Class of 2016: The Photographers to Know Now

This year's batch of Yale MFA graduates is giving us a glimpse into the future of photography. We take a look at some of their most exciting and experimental work, on view in a new exhibition at New York City's Danziger Gallery beginning this week. Let's go!

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Yale University's School of Art has famously turned out some of the most important and interesting artists in recent history: Eva Hesse, Robert Mangold, Brice Marden, Chuck Close, and Wangechi Mutu are all counted graduates of the Masters of Fine Arts program.

For a young photographer, it's hard to go wrong with a program that was once headed by icon Walker Evans, and that now has Gregory Crewdson, celebrated for his cinematic style, at its helm. It's no wonder New York City's Danziger Gallery wants to give these artists their first post-grad show.

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"It's always interesting to see what is happening at the start of young photographers' careers," says gallery director James Danziger, who has put on five exhibitions of work with the Yale Photography MFA graduating class. When looking at each new class' body of work, Danziger tells Sweet that he asks himself, 'What, if any, are the general directions shared among the group? What parts of recent photographic history do they embrace and what parts do they turn their back on?' 

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In watching Reviver—the 2016 edition of the gallery's Yale MFA show—come together, Danziger noticed an experimental streak through this entire class, as the graduating artists look to movements unfolding in mediums outside of their own. "The work of this class is informed by currents in art other than straight photography," he reflects. "Student work has to be part of the evolution of the medium, and that's what makes shows like this interesting."

Now, let's take a look at some of the best work from the next generation of innovative photographers!

Adam Pape

Style: Poetic photojournalism.

In His Own Words: "This winter two Eagles came to New Haven for the first time in three decades to build a home," Pape tells Sweet. "I followed these birds—both a national symbol and in some ways a cliché—and I found a neighborhood filled with citizens that were equally captivated with them, a neighborhood building and changing as these birds orbited around it."

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Cole Don Kelley

Style: Candid and vaguely surreal—a look at the absurdity of the everyday.

Eli Durst

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Style: A highly researched commentary on the human condition.

In His Own Words: Shooting this series at various community spaces around Connecticut—recreation centers, church basements, and office parks—the Texas-born artist writes in his artist statement that he hopes "to create a unified symbolic space in which people come together in search of a sense of purpose and identity in a world that is often resistant to optimism."

Eva O'Leary

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Style: Striking, bright portraiture that uses techniques from commercial photography but still airs on the side of the surreal.

In Her Own Words: "Over the last two years, I've been collecting and remaking personal snapshots culled from social networking sites," O'Leary writes in her statement. "The resulting photographs combine the impersonal aesthetics of advertising with an emotional private world…. These photographs were made in response to capitalism's contradiction; promising individualism while ignoring the individual."

Drew Brown

Style: Stark black-and-white images, often capturing geometric patterns and contrasting shadows. A unique perspective on portraiture.

Monique Atherton

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Style: Noted for the ambiguous, yet somehow personal narratives in her work, which she describes as "uncanny and surreal."

In Her Own Words: "The work that I am showing at Danziger Gallery was born out of my time working at a photo studio, as well as my neighborhood, which is near a number of salvage yards and car body shops," Atherton tells Sweet. "I also work with performance, sculpture and installation. By incorporating these other mediums, my aim is to subvert the traditional way in which photography is viewed."

Robin Myers

Style: Collaged imagery with a highly personal theme.

In Her Own Words: "My family has been plagued by serious medical issues and traumas over the past few years, which has made me hyperaware of my own body and the organic vulnerability of it," writes Myers in an artist statement. "I have always wanted to be a surgeon—to access and see inside something that you can't normally see…. Photography parallels surgery in this way by allowing access to the unseeable."

Sara Cwynar

Style: Experimental images using found images and objects. Explores digital versus analog production—a still-life photographer for the modern age.

Ye Weon Mary Kim

Style: An exploration of personal history through recomposed landscapes.

In Her Own Words: "My series 'Emotionally Yours' was made in various parts of the world [including the Dominican Republic, South Korea, and New Haven, Connecticut]," Kim tells Sweet. "The natural world is the crux and source for the creation of this series. For me the land reflects human consciousness in the current world we live in."

Reviver will be on view beginning tomorrow through June 30. Find out more at

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