Virginia Beahan and Laura McPhee, who have come to see that no part of the earth's surface is unaltered by human activity, began their photographic collaboration in 1987, when they traveled to Iceland. McPhee had been to Iceland the previous year to view a newly risen volcano with her father, the writer John McPhee, and returned with Beahan to view what she described as an "apocalyptic landscape."
The two women met in an introduction to photography class at Princeton taught by Emmet Gowin--known for intimate views of his own family--in 1977. McPhee went on to receive an MFA in photography at the Rhode Island School of Design. Beahan later studied at the Tyler School of Art, Temple University, also obtaining an MFA in photography.
With their large-format view camera, Beahan and McPhee have traveled throughout the world revealing a variety of attitudes towards the natural environment. Their work demonstrates an understanding both of geology and culture, what they call the inextricable bind between "nature and the human hand." No Ordinary Land: Encounters in a Changing Environment, 1998, is their first book of photographs, and includes an afterword by John McPhee. In addition to photographing, both Beahan and McPhee teach photography to college students.