After beginning a career as a painter in the mid-1980s, Paula Chamlee discovered photography and quickly found direct involvement with the world outside the studio to be irresistible. In the twenty-two years since then, she has traveled extensively, making her photographs both in the United States and abroad.
Chamlee has been the recipient of numerous grants, most recently from the Leeway Foundation for “Excellence in Photography.” Her photographs have been widely exhibited and are in numerous collections, both public and private in the United States and abroad. She is collected in over 25 museums in the United States.
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, and Madonnina. She recently completed a series of still lifes, The Bonsai of Longwood Gardens, a collaborative work with her husband, the photographer, Michael A. Smith.
Most recently, she has photographed in Baja California and in Iceland.