Edwards, Beth Yarnelle

Beth Yarnelle Edwards, San Francisco CA, USA

Beth Yarnelle Edwards has been making photographs in suburban middle-class settings in America and in Europe since 1997.  Her work has been exhibited and published extensively in the US and Europe, and she has been the subject of solo museum exhibitions at Château D'Eau in Toulouse, France, the Museé de la Photographie å Charleroi in Belgium, and The Oakland Museum of California.  Exhibitions in Iceland, Ireland, and Poland are planned for 2014.
The winner of CENTER's 1999 Photography Project Competition, Edwards' photographs can be found in the collections of SFMOMA, LACMA, the Museum of Fine Arts Houston, and many other American and European institutions.  She is the winner of the Wallace Alexander Gerbode Foundation Visual Arts Award, the Ruttenberg Arts Foundation Award, and the Salon International de la Recherche Photographique (France).    
Edwards' first monograph, Suburban Dreams, was published by Kehrer Verlag (Germany) in 2011 and was selected for PDN's Photo Annual 2012
Beth Yarnelle Edwards received a Masters of Fine Arts in Photography from San Jose State University in 1998.  She currently lives and works in San Francisco, California.

Traveling Far to Arrive at Home

Sometimes, I’m so interested in what’s going on with people in their homes that I want to know what’s in the closet or under the bed.  In my photographs I aspire to tell the viewer not just about what can be seen, but also about things that are hidden and locked away. 

In 1997 I began photographing in the suburbs of Silicon Valley, where I had lived for many years.  The idea for this may have come from looking at the work of August Sander, but also of Diane Arbus.  To understand my surroundings I needed something like the systematic purpose of a catalogue, but a flexible one that would allow me to capture elements of the weirdness and sheer delight that seemed to exist everywhere completely unnoticed.  Commenting on my surroundings, however, has never been a goal.  What has mattered the most is my ability to photograph from the inside of this world, intimately, to erase barriers to discovery.  While my subject matter is not unique, I think of myself as different from other photographers who have done similar work in that I don’t fear an intimacy with my subjects will blunt my critical faculties.  It is more interesting and challenging if both I and the viewer are deeply implicated in the moments I try to record.  It is where both photographer and viewer might feel most compromised that discovery becomes possible, that unexpected archetypes might arise.

My original project provided me with a working method which I realized could succeed in other places, so I expanded my catalogue to include middle and upper-middle class subjects in France and Spain.  I've recently completed a commission in Holland, and I have been invited to do an artist residency in Germany this spring.  I’m fascinated by how, in an era of increasing globalization, one can travel very far into the secrets of distant people’s lives only to arrive at home.  For this reason, I see my work as a continuum even if it was made in widely different places.


San Francisco Museum of Modern Art Los Angeles County Museum of Art
Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas New Mexico Museum of Art, Santa Fe, NM
The Oakland Museum of California The Harry Ransom Collection, Austin, Texas
The Ruttenberg Foundation Collection, Chicago The City of Seattle, Washington
Musée de la Photographie à Charleroi, Belgium Museet for Fotokunst, Odense, Denmark
Château d’Eau, Toulouse, France Biblioteque National de France
Museu da Imagem, Braga, Portugal The Noorderlicht Collection, The Netherlands
Galerie Le Lieu, Langon, France The Center for Photography at Woodstock
Visual Studies Workshop Researcjh Center The Crocker Art Museum, Sacramento, CA