Paula Chamlee, photographer and painter, returned to college in the 1980s, majoring in the visual arts, to finish a degree she had begun in the 1960s in the performing arts. She earned a B.F.A. in painting in 1988. During this latter part of her college career, she discovered photography and quickly found direct involvement with the world outside the studio to be irresistible. In the thirty years since, she has traveled extensively, making photographs both in the United States and abroad. Chamlee has been the recipient of several grants, including a major grant from the Leeway Foundation for “Excellence in Photography.”
Her photographs have been widely exhibited in museums and galleries and are in numerous collections, both public and private in the United States and abroad. He work is collected in over thirty-five museums in the United States, including the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego, Cleveland Museum of Art, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Philadelphia Museum of Art, and Library of Congress. She has taught workshops in photography in the U. S., Austria, Germany, Tuscany, England, France, Iceland, and Australia.
Her first book, Natural Connections: Photographs by Paula Chamlee, consisting of photographs and writing about the natural landscape, was published in 1994 and established her reputation as a highly original artist working within the classical tradition of straight photography.
In Chamlee’s second book, High Plains Farm, published in 1996, she looked to her roots and photographed and wrote about the farm where she grew up on the High Plains of the Texas Panhandle. One critic called High Plains Farm “one of the genuinely significant contributions to photography and landscape study in many a year,” while another described it as “epic in its vision and intimate in its humanity.”
Her third book, San Francisco: Twenty Corner Markets and One in the Middle of the Block, published in 1997, takes a look at the uniqueness of small, family-owned markets amidst the larger, faster-paced commerce of a big city.
In 2004 she published two books of photographs from Tuscany: Tuscany: Wandering the Back Roads—Volume I, with an essay by Robert Sobieszek, Curator of Photography at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and Madonnina with an essay by Steven Maklansky, Director of the Boca Raton Museum of Art.
In 2008 she was commissioned to photograph Chicago, and a book of her Chicago photographs, Chicago: Lake, was published in December of 2009.
Chamlee’s latest book, Iceland: A Personal View, Volume I, essay by Jens Rasmussen, Curator of Photography at the National Museum of Photography in Copenhagen, Denmark, is being published in spring of 2015.
In addition to her still photography, Chamlee made her first film, Flow, from footage made in Iceland in 2006 and 2010, and is currently working on new films from Iceland.
More recently Chamlee has returned to working in the studio, photographing still lifes in black and white and a series of flower arrangements, From the Field, in color. She has also been making works on paper with drawings, paintings, and collage.