Ahndraya Parlato
Untitled from the series Inscapes, 2009

20 in H x 24 in W
Catalogue Number
Current Location

About the Artist

Ahndraya Parlato

BirthplaceKailua, HI
CitizenshipUnited States
Light Work RelationshipLight Work Grant, 2011
Light Work Hallway Gallery, 2011


Ahndraya Parlato was born in Kailua, Hawaii. In 2002 she received a B.A. in photography from Bard College and in 2005 she received an M.F.A. from California College of the Arts. Her work consists of large-format, color photographs that explore the ambiguous nature of reality, often revealing the uncanny or magical in everyday life. She has forthcoming books with Twin Palms Press and Études Books. Her work has been exhibited at ClampArt and 9W Gallery in New York City, the Helsinki Biennal, and the International Fashion and Photography Festival in Hyéres, France. Her work was also included in the Humble Arts Show 31 Under 31: Women in Art Photography, as well as in Never Been to Tehran, which showed consecutively in eight countries around the world. Ahndraya's work was nominated for the Paul Huff Award from the FOAM Museum in Amsterdam and the SECA Award from the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and in 2011 she received a grant from Light Work. Her work has been published in a number of books, including New American Landscapes, Smoke Bath, and a Collector’s Guide to Photography, as well as in a number of magazines, including Nylon, Wallpaper, Untitled Magazine and Vidvinkel. In 2008, she created and curated Art for Obama, a show/fundraiser that included the work of over sixty photographers, including Richard Misrach, Katy Grannan, Philip-Lorca DiCorcia, Larry Sultan, and Wolfgang Tillmans.


Light Work awards three grants each year to photographers, critics, and photo historians who reside in Central New York.  The Light Work Grants in Photography program aims to foster an understanding and appreciation for photographic arts in the area and is an important part of Light Work’s ongoing effort to provide support and encouragement to artists working in photography. The Thirty-Seventh Annual Light Work Grants in Photography were awarded to Neil Chowdhury, Danielle Mericle, and Ahndraya Parlato.

Each recipient of the Light Work Grant receives a $2,000 cash award and an exhibition at Light Work. With the help of the grant, artists have been able to continue long-term projects, collaborate with others, purchase equipment, print and frame photographs for exhibition, promote their work, and continue working toward their goals.

Neil Chowdhury (Syracuse) submitted work from his series Waking from Dreams of India, which incorporates photography, video, audio, and photomontage. The series chronicles his journeys, physical and imaginative, as he explores and comes to terms with his Indian heritage. During his first trip to India he was able to locate his family’s home—the property had been left in the care of Chowdhury’s grandfather’s servant, Chari. Chari’s extended family lived in huts on the property, and the first floor of the house was inhabited by squatters. Since that first trip, he has returned to India several times to continue to photograph for the project. 

Chowdhury received his BA from Fairhaven College and his MFA from the University of Washington. His work has been exhibited in group and solo shows internationally. He is an assistant professor of photography at Cazenovia College. 

Danielle Mericle (Ithaca) won the grant for her series The Principle of Limiting Factors. In her words, the work “interweaves photographs and video of disparate subjects . . . to meditate on the tenuous state of knowledge and the cyclical nature of history.” The work depicts file boxes slated for destruction, trees and tree rings, and more unusual subjects such as Greco-Roman casts undergoing restoration. Although the items may seem to have no connection at first glance, they all allude to our view of the past. Her images question the accuracy of history in which some documents survive and others don’t, ask whether restored pieces are authentic, and illustrate the strangeness of the idea of nature living through monumental cultural movements, wars, and more. The work speaks to the complex relationship between history, knowledge, and power. 

Mericle’s photography has been exhibited nationwide. She is the author of Seneca Ghosts, noted by Alec Soth as one of the top ten photography books of 2008. She lives and works in Ithaca, NY. 

Ahndraya Parlato (Ithaca) describes her images as a way to explore “how we structure our personal worlds and imbue them with a sense of direction, purpose, and security, when, in fact, we control very little.” Her work looks at how people constantly attempt to shape their lives and worlds into a controllable and ordered place, a goal they will never fully achieve because there are things in life that are “truly unknowable” and uncontrollable. Parlato is interested in the instances where we fail to fit things into controlled spaces, and when “moments of illogic, magic, mystery, and whimsy that lie just below the surface of ordinary life are revealed by instances of rupture and chance.” 

Parlato received her BA in photography from Bard College and her MFA in photography from California College of the Arts. Her work has been exhibited around the world in solo and group exhibitions and in publications. She is currently a visiting assistant professor in the School of Photographic Arts and Sciences at Rochester Institute of Technology. 

Light Work would like to congratulate all of the winners of the Thirty-Seventh Annual Light Work Grants in Photography and extend a special thank you to our judges: Adam Magyar, Tate Shaw, and Michael Tummings.

Adam Magyar is a photographer whose work has been featured in exhibitions internationally. His work is included in the permanent collections of the Deutsche Bank, Hong Kong Heritage Museum, and Bidwell Projects. 

Tate Shaw is the director of Visual Studies Workshop, a center for the media arts with an MFA program in visual studies. He is co-publisher of Preacher’s Biscuit Books in Rochester, NY, and an artist with work in most major collections for artist’s books and has written essays, reports, and reviews on artist’s books and photography. Shaw has an MFA from VSW and a BA from William Jewell College in Liberty, MO.

Michael Tummings has traveled throughout his life, most recently to photograph various kinds of hunting parties for his ongoing series Hidden. His photographs are the product of a sustained immersion into diverse cultures. He participated in Light Work’s Artist-in-Residence Program in March and April 2011. 

Jessica Reed