Elizabeth Heyert


Elizabeth Heyert is an American photographer known for her experimental portrait projects. Formerly a world-renowned architectural photographer, Heyert established her reputation in the art world with her groundbreaking trilogy THE SLEEPERS, THE TRAVELERS, and THE NARCISSISTS.

After shooting around the world for publications such as The New York Times, New York Magazine, American and British Vogue, Elle Décor, and Architectural Digest, and for clients including Ralph Lauren, Cartier, American Express, and Tiffany & Co., Heyert’s abandoned her successful 20 year commercial career to return to a more personal exploration of photography. She began experimenting with unconventional forms of portrait photography. Within three years she was offered her first one-person show of THE SLEEPERS, which was an immediate critical success. Reviewing the exhibit, The New Yorker wrote that the photographs: “conjure thoughts of human fragility and impermanence even if the sleepers have become heroic sculptures rising from a deep slumber.” Sei Swann/D.A.P. published a monograph of THE SLEEPERS, with an essay inspired by the works written by the playwright John Guare.

Heyert’s obsession with sleep and oblivion led her inevitably to photograph THE TRAVELERS, a series of large-scale color post-mortem portraits. Unlike most post-mortem photographs, Heyert presents the dead as she would the living, beautifully dressed against a black background with the traditional lighting of a formal portrait. In a feature article about the works, the New York Times described them as a “peek below the surface at the vibrant, living face beneath the mask of death.” Her book, THE TRAVELERS, was named by PHOTO EYE as one of the best photography books of the year.

Heyert’s photographs are in the permanent collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, as well as numerous private collections. Her work has been extensively reviewed in leading international publications such as The New York Times, The Times London, Le Monde, and Stern and in contemporary publications such as nest, Dazed and Confused and The Drawbridge.
Her photographs have been featured in important international exhibitions: at the Hayward Gallery in London; in Darkside II at Fotomuseum Winterthur in Switzerland; in Austria in New Art/New York: Reflections of the Human Condition; in a solo museum show at the Malmo Museer in Sweden. In the Netherlands, 18 life size prints of THE TRAVELERS were exhibited as the sole inhabitants of a small island, accessible only through an ancient stone tunnel, in an installation entitled IN MEMORIAM. Her works have also been the subject of television programs by ARD Kulturweltspiegel in Germany and by TVE Spain, a National Public Radio program, and feature articles in The New York Times, Sueddeutsche Zeitung, El Mundo, and in the Swiss publications Le Temps and Femina, among others.

A short list of Heyert’s numerous books of and about photography includes: THE TRAVELERS (Scalo), the award winning book from her series; THE SLEEPERS (Sei Swann/DAP); THE NARCISSISTS (Silvana Editoriale); METROPOLITAN PLACES (Viking Studio Books/Mondadori), one of the classic anthologies of 20th century interior design which she wrote and photographed; and THE GLASS-HOUSE YEARS (Allanheld & Schram), a history of 19th century portrait photography.

In her newest series, THE BOUND, Heyert explores the nature of intimacy through photographs of a subculture of people who allow themselves to be mummified or beautifully bound in rope. Far from documenting a fetish, her monumental black and white photographs reveal the complexities of using the body as a site for experimentation and transformation. The layers go deep, involving trust, vulnerability, safety, dependence, and artistic and emotional need. Heyert shot the series in her studio, using 8 x 10 color and black and white film and a vintage Deardorff camera. The grand scale black and white photographs are traditionally made gelatin silver prints.

Heyert’s studio is in Chelsea, New York. She lives in Greenwich Village.