In Memoriam: Wendy Snyder MacNeil 1943–2016

Wendy Snyder MacNeil (1943–2016)


Renowned photographer and filmmaker Wendy Snyder MacNeil passed away on July 20, 2016, at her Lincoln, Massachusetts, home.

Snyder MacNeil was born in Boston in 1943. The Snyder family spent three years in New York City before moving back to Massachusetts in 1946. There, Snyder MacNeil went on to attend Milton Academy, where she studied drawing and painting under the tutelage of American artist Elizabeth Saltonstall.

Originally studying History at Smith College, Snyder MacNeil delved into photography during her studies at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, in workshops facilitated by Bartlett Hayes and Gordon “Diz” Bensley. She then went on to join MIT’s Creative Photography Program, newly established by respected photographer Minor White, and graduated with an MAT in Visual Studies in 1967.

Well-known for her experimental work in photography and film—especially portraiture and documentary images—Snyder MacNeil enjoyed a prolific career that spanned two decades. Over the course of that time she honed her skills, developing a highly engaged, humanistic approach with regard to both her subjects and viewers. She was awarded fellowships by the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts, and her work was included in numerous exhibitions and publications. Snyder MacNeil’s notable platinum-palladium print work has been collected by the Museum of Modern Art and Metropolitan Museum in New York City, the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, Texas, the Museum of Fine Arts in her native Boston, as well as the Davis Museum at Wellesley College.

Snyder MacNeil also worked tirelessly as an educator, first at Abbott Academy in Andover, Massachusetts, and later at Wellesley College and the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD). During her teaching career, Snyder MacNeil fostered the talent of countless students who went on to receive artistic acclaim in their own right. Her protégés included Wendy Ewald and Francesca Woodman from Abbott, and Natalia Almeda, Sally Gall, Justin Kimball, George Lange, Jon Miller, Christina Seely, and Sylvia Wolf from RISD.

The Ryerson Image Centre in Toronto, which gained possession of Snyder MacNeil’s archive of works in 2007, recently commemorated her achievements with the exhibition and catalog The Light Inside: Wendy Snyder MacNeil, Photographs and Films.

Angela Freeman is a New York-based writer, designer, and enthusiast of creative expression.

[Ed. note: Harriet Riches’s review of the exhibition can be found in Afterimage 43.6, May/June 2016. You can find a link here.]


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