the Arctic Circle in summer when the sun never sets to document the “midnight sun.” Throughout his work, these burned lines and holes are tangible traces of the act of making each photograph: marking time, recording location, mapping weather conditions and channeling light.


McCaw’s work has been exhibited at institutions including the National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, CA; Art Institute of Chicago, IL; Art Museum, AZ; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA; Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, AR; Portland Art Museum, OR; Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, The Netherlands; and Somerset House, London, UK. His work is in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY; J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, CA; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, CA; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY; Chrysler Art Museum, Norfolk, VA; Philadelphia Museum of Art, PA; National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C; Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington D.C; Victoria & Albert Museum, London, UK, among many others. McCaw is the recipient of numerous awards, including the Andy Warhol Foundation's New Works Grant and Alternative Exposure Grant, as well as the Emerging Icon in Photography award from the George Eastman House. The artist lives and works in San Francisco, California.