Philip Heying is a photographer living in Matfield Green, Kansas, born in 1959 in Kansas City, Missouri. He developed his love for photography at a young age, learning the craft of black & white film and print development while in middle school. In 1983, he graduated the University of Kansas with a BFA in Painting.
During his college days in Lawrence, he was introduced to William S. Burroughs
and embarked on a friendship which lasted until Burroughsʼs death in
1997. Welcomed into his circle of friends--including such people as Albert
Hoffman, Allen Ginsberg, Brion Gysin and Timothy Leary--he found himself the
beneficiary of singular artistic insight and guidance. Burroughs showed him how
art could effect real change, how it could influence human perception and cultural
patterns. During this time, his artistic focus shifted from painting to photography.
He felt photography is less subjective and arbitrary than painting.
In 1985, eager for new experiences, he crossed the Atlantic on a coal freighter and
made his way to Paris. For the first time in his life, he was in a place where he didn't
speak the language. He immediately became aware of the limitations of language
and how to proceed without it. He eventually became fluent in French and familiar
with the symbols and customs of France.
In late 1986, he returned to Kansas City and took work as a commercial
photographer and printer. He was motivated to enhance his professional skills and
build his portfolio. He joined the Kansas City Society for Contemporary
Photography, a highly active, regional organization of serious artists. In 1987, he
sold his first prints to a wealthy collector in Los Angeles who hung them in her
meditation room. The next day, he sold a print to Timothy Leary at his house in the
Hollywood Hills. They both paid cash.
In summer 1987, William S. Burroughs asked him to collaborate on an art project.
At his direction, he took pictures which Burroughs then collaged into his paintings.
Back in Paris in 1988, he presented his landscape pictures to gallerist Agathe
Gaillard in Paris and she gave him a show, his first solo exhibition which opened
in February 1989. The success of the exhibition--good sales and positive
reviews--led to a six-month residency at the Cartier Foundation in Jouy-en-Josas,
outside of Paris. He sold five prints to the Bibliotheque Nationale at the end of the
year, and in May of 1990 he had a second solo exhibition at La Societe Francaise
de Photographie. He decided to stay in Paris.
Over the next seven years, he held solo exhibitions at Galerie Anita Neugebauer in
Basel, Switzerland, and again with Galerie Agathe Gaillard in Paris, 1996. He
established a robust commercial clientele, including the International Herald
Tribune, Liberation, Le Monde, Conde Nast publications, Art News, Art in
America, and a number of advertising agencies. He learned how to navigate a
precarious business and refined his technique.
He returned to the U.S. in 1997, settling in Brooklyn, New York. A friend put him in
touch with the Irving Penn studio and he was hired as an assistant. For four years,
he worked primarily on the final preparation of negatives for large-format, platinum
prints, and with print finishing and retouching. By 2001, he had become busy as a
freelance editorial photographer, working for The New York Times Style
Magazine, Details, BlackBook, GQ, Penthouse, and the Wall Street Journal,
among others. After he no longer worked at the Penn studio, he would visit with Mr. Penn over the next seven years. In Spring 2003, he participated in Sylva, an international group show at Ariel Meyerowitz Gallery.
For the next five years, he worked on a series of pictures, begun in 1990, intended
to be published as a book titled CODE, inspired by conversations with Albert
Hoffman and William S. Burroughs. It was completed in 2008. To date, he has
completed five book projects with the the sixth in the works. These projects allow
him to experiment with new forms of storytelling through photography.
He returned to Kansas in the fall of 2008, to be closer to family and to pursue a
long-held idea for the series Unimproved Land in Northeast Kansas, a
photographic survey of the energetic ecological processes visible in the
Midwestern landscape in the absence of human intervention. The pictures show
the unstoppable vital forces of the regional environment. To see ecosystems
rapidly re-establish equilibrium after having been disrupted by human activity
gives him hope. The Dolphin Gallery in Kansas City exhibited the completed
series in 2011. Works from this well reviewed show sold to area collectors and
the Microsoft Art Collection.
Between 2010 and late 2019, he taught photography at Johnson County Community
College in Overland Park, Kansas: "Introduction to Digital Photography" and
"Advanced Large-Format Photography," averaging 30 students per semester.
Also in that time, he completed a series of photographs titled Within a Two-Mile
Radius for One Year; printss from this series were acquired for the
permanent collection of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.
He recently completed work on A Visual Archaeology of the Anthropocene from Eastern Kansas to the High Plains, a project addressing the extraordinary power and consequences of human influence on the ecology of his home region. Since the completion of this project, he has moved to the town of Matfield Green (population 46) in the center of the Flint Hills tallgrass prairie to pursue a long term project exploring the potent complexities of the culture and stunning environment found there.