Christopher Felver (born October 1946) is a photographer and filmmaker who has published several books of photos of public figures, especially those in the arts, most notably those associated with beat literature. He has made numerous films (as director, cinematographer, or producer), including a documentary on Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Ferlinghetti: A Rebirth of Wonder
, released in 2013.
Christopher Felver has photographed numerous writers, intellectuals and filmmakers such as Charles Bukowski, William Burroughs, Noam Chomsky, Gregory Corso, Clint Eastwood, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Allen Ginsberg, Dennis Hopper, Oliver Stone, Elizabeth Taylor, Hunter S. Thompson and Kurt Vonnegut.
His photography has been exhibited internationally, with solo photographic exhibitions at the Arco d'Alibert, Rome (1987); the Art Institute for the Permian Basin, Odessa, Texas (1987); Torino Fotografia Biennale Internazionale, Turin, Italy (1989); Centre Georges Pompidou
, Paris (1994); Roosevelt Study Center, Middelburg, Netherlands (1998); Fahey/Klein Gallery
, Los Angeles (2002); the Maine Photographic Workshop (2002); Robert Berman Gallery
, Los Angeles (2007); the San Francisco Public Library (2018) and other galleries and museums.
His works have also appeared in major group exhibitions, including The Beats: Legacy & Celebration
, New York University (1994) and Beatific Soul: Jack Kerouac On The Road
, New York Public Library (2007). A collection of his photographs is held by the University of Delaware.
Christopher Felver is a cultural documentarian. His distinctive visual signature is a lasting contribution to the legacy of our national cultural community. Felver’s films & photographs reads like a roster of American mid-century avant-garde.
Aside from portraits, Christopher Felver has also produced another body of work entitled: Ordered World
. About this body of work, curator, James Crump writes, “Mr. Felver celebrates the elemental essences manmade and natural objects that tend to elude observation. Working in a manner not unlike Karl Blossfeldt, Albert Renger-Patzsch and the New Objectivity artists of 1920s and ’30s Germany, Felver asserts his own contemporary vision here. His pictures are informed by Minimalism and the keen, reﬁned observation of a poet unwilling to discard the mundane or topical content that surrounds us but, nevertheless, is overlooked in the quickened pace of our technologically frenzied age. The series, while concerned with monumentalizing and focusing our attention on the ordered and structured surfaces of objects, resists any historical referencing to the hardened gaze of the twentieth century. It asks the viewer to ruminate on the overlooked beauty which surrounds us, the wonderment that unfolds, with careful and reﬁned examination.”
In 1994 Felver attended a Connecticut gathering of Native American dancers in ceremonial dress. These 20 photographs capture a traditional gathering of Northeastern tribes in Felver’s direct portrait style.
As visiting artist in 1988 & 1989 at the American Academy in Rome, Christopher Felver made over 250 portraits of European artists across the continent. Felver’s 1350 portraits represent American and European cultural icons. In 1984 Christopher Felver traveled as a journalist to Japan, Hong Kong and Beijing documenting the customs and social conditions.
Writers Lawrence Ferlingetti, Robert Creeley, David Amram, Amiri Baraka, George Plimpton, David Shapiro, Luc Sante, Lee Ranaldo, William Parker, Douglas Brinkley, Gary Snyder, Lance Henson, Linda Hogan and Simon Ortiz have written introductions for Christopher Felver’s books.
"With his gravelly voice, Felver would have made a great gumshoe in a mystery serial during the Golden Age of American radio, which ended around 75 years ago. Luckily for us, he did not miss his calling, which is to take portraits of the people who make up the cultural backbone of America — its artists, writers, composers, and musicians — people in the public eye, even if that audience is tiny."
"Felver didn’t just take a photograph, as each portrait is accompanied by a short poem or line of poetry written by the subject in his or her own hand. He finds another way to be a witness."
"I cannot think of another person who has given us such intimate portraits of Sherman Alexie, Amiri Baraka, Louise Erdrich, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Allen Ginsberg, Joy Harjo, Eartha Kitt, Jasper Johns, Toni Morrison, Patti Smith, and Anne Waldman. He has made photographic portraits of Native American writers, and of composers and musicians from John Cage and Doc Watson to Mavis Staples and Ozzy Osbourne. He spent a week in Nicaragua in early part of 1984 with Lawrence Ferlinghetti, five years after the 1979 July revolution there. The photographs in Felver’s book, The Late Great Allen Ginsberg (2002), were taken between 1980 and 1997, in which various other people make appearances: Philip Glass, Ray Manzarek, Ed Sanders, Norman Mailer, Robert Frank, and Gary Snyder."
"Each of these projects reveals another side of Felver’s capacity to engage with others and the world, as well as to stand aside and let his subjects speak. I cannot think of anyone who has been as devoted as Felver has been to his subjects. Perhaps it is time we find a way to return that devotion."
-- John Yau