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Herberger College photography professor wins Guggenheim Fellowship

April 15, 2004

TEMPE, Ariz. – Mark Klett, ASU Regents professor of photography in the Herberger College School of Art, has been named a 2004 Fellow of the prestigious John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. 

Klett is one of 185 artists, scholars and scientists to whom the Guggenheim Foundation will award a total of nearly $7 million this year. Only three recipients are in the field of photography. Klett and others were selected from more than 3,200 applicants; their awards are based on distinguished achievement in the past and exceptional promise for future accomplishment.

Klett is an educator, artist and historian who has influenced a generation of photographers and inspired a new sensibility for those interested in landscape and culture. He is among the most accomplished landscape photographers in the ranks of 20th century American photography. 

From 1977 to 1984, Klett served as Chief Photographer for the Rephotographic Survey Project, which retraced the steps of the first government photographic survey teams of 100 years earlier. He has continued to photograph the west and southwest in the years since, but his work is not limited to the American west.

Klett was asked by the Smithsonian to photograph the landscape of Washington, D.C., and has photographed extensively overseas, including in Spain, Nepal and Kobe, Japan, after it was devastated by the January, 1995, earthquake.

The Guggenheim Foundation states that its grants funds are “to help Fellows to secure a block of time, free from other duties, in which to pursue their own scholarly or creative work.” Klett plans to use his Guggenheim Fellowship to focus on issues of time, which run through much of his work and have become his central focus in recent years.

He has also received a number of other awards besides the Guggenheim and his Regents’ Professorship. Klett was the first photographer to receive the Buhl Foundation Award. He was chosen as the first visiting artist at the Yale Digital Media Center for the Arts and was only the third photographer to receive the Japan-U.S. Fellowship Commission’s artist exchange fellowship.

Klett’s unique photographs incorporate elements of a 19th century tradition, while critically examining many of the 20th century’s most poignant environmental concerns. They examine time and the way people have occupied and experienced the land, and the evidence they have left of their presence, from ancient rock art to modern engineering feats. 

Throughout his work, Mark Klett focuses on the experience of contemporary travelers in the American west, while demonstrating how that experience differs from the mythologized histories of this same land. Rather than seeing the land and nature as separate from the human activity or simply as a resource to be exploited, Klett sees people as part of the natural landscape.

Klett describes his work as “more like literature than journalism.” He tries to strike a balance between images that retain their reference to the world, but contain something else as well. “The beauty of poetry is that it can be both descriptive and poetic, and that’s what makes it work,” Klett says.

Klett’s work has been featured in major journals in France, England, and Japan, and such magazines as Life, National Geographic Adventure, Audubon, Condé Nast Traveler, American Photo, and others. His work was also chosen to grace the cover of the inaugural issue of National Geographic Traveler magazine.

Klett’s work has been featured in solo exhibitions at many major institutions across the United States, and in group exhibitions, both here and overseas. Mark Klett: Ideas About Time, a major retrospective exhibition of Klett’s work initiated by the Arizona State University Art Museum, is currently touring nationally. 

His work also is included in numerous public collections and he is the author of a number of books, including Desert Legends(1994), Revealing Territory (1992), and Second View: The Rephotographic Survey Project (1984).

Founded in 1964, The Katherine K. Herberger College of Fine Arts at Arizona State University educates more than 2,500 students annually and encompasses the School of Art, School of Music, Department of Theatre, and Department of Dance, as well as the research-based Institute for Studies in the Arts/Arts, Media and Engineering Program and the ASU Art Museum. To learn more about the college, visit 

Media Contact:
Jennifer Pringle