Mark Klett (b. 1952) is primarily known as a photographer of the Western landscape, although his work speaks broadly about issues of place, culture, history, land use, and the passage of time. His many projects, often resulting from collaboration and interdisciplinary exchange, are a form of visual research, the product of exploration and examination, as well as a contribution to the photographic art form.
Klett received a BS in geology from St. Lawrence University, Canton, New York in 1974, and an MFA in photography from the State University of New York at Buffalo, Program at the Visual Studies Workshop, Rochester, New York in 1977. His first major photographic endeavor, as chief photographer on the Rephotographic Survey Project (RSP), established his reputation as technically astute, conceptually engaged, and collaboratively inclined. In the field, Klett coordinated the efforts of the group’s photographers, locating the original tripod position of dozens of photographs produced during the nineteenth century government-sponsored surveys of the American West. The resulting publication Second View: The Rephotographic Survey Project (1984) presented pairs of images – the original Timothy O’Sullivan, William Henry Jackson, or Jack Hillers alongside the rephotograph of precisely the same location – demonstrating change, and commenting on the cultural shifts over the intervening century.
In 1982 he moved to Tempe, Arizona when he was hired by Arizona State University as a master printer for the Photographic Collaborative Facility, which ultimately merged with the Print Research Facility to become the Visual Arts Research Institute. There Klett worked closely with printmaker Joseph Segura, and collaborated with graduate students on research projects and in the publication of new creative work. In 1992 he joined the faculty at the Herberger School of Art where he teaches photography to this day.
Klett has participated in a number of group photographic endeavors during his career, including the Central Arizona Project Photographic Survey, a four-person analysis of the late twentieth-century massive water redistribution project; the Third View survey, which returned to the RSP sites creating updated and more extensive documentation; and the Water in the West Archive, a compilation of historic and contemporary photographs and documents relating to the presence (and absence) of one of the Western United States’ most critical resources. Additionally, Klett has worked in partnerships, such as producing the Nepal portfolio with Linda Connor; the After the Ruins book documenting the centennial anniversary of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake with Michael Lundgren; and an extensive photographic collaboration with his former graduate student, Byron Wolfe, that has resulted in major bodies of work exploring the Yosemite Valley and the Grand Canyon. He has also worked closely with many writers including Rebecca Solnit, William Jenkins, Gary Nabhan, Philip Fradkin, and William Fox, producing over a dozen publications.
His work has been shown in one-person exhibitions at the Addison Gallery of American Art, Phillips Academy, Andover, Massachusetts; the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; the National Museum of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC; and the Phoenix Art Museum. Klett has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Buhl Foundation, and the Japan/US Friendship Commission and in 2008 was awarded the Governor’s Art Award for his significant contribution to the arts in Arizona. Klett lives in Arizona, where he is a Regents’ Professor of Art at Arizona State University, Tempe.
The Center’s collection of Klett’s work numbers about 200 pieces, including prints from many of his major projects, such as the Central Arizona Project Photographic Survey, his Nepal portfolio, Yosemite In Time, and the Water in the West Archive. He maintains a website with his collaborative partner Byron Wolfe at www.klettandwolfe.com.