Luke Powell Bio

Light and Water
"Light and Water"
Water storage house, Heret, Afghanistan
December 1974
Dye Transfer Print 
© Luke Powell, 1996
The Afghan Folio: Photographs by Luke Powell 
Luke Powell's web site 

February 17 - April 22, 2005

Luke Powell was born and raised in North Carolina; he graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1969. While at Yale Divinity School he took painting under Bernard Chaet. He then spent twelve years traveling in Asia and Europe. He spent hundreds of hours studying and making small drawings in the Louvre in the early 1980's. Southern Song, Seventeenth Century Dutch, Barbazon, American "lumanist," and Japanese Ukiyo-e landscapes were important influences. Also important has been the influence of the color and balance and proportions of tribal rugs from Central Asia. From 1973-82 Powell worked in Asia, Europe, and the Middle East building sets of photographs. In 1983 he settled in Vermont and began to learn to print for himself with the legendary dye transfer process, a fine color printing method he used until 1997.

His most popular images are landscapes, intimate and tranquil scenes that almost always contain small figures. He combines traditional landscape concerns with flatter, often horizonless views and chooses pre-industrial subjects like Afghanistan that have topical relevance. When a book of his work was published in Paris the press dubbed him a "peace photographer," because the serene nature of his images, and because these were often taken in lands now associated with violence. 

Ladies of Kandahar
"Ladies of Kandahar"
Kandahar, Afghanistan
December 1974
Dye Transfer Print
© Luke Powell, 1996

Powell has had over 100 solo exhibitions in over 30 states and six Canadian provinces from major museums like the Smithsonian's Sackler Gallery and the Royal Ontario Museum to small art centers. His work has been shown in Russia at Manesh Hall, in Germany at the Fotographie Forum Frankfurt, and at the United Nations in Geneva.

The most popular works by Luke Powell have been included in The Afghan Folio, a sequence of 32 dye transfer prints that reveal the culture and people of Afghanistan before the long civil war or the period of the Taliban and American bombing. In the fall of 2000 Powell returned to Afghanistan to photograph the minefields, minefield victims, and effected communities for UNAUSA in Taliban controlled areas and human rights images for UNOCHA in areas controlled by the Northern Alliance.