Michael Eastman’s career spans five decades, beginning after the artist read The Daybooks of Edward Weston and practiced Ansel Adams’ zone system in his early 20s. Fascinated with the power of color to express and transform emotional states, his work from the 1970s began to focus on the power of color, surface, and patina to tell narratives; these themes are the bedrock of his rich body of architectural photographs. “For me, it is not enough to photograph beautiful architecture without a narrative element,” the artist has said. “Generally, interiors fascinate me most. Like book covers that never really tell you much about what’s inside, it is the same with architecture. The façade can be quite deceptive, in fact. It is the interior of a place, the art on the walls, the condition of the surfaces, the objects, the color, the personal mementos that all begin to tell a story about who lives there.”
Eastman’s oeuvre is diverse, spanning sumptuous Italian interiors, romantic Spanish courtyards, American ghost towns, and expansive Midwestern landscapes. Since the late 1990s, he has traveled to Havana, Cuba five times, capturing the vibrant spirit of the city in what have become some of his best-known images. Eastman’s photographs share the central themes of communicating human presence and hope, even amidst physical emptiness or major societal change, but they are also historical documents that contribute to the place’s preservation. Through his signature formal elements—a rich color palette, geometric precision, and elevation of setting to subject—these works transport the viewer in place and time. Most recently, Eastman has traveled to Buenos Aires, Argentina to capture some of the city’s most iconic interiors with surprising, colorful results.
Born in 1947 in St. Louis, Missouri, Eastman studied at the University of Wisconsin. He is the recipient of the National Endowment for the Arts Grant, National Addy Award, and a Paris Photo BMW Finalist Prize. His images have appeared in Time, Life, Art in America, New York Times, and American Photographer. Eastman’s work is in numerous private and public collections, including San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, CA; Art Institute of Chicago, IL; High Museum of Art, Atlanta, GA; Saint Louis Art Museum, MO; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, CA; International Center of Photography, NY, and The Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY. His photography has been included in exhibitions at the J. Paul Getty Museum, CA; Tampa Museum of Art, FL; Pizzuti Collection, OH; Oklahoma City Museum of Art, OK; Kemper Museum, MO; and Montclair Art Museum, NJ. His publications include Havana (Prestel, 2011), Vanishing America (Rizzoli, 2008), and Horses (Knopf, 2003). Eastman currently lives and works in St. Louis.