Until the End of the World: Natural and Artificial Light in Remote Landscapes (Tree in Orange)

Career Narrative, Steve Giovinco Fine Art Photography

Career Narrative

For the past thirty years, I have been a professional artist based in New York. My focus is photographing environmental transformations at night.

Early Development

In 1980, I spent a semester abroad in Rome while studying for my BA in History at Washington University in Saint Louis. During the first night, a new friend and I went for a walk. Although we had no money, no map, knew little Italian, and just landed in an unknown city, this turned into a compelling all-night adventure. I now see this as important “visual research” into mysterious and eerie night landscape environments and became the impetus for much of my creative work since.

After earning an MFA from Yale School of Art in 1989, I received my first Yaddo residency fellowship in 2001 (others followed in 2002, 2010), where I developed a crucial part of my current artistic practice. Because of the extreme darkness of photographing landscapes at night, I could not see through the camera’s viewfinder, so instead, I stood beside the tripod and composed the images intuitively. 

I developed a strong artistic practice after graduate school. This resulted in several New York shows, such as at White Columns, curated by Greg Crewdson and Bill Arning (1994), Art in General (1995), EXIT Art, and the Brooklyn Museum, which purchased a photograph (2000).

Photographing in Remote Locations

From 2000 to 2015, many trips were made to remote northern Newfoundland, Manitoba, and Quebec, Canada. Set at twilight, early morning, or night, I was interested in the emotional resonance of the human form set in the landscape. I often used myself and my partner diaristic as subjects. Initial artistic inspiration was drawn from Hudson River Landscape painters such as Frederic Edwin Church and photographers capturing changing worlds such as Carlton Watkins and Eugène Atget

Some seminal shows were at the Winnipeg Art Gallery, with Jeff Wall and Sam Taylor-Wood (2003; catalog); solo show at Jim Kempner Fine Art, New York (2007); Gyeongnam Art Museum, Korea, with Eric Fischl, Richard Serra (2011) and John Michael Kohler Arts Center which traveled to Weatherspoon Art Museum and Addison Gallery of American Art (2012-2014; catalog). The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston acquired a landscape photograph, and my work was included in numerous art fairs, gallery shows, museum exhibitions, and benefit auctions.

Further Development and Visibility

In 2011, I began letting go of references to figures in the landscape and focused more on photographing environmental change and traces of artificial intervention at night. I had one-person shows at Smith College and the Sheldon Art Center. Saint Louis Public Radio interviewed me about my working process at night; I also gave a presentation at Webster University and was invited to the Look3 Festival. Feeling the need for a supportive, creative community, I started a Creative Arts Group, an organization for writers and artists that meets weekly, which I still participate in. 

In 2014, grants from The Artists’ Fellowship, the Haven Foundation, and the Puffin Foundation funded time and space to pursue larger landscape projects that focused more on environmental change, such as photographing the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy in Broad Channel, Queens, New York. A photograph was included in “Summertime,” published by Chronicle Books, which included Joel Meyerowitz and Martin Parr, and in a limited edition publication included in the Yale University collection and self-published two books. 

In 2015, the night photographic series became more emotive, intuitive and included additional subtle evidence of artificial light. This was developed during trips to the American West as part of artist-in-residence fellowships at The Ucross Foundation and Brush Creek Foundation for the Arts.

I published a photo-related social media project that traced the last few months of my father’s life. Investigating ephemeral moments of life and memory, each day, a photo was released on Snapchat, which could only be viewed for twenty-four hours before it disappeared.  I was commissioned by Monegraph, a blockchain creative platform, for a group of photographs.

Primordial Greenland at Night

In 2016, becoming more interested in directly tracing climate change, I photographed primordial arctic landscapes in Greenland at night supported by grants from the American-Scandinavian Foundation and Lois Roth Endowment. The Danish Embassy Cultural Attache provided further assistance too.

This trip proved to be important career development and resulted in exhibitions at the Museum of Contemporary Art Georgia and Atlanta Celebrates Photography. Additional photos were presented at the Yale Club of New York; ‘Salon,’ award-winning performance space in Philadelphia; VICE published a related article; a book dummy was developed for publication. I’ve since engaged with hundreds of journalists, scientists, artists, environmentalists, and scholars (and will continue to connect further to help with upcoming projects).

Expansion of Environmental Projects

In 2018, environmental projects continued to expand and included additional international and national locations. Sponsored by the French Ministry of Culture, I created work in Pyrenees’ vineyards centered on climate change and resulted in an exhibition that traveled to several locations in France. I was also a finalist for the Marion Foundation fellowship for a collaborative international landscape project with Carnegie Hall Composer-in-Residence and Pew Award winner Andrea Clearfield and Minneapolis-based writer Kathryn Savage. 

In 2019, I received an artist-in-residence fellowship at Prairie Ronde in rural Michigan that focused on manufactured impacts on the environment, which resulted in a one-person exhibition, a presentation, and an interview on Southwest Michigan Public Radio.

Current Work: Global and Community Impact

In 2020, I received a second American-Scandinavian grant to continue my Greenland project, but Covid prevented the execution of this trip. Last year I was thrilled to be a Fulbright Alternate for Canada, where I planned to photograph arctic landscapes. My current proposal is a substantial expansion of these.

Darkland traces the evolving environment and community in Greenland. I will photograph the landscape at night, focusing on the rapidly receding glaciers and sites of cultural change in remote Inuit settlements of East Greenland. Since statistical facts may not convey the unfolding real-world tragedy happening there, the goal is to document arctic transformation and loss. The glacial movement will be seen as subtle but vivid blurring during hours-long photographic exposures, literally capturing moving ice. I will photograph other sites of devastation, such as where individuals have taken their own lives and in settlements’ that struggle with sustainability due to population loss. Exhibitions, a book, and presentations will be shared to document these changes, and a portion of any print sales will be donated to the community. 

Working directly with other polar experts, native people, and local groups will help illustrate specific areas of transformation, with my sincere hope that this could lead to policy shifts and additional local funding to help the Inuit and other groups.  

As a visual artist, my interdisciplinary practice and in-depth research methodologies continue to expand. Future projects and exhibitions are growing in ambition, and I am excited by the prospect of expanding my horizons and challenging the public with engaging works.  

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