RIT professor awarded 2014 Guggenheim Fellowship

Gregory Halpern among select group of scholars, artists and scientists honored

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Gregory Halpern

A professor in Rochester Institute of Technology’s College of Imaging Arts and Sciences is among 178 scholars—and one of only 11 photographers—named 2014 John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellows.

Gregory Halpern, associate professor in the School of Photographic Arts and Sciences (SPAS), was selected from almost 3,000 applicants for the Fellowship, which is awarded “on the basis of prior achievement and exceptional promise.”

“I couldn’t be more thrilled about the Fellowship and couldn’t feel any luckier,” Halpern said. “When I first received the letter, I was so stunned I had to read it about five times before I actually believed it. SPAS has been so supportive and flexible in allowing me to take the time off to pursue my project, and I am incredibly grateful for that.”

As a Guggenheim Fellow, Halpern will travel to California for six to 12 months to photograph in and around the Los Angeles area. He has been traveling to the Golden State regularly since 2008, building up a significant body of work from his trips. Halpern plans to invest considerable time in the project by living in California long term and photographing there regularly before publishing the resulting work with J&L Books, an art publisher he has worked with previously. Halpern’s book is scheduled to come out by 2016.

“We are proud and deeply honored to have one of our distinguished faculty recognized this year by the Guggenheim Foundation,” said Lorraine Justice, dean of the College of Imaging Arts and Sciences. “Greg’s photographs have always represented the depth and diversity of exemplary research and innovation in both the arts and science, and we can’t wait to see his upcoming book.”

Halpern has published three books of photographs, including A (J&L Books, 2011), Omaha Sketchbook (J&L Books, 2009), and Harvard Works Because We Do (Quantuck Lane, 2003). He is also the editor, together with Jason Fulford, of The Photographer’s Playbook: Over 250 Assignments and Ideas (Aperture, 2014). Halpern earned a bachelor’s degree in history and literature from Harvard University and a Master of Fine Arts from California College of the Arts. In addition to RIT, he has taught photography at several schools, including Harvard; California College of the Arts; University of California, Berkeley; and School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. In addition to his forthcoming book of photographs from California, Halpern is putting together a collaborative book of photographs with Ahndraya Parlato, scheduled for publishing by Études later this year.

While Guggenheim Fellows receive a grant to pursue a project, the foundation does not disclose the amount. Founded in 1922, the prestigious Fellowship program is intended to “add to the educational, literary, artistic, and scientific power of this country, and also to provide for the cause of better international understanding.” The Fellowship supports individuals in mid-career “who have already demonstrated exceptional capacity for productive scholarship or exceptional creative ability in the arts.”

According to RIT’s archives, while a number of graduates have earned Fellowships dating back to 1961, Halpern appears to be the first faculty member to receive the award since CIAS professor Minor White in 1970. Frans Wildenhain, who joined RIT in 1950 as a founding member of the School for American Craftsman—now the School for American Crafts—earned the award in 1958.