Elisabeth Sunday Biography

Elisabeth Sunday




Photographer Elisabeth Sunday was born in Cleveland, Ohio in 1958 into a family of artists. Her father was artist and designer Douglas Phillips, believed to be the first and only Black American to operate his own stained-glass studio between 1952 and 1995; her mother Jane T. Spangler was an Oakland, CA-based sculptor and ceramicist; and her grandfather was Cleveland School painter Paul B. Travis. As a child her family moved to the San Francisco Bay Area, and Sunday called Oakland home for many years. Her grandfather gave her a camera at age fifteen and she was soon participating in high school art shows. She then formally studied photography at Humboldt State University (now California State Polytechnic, Humboldt), graduating in 1979.

In 1980 Sunday moved to Paris and opened her own photography studio, where she focused on figurative studies and portraiture. She developed a technique she dubbed "field mirror photography" involving a large format camera and a mirrored contraption of her own design that would warp the subject's reflection, which she would shoot. Armed with this new experimental medium, she began traveling throughout Europe and the American Southwest photographing flora specimens in botanical gardens and deserts.

In 1986 she took her mirror photography to Africa, where she got to know various indigenous peoples and invited them to be photographed in environments and with objects of their choosing. She continued this visual study of indigenous people throughout the 1990s and into 2012. 

Sunday has exhibited widely throughout the U.S. and Europe, and she currently divides her time between Africa and Normandy, France. Her work is in the collections of the Los Angeles County Museum, CA; the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; the High Museum of Art, GA; the Houston Art Museum, TX; the Cleveland Art Museum, OH; and many others.