About Janet Sternburg



Janet Sternburg is a fine art photographer, a writer of literary books, a maker of theatre and films, and an educator.

Since 1998 when she began taking photographs, her work has appeared in Aperture (2002), that same year on the cover of Art Journal, and in 2003 in The Utne Reader (“A New Lens,” 2003), selected as one among international artists and writers who “with depth, resonance, ideas and insights, challenge us to live more fully.” A monograph of her photographs,Overspilling World: The Photographs of Janet Sternburg, was published in 2016-17 by Distanz Verlag (Berlin) with a Foreword by Wim Wenders in which he writes, “Photographers don’t have eyes in the back of their heads. Janet Sternburg does.”.

Characterized as the work of a visual poet, her photography has also been written about extensively in addition to Wenders, in essays by art historian Pepe Karmel, cultural critic Joern Jacob Rohwer, neuroscientist Antonio Damasio, philosopher Jane Bennett, poets Eric Gudas and Molly Peacock, curator Alexandra von Stosch, author/scholar Jack Miles, and editor/curator Alessandra Mauro, among others.

Solo shows include New York, Los Angeles, Berlin, Milan, Munich, Mexico and Korea, where she received a commission for a full-building installation at Seoul Institute of the Arts. In 2018, the USC Fisher Museum of the Arts presented her solo show LIMBUS. She pioneered in the use of disposable cameras to create images in which elements interpenetrate, a visual world without borders.

Her literary books include the classic two volumes of The Writer on Her Work, (W. W. Norton, First book 1981; Volume 2, 1991; 20th Anniversary edition, 2000; still in print). Sternburg's papers for The Writer on Her Work have been acquired by The Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas, Austin. Other critically praised books followed, among them Phantom Limb (University of Nebraska American Lives Series, 2002) and White Matter (Hawthorne Books, 2016), memoir/essays on family, neurology, and history. In 2005 Red Hen Press published her collection, Optic Nerve: Photopoems. (go to janetsternburg.com, her literary site, for descriptions, excerpts, reviews of her life in writing)

Other creative work includes co-producer of El Teatro Campesino, a feature length documentary on the Chicano theatre troupe (1969), for National Educational Television and selected for the New York Film Festival at Lincoln Center; her Cine Golden Eagle award-winning film Virginia Woolf The Moment Whole (1971); followed by a National Endowment Scriptwriting Award to travel to England and meet with all the remaining people of Bloomsbury as well as Woolf's biographer, as well as Strachey's and Nicholson/Sackville West biographers and her play, The Fifth String (2011-2014) about pre-and post-Expulsion cultures, produced in Berlin, Pact Zollverein Essen, LaMama Experimental Theatre Club, New York, and Los Angeles.

Sternburg lives in Downtown Los Angeles’ Little Tokyo, and San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. She has been the recipient of many grants, fellowships and artist residencies, among them, from the Djerassi Resident Artist Program and The MacDowell Colony. She has taught in the Graduate Media Program at the New School University, and in the Critical Studies School at the California Institute of the Arts. In 2016 she was co-recipient of the REDCAT AWARD, given to individuals who exemplify the creativity and talent that define and lead the evolution of contemporary culture.  In 2022 she was a winner of the Julia Margaret Cameron Award, accompanied by a group exhibition at the Barcelona Biennial. 

Most recently, in 2021 Distanz Verlag (Berlin) has published a new monograph,I’ve Been Walking: Janet Sternburg Los Angeles Photographs.

Following I've Been Walking, she made many in-person presentations as well as online podcasts; many of these can be found on line when you Google Janet Sternburg. Currently she is at work on a book of her Mexican photographs.