Fine Art

A documentary about Jock Sturges


This is a tale about photography and beauty, art and life.

Jock Sturges
(American, 1947 – )

Through photographic portraiture, Jock Sturges portrays the radiance of the children of close friends and family. The photographs, taken with a large-format camera and often in the final hours of late summer days, depict the luminescence of the human form, unclothed and unashamed. Born in New York City in 1947, Sturges earned his B.F.A. in Perceptual Psychology and Photography from Marlboro College and went on to receive his M.F.A. from the San Francisco Art Institute. His work is in the collections of major institutions including The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; The Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris; The Frankfurt Museum of Modern Art; and The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. His work is published in numerous monographs, most recently Jock Sturges, New Work 1996-2000 (Scalo, 2000).


LINE OF BEAUTY AND GRACE is a tale about photography and art, family and life, dealing with the history of man and woman, life and art. Many art historians consider Jock Sturges, born in 1947, to be one of the most important fine art photographers of our times.

As a catholic and graduated in psychology and photography he survived the attacks of conservatives in the United States. Sturges has created a series of intensely powerful and moving photographs, with an outstanding sensitivity for composition and light – which, in the words of one critic, “is almost pain”. As well as Jock Sturges’s artistic work is an uncompromising search for truth and clarity. His private life is marked by his open nature and inspired by the love he shares with his wife Maia.

In LINE OF BEAUTY AND GRACE, the filmmaker and photographer Christian E. Klinger journeys into the life and work of this extraordinary man.


Jock Sturges was born in New York City, and worked in San Francisco for many years. He graduated with a BFA in Perceptual Psychology and photography from Marlboro College in 1974. Later, he received an MFA in photography from the San Francisco Art Institute in 1985. Many of Sturges’ works feature young girls and boys in the nude. Sturges’s work has stimulated controversy beginning with his first published collection, The Last Day of Summer. His published collections include: The Last Day of Summer (1991, Aperture), Radiant Identities (1994, Aperture), Jock Sturges (1996), Jock Sturges: New Work 1997-2000 (2000, Scalo) and Jock Sturges: Notes (2004, Aperture). He has exhibited widely in the United States, as well as, in France, Germany and Japan. His photographs are in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris and Museum für Moderne Kunst in Frankfurt. Sturges’s large black-and-white and colour prints are all shot with an 8×10 large format camera. Today he works with a digital camera as well. Sturges’s most recent photographs are in colour. He lives in Seattle, Washington with his wife Maia and their daughter Marine.


I have always been obsessed with the fleeting idea of beauty. It is in the times of political correctness, it is a lonely quest to find an artist working beyond the superficial world of fashion. I was greatly moved when I discovered his work and his warm and generous personality. These were the emotions, which inspired LINE OF BEAUTY AND GRACE. The main question we posed was, “what is beauty and why is the work of Jock so inflaming?” We were unable to answer this clearly. And it is maybe this inability, which becomes the strongest criteria in defining beauty and art.


Christian E. Klinger (Producer and Director of Photography: [email protected]) is a photographer and filmmaker who has worked periodically with media platforms in the USA and in Germany in the 1990s. He has created editorials, documentaries about epileptic children, Johann Sebastian Bach (Leipzig feature) and several portraits about photographer and artists. In his filmmaking career, he has interviewed artists, inventors or curators such as Will McBride (American photographer), Karlheinz Brandenburg (inventor of MP3) or Thomas Olbricht (art collector). He has also initiated and billed of various festivals and art events, and has had various exhibitions of his own work. He is the father of four children.

Daniela Krien (Editor in chief) has written and edited over 40 features about artists, photographers and inventors. Her editing credits include, Karlheinz Brandenburg (inventor of MP3), Hellen van Meene (art photographer), Hans Eberhard Zahn (Stasi victim), Prof. Dr. Dr. Gunnar Heinsohn (youth bulge), Will McBride (art photographer). She is the mother of two children.

Rene Blümel (mastering)
Thomas Tielsch (advice, filmtank Hamburg)
Katja Kirsche (Translation)
Glummie Riday (Translation, Voice Over)
Julia Berke (Voice Over)

Maia Davis and Marine
Vanessa Beverly-Whittemore
Miranda Beverly-Whittemore
Steven Meyer
Audrey Leclercq
Ronja Gerlach
Camille Jackson
Marie-Sophie Poignee
Allison Sturges
Rita Riewerts
Jean-Christophe Ammann
Prof. Klaus Honnef
Bodo Niemann
Gerhard Steidl

Fine Art

Jock Sturges: Line of beauty and grace [reup 2022]


These interview scenes are unused scenes from the documentary about Jock Sturges (not included in the DVD)

Interview with Jock Sturges (Quicktime-Video)

Deutsche Version

Official Filmwebsite (Trailer, Gallery, DVD, 99 minutes)

Jock Sturges and beauty
In the summer of 2007, we travelled to the French Atlantic Coast to meet an artist whose images stand out from the diverse pool of contemporary photography. His subject matter is the human being. His tool is a large format camera. His goal is the depiction of nothing less than beauty.

He demands the truth from his photographs. For over 30 years, the American photographer Jock Sturges has dealt with beauty and truth, an idea of art, unfortunately, which is often scorned today. In order to recognize and appreciate that, which distinguishes his work, we must focus on the definition of beauty.

Jock Sturges. Nikki. Montalivet. France. 1996.

Beauty is first and foremost an abstract definition, a concept, difficult to determine. It has always been governed by history and culture. However, there is a certain degree of global consensus concerning to the notion of beauty. Not only do we define physical matter, such as humans, animals, plants or objects as beautiful, but also abstractions, such as ideas or the notion of the soul. Even Schiller in his essay “Kallias, or on the Beautiful” attempted to define beauty by means of deduction. He concluded, however, that a definition was impossible without the experience of beauty itself. And surely, at one time or another, we have all experienced some form of beauty. When we think of beauty, an individual picture quickly takes form in our minds. This picture, it seems, has something to do with a certain harmony in proportions, in symmetry, in its ability to move us. In the end, it is the precise definition of beauty that remains imprecise.

Jock Sturges. Marie-Sophie. Monatlivet. France. 2003.

An approach
When attempting to approach beauty, we enter the fields of art-history and philosophy. Here we might find some answers. For centuries, there have been artists on a lifelong quest for beauty, depicting things or people, which are beautiful by nature and, in so doing, have created something new.
How does beauty found in nature differ from that found in art? Immanuel Kant once wrote: “A beauty of nature is a beautiful thing; beauty of art is a beautiful representation of a thing.” When this beautiful notion finds its sensual expression in a work of art, a masterpiece is created.

Now, however, the next question arises: When is a work of art beautiful? Friedrich Schiller wrote: “Art is beautiful when it depicts nature freely” This means that a work of art should not be an exact replica of the natural object, but must be enriched by the creative imagination of the artist. In the book “The Unknown Masterpiece” by Honoré de Balzac, the old artist Frenhofer states: „The aim of art is not to copy nature, but to express it.“

Not only are the models beautiful in Jock Sturges photographs, but also the light and the landscape in which they are embedded. There are even some true masterpieces, in which there is a glimpse of a heavenly glow in the lighting, and the model seems to melt into the landscape. In these pictures, the natural object itself is already beautiful and finds completion in the artistic expression of the photographer. Therefore, when we think of beauty, these are the photographs, which come to mind. They must not, however, be mistaken for depictions of perfection or some other form of popular beauty.

Jock Sturges. Misty Dawn; Northern California, 2004. From the book “Life – Time” by Steidl.

Sturges’ work does not depict beauty alone, but captures those rare moments of grace and poise, as well. And now to avoid further confusion of definitions, Friedrich Schiller must once again be quoted when he wrote that beauty is worshiped and grace loved. He states that grace is the expression of a beautiful soul. The fusion of these concepts in a single photograph makes certain moments in Sturges’ work magnificent.

Read more:

When posed the question of the most important moment in his art, Jock Sturges mentions humanity, empathy and truth. Beauty seems to be of secondary importance, and yet, it is this beauty, which touches most and captivates the viewer at first glance. So much more, however, reveals itself in Sturges work at second and third glance.

Daniela Krien

Translation: Glummie Riday

Reup: Nguyễn Bá Tuấn