Jerry Burchfield, 1947–2009

Jerry BurchfieldJerry Burchfield, a renowned photographer, educator, curator, author, and environmental artist, died on September 11, 2009. He was 62 years old.

Burchfield was a highly prolific artist who was committed to social and environmental causes, often collaborating with other artists, students, and the community. In 1973, with Mark Chamberlain, he opened BC Space in Laguna Beach, California, a pioneering alternative gallery that he curated until 1987, when he became a professor at Cypress College. He taught and curated exhibitions at the college until 2009, where he was a widely influential and beloved professor. In 1980, along with Chamberlain, Burchfield initiated the Laguna Canyon Project, documenting a nine-mile stretch of natural landscape in Orange County, California, leading to the ocean that actively engaged the surrounding community. This project halted commercial development plans along the route and ultimately led to its designation as a wilderness park. Of his many interests were alternative photographic processes, and he developed Lumen printing, a method using out-of-date silver halide paper that created stunning, unique prints. He used this process to document flora of the Amazon rain forest, printing on the bow of his boat, resulting in the book Primal Images: 100 Lumen Prints of Amazonia Flora in 2004, published by the Center for American Places. This was one of twenty publications he authored. In addition to his own artwork, he founded The Legacy Project, an ongoing, collaborative group project documenting the conversion of the El Toro Marine base in Orange County, California into a park, as well as The Laguna Wilderness Press, publishing environmental projects. His work with The Legacy Project also resulted in the creation of the world’s largest pinhole camera and largest photograph. His photographs, performances, and installations were in more than sixty international solo exhibitions and more than five hundred group exhibitions since 1973. Among numerous awards were grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, Polaroid Corporation, and a lifetime achievement award from Artists for a Better World. His work is in major collections including the Los Angeles Museum of Art, Bibliotheque National, George Eastman House, Chicago Art Institute, and many others. He is survived by his wife Barbara and son Brian and lives on in the memory of thousands of friends and students. Burchfield’s influence and importance are difficult to overstate; his work can be seen at www.jerryburchfield.com.

Thomas McGovern
San Bernardino, California

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