Biographical / Historical
Jan Faul was born in Port Chester, New York in 1945. His family moved frequently, living in Washington, D.C., New York, Boston, Denver, Toronto, Strasbourg, and Bern, Switzerland. In Bern he received his first camera as a gift for his fourteenth birthday. He returned to the United States and completed high school in Washington.
In his late teens Faul met Roy Stryker, legendary director of the Farm Security Administration documentary photography project, who suggested that he spend time looking at photographs in the Library of Congress which he did, concentrating on the F.S.A. files. Influenced by his artist parents, Faul studied art history and graphics in college, hoping to become a printmaker, but had begun to support himself with photography by the time he graduated from The George Washington University in 1969.
The "immediacy" of photography and other aesthetic considerations in addition to the financial ones finally led to Faul's abandonment of printmaking and commitment to photography. Since 1970 he has been a self employed photographer, working in landscape, still life, and portraiture. He documented the lives of poor people in the U.S. from July 1970 to March 1971 for the Office of Economic Opportunity. In summer 1971 he photographed scenes of rural poverty for the Appalachian Regional Commission. A grant from the Upjohn Institute for American Labor Studies in 1974 supported his photographic documentation of American workers and changing work habits. In the summer of 1975 he worked for the Smithsonian, portraying the locksmen and pilots of the St. Lawrence Seaway. Further grants and contracts for documentary photography followed, including the 1976 Smithsonian Festival of American Folklife.
Faul moved to Copenhagen, Denmark, in 1979, and there worked on commercial accounts for Esso, Polaroid, and others, while continuing to pursue a variety of personal photographic projects. He returned to the Washington, D.C., area a decade later.
The photographer's career has included commercial work and contractual documentary projects, as well as the sale of photographic prints as art to private collectors and sales and donations to institutions. Fourteen photographs were donated to the Division of Photographic History of this Museum in 1970, and his work is in the collections of the Royal Museum of Art in Denmark, The Library of Congress, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, George Eastman House, the Toledo Museum of Art, the Corcoran Gallery of Art, the Oakland Museum, and others. He has received a number of awards, and has been included in a number of group and solo exhibitions. He has received an artist's residency at Yaddo for 1992 1993. Additional biographical information, including a bibliography, is on file in the Archives Center.