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Edward West

Arthur F. Thurnau Professor Emeritus


Photograph of Edward West


Curriculum Vitae
  • M.F.A., Rochester Institute of Technology, 1973
  • B.A. (Art History), Lake Forest College, 1971

A practicing artist for over 30 years, Professor Edward West’s creative work includes photography, collage, and installation. His work has been exhibited, collected and/or published internationally in South Africa, China, Japan, and Switzerland at venues including the South African National Gallery, the Bridgestone Corporation, Tokyo, the Japan School of Contemporary Photography, and the Guangdong Museum in China. In the U.S., his exhibitions include those at the Smithsonian Institution, the Detroit Institute of Arts, the Brooklyn Museum of Art, the Museum of Contemporary Photography in Chicago, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Rose Art Museum in Boston, the Honolulu Academy of Arts, the Corcoran Gallery of American Art, and the University of Michigan Museum of Art, among others.

While his work is concerned with the formal arrangement of visual elements, its ultimate source is always a relationship with another person. As he notes, "As a photographer, my desire is always to enter the mental space of the person being imaged—to photograph the gravity of how thoughts can inform gestures."

His most recent exhibition and book project is So Called, focusing on mixed ethnic communities. Ed comments, “The position and place of people of mixed ethnicities has been contested for centuries. With the election of a mixed race U.S. president and steady increases in mixed race populations across the world, an understanding of the history and current status of mixed race identities is essential to a new global citizenship. So Called, a title that evokes changing definitions of racial identity addresses this shift in a series of photographic portraits of strong multi-ethnic communities in three locations: Cape Town, South Africa; Honolulu, Hawaii; and Havana, Cuba.”

West’s earlier book project on South Africa, Casting Shadows, is distributed by University of Washington Press, and work from the project has been exhibited and collected nationally and internationally, most recently at the Guangzhou Photo Biennial in China, the Detroit Institute of Arts, and the CS Mott Foundation.

Before joining the U-M School of Art & Design, West was on faculty at the University of New Mexico and the University of Hawaii, and served as chair of Photography at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Additional experience included an internship at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the George Eastman House.

Visit PLAY to see a video interview with Ed West from The Why Series: Why We Make Creative Work.