Marsha Burns Helen, Firefighter
Medium Silver print
Photo Date 1992 Print Date 1992c
Dimensions 19-1/4 x 15-1/4 in. (489 x 387 mm)
Photo Country United States (USA)
Photographer Country United States (USA)
Contact Alex Novak and Marthe Smith
About This Image
Exhibited: International Center of Photography, New York, "Eye of the Beholder: Photographs from the Avon Collection," September 12 - November 16, 1997. Provenance: Avon Collection. Framed.
Born in 1945, Marsha Burns began as a painter, studying at the University of Washington (1963-65), where she met her husband, artist Michael Burns, and then at the University of Massachusetts (1967-69) after the couple moved to Amherst. Burns began to work with photography in 1972 while living in Texas, and initially used the medium to experiment with sequential imagery. After relocating to Seattle, however, she began to focus on creating enigmatic figure studies and nudes in her studio, which explore the relationship between form and emotion. Burns had her models, mostly friends and acquaintances with an androgynous quality, pose in the mostly empty setting in various states of undress, accompanied by different objects. She states, "Each subject was approached as one formal element among a complement of others—glass, mirrors, changing light."
In the following decades Burns continued to photograph in her studio, but she began to introduce more overt social content into her work. Inspired by a vist to Berlin in 1984, Burns started making portraits of young adults who chose to set themselves apart from the mainstream, first in her native Seattle and later in other cities. "The people I choose to photograph are often those for whom negative or tragically simple attitudes have been formed by the majority of society," she writes. "In an age of technology and urbanization I am drawn to the boundaries, to people whose existence is self-defined." In the 1990s, continuing in this vein, she photographed varied subjects, such as Native Americans in traditional dress.
Marsha Burns’ photographs are in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art (New York, NY), the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, NY), the Seattle Art Museum (Seattle, WA), the Center for Creative Photography at the University of Arizona (Tucson, AZ), and the Stedelijk Museum (Amsterdam, the Netherlands).
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