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Photography professor wins prestigious Guggenheim fellowship

Dorinth DohertyDornith Doherty, professor of photography in the College of Visual Arts and Design, has been awarded a fellowship from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation — making her one of 181 scholars, artists and scientists to receive the prestigious award in the 88th annual competition.

The fellows — representing the United States and Canada — were chosen from a field of about 3,000 applicants. Doherty plans to use the fellowship to complete her Archiving Eden project — in which she uses X-ray machines at international seed banks to photograph seeds and cloned plants. She then incorporates the X-ray images into digital collages.

Doherty began Archiving Eden in 2008, inspired by the construction of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault in Oslo, Norway — dubbed the “doomsday vault” — to secure the world’s seed collections from natural disaster or catastrophe. She visited the National Center for Genetic Resources Preservation in Fort Collins, Colo., and the Millennium Seed Bank in Sussex, England, where she used the on-site X-ray machines to photograph seeds and plants. In 2010, she was one of only a few people allowed to visit the remote Svalbard vault, where she took documentary-style photographs. With the Guggenheim Fellowship, she plans to expand her project by photographing important national seed banks in Australia, Brazil and Russia.

“The dual nature of Archiving Eden, which includes view camera and X-ray photographs made concurrently, serves to illuminate the complexity of the issues surrounding the role of science, technology and human agency in relation to gene banking,” Doherty said.

“In this era of climate change and declining biodiversity, seed banks play a vital role in ensuring the survival of genetic diversity in wild and agricultural species,” she said. “Archiving Eden is dedicated to bringing attention to this important and timely issue.”

Doherty, who joined the UNT faculty in 1996, was named one of the first faculty fellows of the Institute for the Advancement of the Arts in the 2009-2010 academic year.

“It is such a pleasure to have Professor Doherty on the faculty,” said Robert Milnes, dean of the College of Visual Arts and Design. “We are all very proud of her and her work. She is a constant innovator and dedicated member of the faculty and university community.”

Her work is in numerous permanent collections, such as the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, the Yale University Library and the Museet Fotokunst in Odense, Denmark. 

She also has received grants from the Fulbright Foundation and the United States Department of the Interior, among others.

Above, Doherty outside the Svalbard Global Seed Vault.

Posted on: Mon 16 April 2012

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