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Bill Burke
Date: American, b. 1943
Biography:

Born in Derby, Connecticut, Bill Burke received a B.A. in art history from Middlebury College in 1966, and studied photography with Harry Callahan at the Rhode Island School of Design, receiving a BFA in 1968 and an MFA in 1970. Since 1971 he has taught at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. While he has contributed to the Christian Science Monitor and published his work in Fortune and Esquire, Burke prefers to present personal travelogue images in series in books and exhibitions. His monographs include They Shall Cast Out Demons (1983), Bill Burke Portraits (1987), I Want to Take Picture (1987), and Mine Fields (1994). He has exhibited alone and in groups at ICP and elsewhere.

Burke, who failed his draft physical, was spared the experience of many of his contemporaries who fought in the Vietnam War. Since the 1970s he has photographed his travels through Asia not to document military atrocities, but to record his personal reactions. His work reflects a fascination with historical events and sites, yet his interest is broader than the topical documentation of photojournalism. The independent spirit of works such as Robert Frank's The Americans (1959) informs Burke's approach to his subjects: he recognizes his outsider status, and the black-and-white photographs of his many trips to Cambodia are as much about the personal impact and experience of being a witness as they are about the cultures he visits. This visitor status is important: Burke makes no pretense trying to develop a photo essay with political overtones, in the tradition of American documentary photography of the 1930s.


Meredith Fisher
Handy et al. Reflections in a Glass Eye: Works from the International Center of Photography Collection, New York: Bulfinch Press in association with the International Center of Photography, 1999, p. 210.