David Akiba (born in Boston on October 7, 1940) began his photography journey in his high school camera club and set up a makeshift darkroom in his childhood bedroom in Winthrop. In 1969, after receiving a B.A. in Political Science from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, serving three years in the U.S. Navy, and working as a reporter in Beverly and Quincy, he began formal study with Ben Lifson at Project, Inc., Cambridge. In 1970, Minor White selected three of Akiba’s photographs for exhibition at the Hayden Gallery, MIT, and publication in Aperture. Akiba returned to school to study with Harry Callahan and Aaron Siskind at the Rhode Island School of Design and received a M.F.A. in 1973. He held numerous academic positions, most recently at Babson College and Emerson College.
Akiba lived in the Jamaica Plain neighborhood of Boston with his wife Jane. He had six children: Daniel, Jonah, Rachel, Samuel, Isaac, and Abigail.
Over his career, Akiba worked in several formats (including the photocopier) but primarily 35mm and 70mm film cameras. In later years, he used a digital micro four/thirds camera. Akiba recognized the importance of predecessors, in addition to Callahan and Siskind, such as Alfred Stieglitz, Paul Strand, Edward Weston, Robert Frank, Diane Arbus, and Walker Evans. He cited 19th-century photographers Carleton Watkins and Gustave Le Gray as powerful influences on his feel for the landscape. Akiba’s aesthetic was shaped, too, by the work of Paul Cezanne and Edvard Munch, as well as Chinese calligraphy and poetry of the Tang and Song dynasties.
Akiba is represented in the collections of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, MA; Boston Public Library; Library of Congress, Washington, DC; Museum of Modern Art, New York; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Brooklyn Museum; Rose Art Museum, Brandeis University, Waltham, MA; deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum, Lincoln, MA; Addison Gallery of American Art, Phillips Academy, Andover, MA; Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, RI; Center for Creative Photography, The University of Arizona; and Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, CT, in addition to numerous corporate and private collections.
Highlights of Akiba’s exhibitions over five decades include a solo exhibition at the Creative Photography Gallery, M.I.T. (1975); Photographs from the Emerald Necklace, Photographic Resource Center, Boston University (1987); David Akiba: Landscape Photographs 1982-1992, Rose Art Museum, Brandeis University (1992); David Akiba: Photographs from the Collection of the Boston Public Library, Wiggin Gallery, Boston Public Library (1998); From a Distance: Approaching Landscape, Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston (2000); MIT’’s Dean Gallery Show in 2000; Luminous Form: Abstraction in Color Photography, deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum (2004); A Separate Journey, Weill Gallery, 92nd Street Y, New York (2005); In Plain Sight, Gallery Kayafas, Boston (2009); Knot This Broken Thread, Alibi Fine Art, Chicago (2010); From the Wings, Chase Young Gallery, Boston (2014); and Cool Medium: Art, Television & Psychedelia, 1960-1980, deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum (2017).
Akiba published several books, including Received on Earth (2016); Every Shadow Has a Name: nine meditations on the landscape (2017); Sunday Morning (2018); and From the Wings: Photographs from the Boston Ballet’s Fiftieth Season (2018). They can be purchased online at MagCloud.