b. 1941 Syracuse, New York
I was initially attracted to the "grand"--like Monument Valley--but I didn't know how to find a way to make photographs of those sites that felt like my pictures. So I started photographing in the evening, and also more minimal landscapes like the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah -- places that really have to do with the breadth of the landscape. I was also interested in the cultural imprint on the land : indications of the fact that we're here. --Karen Halverson
In Karen Halverson's large format color landscape photographs, made in Canyonlands, Utah in the 1980s, she often included her sport-utility vehicle in the foreground -- usually at dusk with its lights on -- as a symbol of her human presence in the wilderness. For Halverson, the act of looking is itself a form of intrusion on the natural landscape and a symbolic reminder that the American West is not the untouched realm of popular imagination it has been made out to be. Halverson, who is from the Northeast, first fell in love with the West when she drove across the country to attend Stanford University in California, where she received a BA in Philosophy in 1963. En route, she experienced the desert, which captured her imagination and appealed to her sense of adventure. Although she returned to the east coast for post-graduate studies (earning an MA in the History of Ideas from Brandeis University, 1965 and an MA in Anthropology from Columbia University ten years later) the West kept drawing her back. She quit a PhD program in Anthropology at Columbia half way through. "I had a passion for photography that came out of, I don't know where, but I gave into it." She said. She took private lessons from photographers Garry Winogrand and Joel Meyerowitz, who both lived near her in New York. She also went west on a regular basis to photograph the deserts not only in Utah but in Arizona, New Mexico, and California. Halverson moved to Los Angeles in 1991 and immediately discovered the city's legendary Mulholland Drive, which skirts the crest of the Santa Monica Mountains. She began a series of panoramic images along the length of the 51-mile road, which she continued to work on over the next decade. She also spent two years photographing the Colorado River, as well as a more whimsical series, Trees, made in various parts of the West. Halverson has taught at the School of Cinema-Television at the University of Southern California, and at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, CA. After more than a decade and a half in Southern California, she relocated to New York state in 2006.