Jeff Whetstone’s photographs and films imagine rural America through lenses of anthropology and mythology. Whetstone’s Post-Pleistocene photographs illuminate the depths of wild caves in Alabama and Tennessee, where layers of human markings reveal millennia of cultural evolution. His ongoing New Wilderness project portrays a human-centric American wilderness and questions how our cultural connection to the mythology of the wild is revealed in contemporary times. Whetstone’s work interrogates the stereotypes of rural people--ignorance, poverty, and self-destruction--and explores the complicated bond between people and the landscape. Whetstone’s photographs investigate the role gender, geography, and heritage play in defining the human position in the natural world.
Over the course of his academic career, Whetstone has been the recipient of numerous prizes, including a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2007. Whetstone’s work has been exhibited internationally and has received reviews in The Village Voice, the New York Times, the New Yorker, and the Los Angeles Times. Whetstone first exhibited video work in 2011 when his experimental narrative short, On the Use of Syrinx, premiered at the Moving Image Festival in New York. A second exhibition in 2011 at Julie Saul Gallery titled Seducing Birds, Snakes, and Men introduced Whetstone’s work in animation, 16mm film, and video to a wide audience. He is represented by Julie Saul Gallery in New York, and Karyn Lovegrove Gallery in Los Angeles. Whetstone earned his M.F.A. from the Yale School of Photography in 2001, where he was the recipient of the George Sakier Prize for Photography.
Jeff Whetstone was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee and entered Duke University as a Mathematics major. He describes his long arc from the Sciences to Art as an effort to complete a circle. After graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Zoology and a certificate in Film Studies, Whetstone took a position as artist-in-residence at Applashop, a documentary arts co-op in the coalfields of Eastern Kentucky. He worked for the local paper, where he may have been the only journalist in the nation to use an antique large format view camera. After receiving his Master of Fine Arts from Yale in 2001, Whetstone was appointed lecturer at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He was named full professor at UNC in 2012. Whetstone joined the Princeton Faculty in 2015, and lives in Princeton with his wife, Stephanie, a writer. They have two teen-aged sons, a hound dog, and several reptiles.