Joseph Sterling

Joseph Sterling (1936-2010) began photographing by age eleven, in his native Texas.  Inspired by a teacher and a single photograph by Harry Callahan that he saw in a magazine, Sterling left his home state and Texas State College in 1956, transferring to Chicago and the Institute of Design.  There he studied under Callahan, Aaron Siskind, and Frederick  Sommer, receiving his B.S. in 1959 and then his M.S. in 1962. Sterling’s Master’s  thesis was called “the Age of Adolescence,” a heartfelt but technically rigorous photographic essay describing the hope, energy and uncertainty that defined the world of American working class teenagers – created within the aesthetic framework of pattern and design taught at the ID (and the Bauhaus before it).   The Age of Adolescence: Joseph Sterling Photographs 1959-1964, was published by GreyBull Press in 2005, with an essay by David Travis, then Curator of Photography at the Art Institute of Chicago.  It included additional work created after the thesis was accepted, incorporating elements of the all-important Beatles invasion.  In school, Sterling’s immediate circle included artists Joseph Jachna, Charles Swedlund, Kenneth Josephson and Ray Metzker. Collectively, they were known as the “ID 5,” and the young men shared the distinction of appearing together in a special issue of Aperture magazine known by that title. After graduating, Sterling pursued a career from 1960 to 1990 as a magazine and corporate/industrial photographer, for which he won numerous awards.  During this time he traveled widely and continued to pursue his personal photography.  Sterling also helped establish the photography department at Columbia College of Chicago and has taught and lectured at both the Institute of Design and The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Among other publications, Sterling’s work has appeared in Aperture magazine and Time-Life’s “This Fabulous Century.”  His photographs can also be found in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, New York, George Eastman House, The Art Institute of Chicago and the Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago.