Jeff Burk was drawn to the arts at an early age while growing up in Oklahoma City and Columbia, Missouri. He tried his hand at drawing, painting and music with some success. Ultimately, Burk found his muse in photography.

    Burk began using a camera at 8 years old. His first course in photography was at the Interlochen Arts Academy in Michigan. He went on to receive both BFA and MFA degrees in the field at the Kansas City Art Institute and Indiana University, respectively. Intending to become a college level instructor, he instead found himself following a technical path as a high-end black and white darkroom printer in Chicago and later, overseeing operations from management positions. He went on to teach and manage the photography facilities at the College of DuPage. Now retired, Burk lives in Kansas City, Missouri.

    Burk has shown his photography in both solo and group exhibitions throughout the U.S., including the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Leedy-Voulkos Art Center, and Haw Contemporary (all in Kansas City, Missouri); Albrecht-Kemper Museum of Art (St. Joseph, Missouri); Edition One Gallery (Santa Fe, New Mexico); Detroit Center for Contemporary Photography (Michigan); Photographic Center Northwest (Seattle, Washington); Barrett Art Center (Poughkeepsie, New York); Club Soda (New York City); Walker Point Center for the Arts (Milwaukee, Wisconsin); and the Indiana University Art Museum (Bloomington).

A PDF file of my full CV is here.

What I Photograph

    I expect one could easily discern my photographic influences range from Walker Evans to Robert Frank to Lee Friedlander to the New Topographics group. But I continue to expand my knowledge of photo history through monographs and theoretical essays. Additionally, I am a tenacious student of American history, with an emphasis on Mid-America. Less obvious inspirations include some work by painters like Edward Hopper, Hans Hoffman and Richard Diebenkorn, and a particular fondness for Joseph Cornell’s boxes.

    My schooling gave me a chance to try different genres and techniques of photography. Besides portraiture and conceptual series and installations, I sought out absurd contradictions in the man-made environment. This last straight style led to plain documents of unusual and overlooked scenes, revealing the iconography and characteristics of American culture. As I continue these approaches, my aim is to provoke thought, leaving interpretation open to the viewer.

    Making photographs has always been about careful observation, slowing down long enough to really assess the world that we made for ourselves. For many years I worked exclusively with black and white film. Those pictures mostly depicted overlooked scenes that became metaphors for what I was feeling about the Midwestern America where I grew up.

    In the last few years I've transitioned into digital color photography. While I still prefer to explore the little-seen side of rural America, my vision has shifted into a more evocative stance showing evidence of that culture in transition and decline. Previously active communities are left to degenerate into shells of their former vitality as centers of local commerce.

    I still choose to not show people in these scenes, allowing a viewer to inhabit the picture and reach their own personal conclusions about what is shown.

    Back when I was shooting black and white film (35mm, 6x6, 6x7, 4x5), I had a more expansive approach, picturing most anything that looked interesting.

Using Format