Robert ParkeHarrison

Robert ParkeHarrison

Infobox Person

image_size = 150px
name = Robert ParkeHarrison
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birth_date = Birth year and age|1968
birth_place = Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri
death_date =
death_place =
education =
occupation = Photographer
title =
spouse = Shana ParkeHarrison
parents =
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website =

Robert ParkeHarrison (1968 – ) is a photographer, best known for his work (with wife Shana ParkeHarrison) in the area of fine art photography.

The works of Robert and Shana ParkeHarrison have been displayed in 18 solo exhibitions and over 30 group shows worldwide. Their work can also be found in over 20 collections, including the National Museum of American Art at the Smithsonian Institution and the George Eastman House. [ [ Imaging a Shattering Earth: Contemporary Photography and the Environmental Debate - Artists ] ]

Their book, The Architect’s Brother was named as one of 'the Ten Best Photography Books of the Year' of 2000 by the New York Times. [ [ Imaging a Shattering Earth: Contemporary Photography and the Environmental Debate - Artists ] ]

My photographs tell stories of loss, human struggle, and personal exploration within landscapes scarred by technology and over-use…. [I] strive to metaphorically and poetically link laborious actions, idiosyncratic rituals and strangely crude machines into tales about our modern experience.
--Robert ParkeHarrison


Robert and Shana ParkeHarrison portray our polluted world in disturbingly stark monochromatic photographs. As Robert ParkeHarrison says, “My photographs tell stories of loss, human struggle, and personal exploration within landscapes scarred by technology and over-use… (they) strive to metaphorically and poetically link laborious actions, idiosyncratic rituals and strangely crude machines into tales about our modern experience.” Perhaps it is the style in which he and his wife display the photos, the surreal black and white fashion which shows the insignificance and perhaps foolish manner of men, that makes their pictures emit gloomy and depressing feelings.

Robert ParkeHarrison, born in 1968 in Fort Leonard Wood, MO, and his wife Shana, born in 1964 in Tulsa, OK, have had their works of art displayed in over 48 exhibits worldwide, and also in over 20 different collections. Robert and Shana ParkeHarrison have degrees in Fine Arts. Robert first completed his Bachelor’s in Fine Arts at the University of New Mexico in 1990, and four years later earned his Masters in Fine Arts at the Kansas City Art Institute, MO. Shana ParkeHarrison obtained a Bachelor’s in Fine Arts from Williams Woods College, Fulton, MO, in 1986. Robert now works as an Associate Professor of Studio Art Photography at College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts, near his home in Great Barrington.

In 2001, the ParkeHarrisons began to sign their collaborated photographs under both their names. Originally Shana and Robert had worked on separate photography projects, and each signed their own photos. Then, the ParkeHarrisons built elaborate backgrounds in their photos, some that take a couple months to construct. In them, Robert poses as the “Everyman,” a character that he and his wife created. This “Everyman,” who is dressed in a black suit and starched white shirt, has an interaction with the forces of nature in the elaborate background. However, Robert isn't posing in his pictures to achieve a form of self-portraiture. The “Everyman” he represents is fighting desperately, although futilely, against the forces of technology as they overwhelm nature. In their first, and so far only collaborated published book, which they named The Architect's Brother, the ParkeHarrisons repeatedly remind readers that they, and all humans, have an effect upon the world, and nature. In 2000, this book was named one of “The Ten Best Photography Books of the Year” by the New York Times.

In the ParkeHarrison's photos, sculpture, photography, and painting is involved. In order to create a unique look in their photographs, Robert and Shana use paper negatives, along with collage, to make the viewer realize their, and their technology's, impact upon the environment. The scarred wastelands which ParkeHarrison and his wife use so much in their photography reflects what our environment will become if we do not preserve it. Their photos force us to consider what we have done, and what we are doing to, the earth we live on.

The above photo is titled Stolen Summer, by the ParkeHarrisons. This is one of their photos that I think especially radiates a feeling of chaos, because dead animals are being nailed up haphazardly on a bare wall, not in the name of science, but for no reason whatsoever. However, this photograph is one of my favorites by them. What I like the most about the photo is the use of color. The couple used a completely blank, boring wall as their background. This isn't very interesting at all. Then, they nailed many different beautiful butterflies, of many different bright colors, to the wall. This is what really makes the picture because the butterflies represent one of the “small beauties” in our world. However, it also show the destruction of the environment, as all other of his pictures show. The slaughter of the butterflies, representing the earths creatures, is upsetting. Insects are being killed off, then the birds, other animals, and humans are ultimately affected. In order to stop the destruction of the world, we also have to stop the unnecessary and really quite disturbing slaughter of animals, no matter how small the animals may be.

Also, the ParkeHarrisons used smears of color to bring out the butterflies even more. What is intriguing is that at first glance the smears make the illusion that the butterflies are flying, and that the background is actually the sky. But, as you look again, you realize the hands at the bottom right. The hands in the picture make it your eyes will swivel around the picture in a circular pattern, which is what many artists seek to achieve, because this keeps the viewers eyes on the painting, and really separates the work of art from others. This longer time of focus on the photo also makes you realize humans are to blame for the killing of these animals. Another one of my favorite photos by the ParkeHarrisons is titled Earth Coat, which is pictured below. This depicts the environment as a burden that is literally “strapped to us”, and we are actually are part of it. Everyone must bear the burden of the environment, thus another one of the ParkeHarrison's references to the conservation of the environment being everyones responsibility. This picture also shows that the Everyman, in this case the environment, is in a dark tunnel, with a bright light at the end. This shows that we can fix up the world, and if we work hard there will be a good ending.

In their pictures, the ParkeHarrisons make us acknowledge our own effect on nature. Viewers are forced to feel many different emotions by the ParkeHarrisons' photos. Anger, confusion, and chaos are often felt. However, there is still some sort of beauty that can be seen. The world in the ParkeHarrison's photos, which is a disturbing reflection of what our world could be in the future, nevertheless retains a beauty, no matter how small, because our world is full of beauty and what is not destroyed shines through. This causes us pause to reflect that we must maintain, preserve, and save our world, before it is too late. We cannot forget, fall back, or give up, but must each work in our own spheres of influence to stop the destruction of entire landscapes for materialistic purposes. The ParkeHarrisons jog our minds, but now we must take the next steps and do the real work.

External links

* [ Robert ParkeHarrison: The Architect's Brother (George Eastman House Exhibition)]
* [ Robert ParkeHarrison: George Eastman House, Still Photograph Archive, 5 Selected Images]
* [ Imaging a Shattering Earth: Contemporary Photography and the Environmental Debate]


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