Fine Art

Jock Sturges For Sale

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Jock Sturges is best known for his intimate black and white, large-scale photographs of the Northern California landscape. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, he began photographing large estates that were being sold by their owners in response to the recession. These photos are now known as his “For Sale” series, which marked a shift in his photo practice from documenting natural wonders to contemplating what it means when people no longer value nature. Sturges’ photographs capture the scale and details of these properties with a level of specificity. Viewers can almost smell the musty interiors, leafy gardens, and stucco exteriors of these gothic and European castles in disguise. The images also present an alternate history that could have been different if not for economic circumstances beyond anyone’s control. It was after producing this body of work that Sturges stopped photographing landscapes to focus instead on capturing their transformation through paint.

About Jock Sturges

Jock Sturges is an American photographer best known for his intimate black and white, large-scale photographs of the Northern California landscape. His work has been widely exhibited and collected both in the U.S. and internationally and is in the collections of institutions such as the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; the Whitney Museum of American Art; the Carnegie Museum of Art; the Los Angeles County Museum; the Getty Museum; and the Smithsonian Institution. He has published five books of his work. Sturges is also the author of a book of poetry and a book of short stories. Sturges was born in New York City in 1939. He grew up in Connecticut, New York, and California. He has lived in Northern California since 1966.

The “For Sale” Series

Landscape photographer Jock Sturges captured the decline of the American dream in the “For Sale” series. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Sturges began photographing large estates that were being sold by their owners in response to the recession. Sturges’ black-and-white images of manicured gardens and interiors were published in two limited-edition books in the 1980s and are currently in the collections of several museums. Sturges’ images capture the scale and details of these properties with a level of specificity. Viewers can almost smell the musty interiors, leafy gardens, and stucco exteriors of these gothic and European castles in disguise. The images also present an alternate history that could have been different if not for economic circumstances beyond anyone’s control. It was after producing this body of work that Sturges stopped photographing landscapes to focus instead on capturing their transformation through paint.

Landscape After Dark

Sturges’ best-known work is his “Landscape after Dark” series. The first edition was published in 1985 and was the first book to use a color process that involved multiple exposures on one piece of film. In this series, Sturges photographs Northern California from the vantage point of a hot air balloon at night, illuminating the landscape with lights from nearby towns and cities. The images create a fantastic landscape, as if a dream had been photographed. The surreal quality of the images also reflects the beauty and mystery of the night sky. The pictures are monumental, yet dreamlike. They make the landscape seem even more expansive and otherworldly by including lights – man-made lights – in their frame.

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Conclusion

Sturges’ work explores the intersection of nature and economics and the ways in which they shape our lives. By using the language of gothic architecture and romance, he questions the values of his generation. By photographing Northern California, a place associated with the “lifestyles of the rich and famous,” he explores whether these values are worth celebrating or if they are unsustainable. Sturges’ work has been shown at the Whitney Museum of American Art, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Carnegie Museum of Art, the Los Angeles County Museum, the Getty Museum, and the Smithsonian Institution. His work has also been published in several books, including “Landscape after Dark,” “For Sale,” “Jock Sturges: Photographs,” “Jock Sturges: Photographs and Selections from the Poetry and Short Story Books,” and “Jock Sturges: The Night Photography of a Hot-Air Balloon.

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