After graduating from Wellesley College with a degree in Art History, Olivia Parker began to make and photograph ephemeral constructions in 1973. Represented in major private, corporate and museum collections, including the Art Institute of Chicago, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, The Hirshhorn Museum, The Peabody Essex Museum and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Parker’s work has been published in four monographs and in numerous magazines in the United States and internationally. She has had over 100 solo exhibitions in museums and galleries in the United States and abroad. Also, she has lectured extensively and conducted many workshops. In 1996 she received a Wellesley College Alumnae Achievement Award. Residencies include Dartmouth College, The Aegean Center for The Fine Arts, MacDowell Colony, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, and Cassilhaus. In 2022, Lesley University awarded Parker with an Honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts.
A skiing accident in 1995 ended Parker’s view camera photographs. Unable to work in the studio or darkroom for a year because of a shattered leg, she experimented with computers and digital software. As software and equipment improved, fine images and stable prints evolved. Although Parker misses making silver prints, new ways of photographing with digital cameras have opened worlds. “Digital allows me total freedom to experiment without worrying about film usage or precise camera set up. In the beginning, view camera work was, however, a much better teacher for me than digital would have been. It made me slow down, consider image edges and think about the dynamics of what falls between the edges.”
In 1987 Parker said in the introduction to a book of her photographs, “I am interested in the way people think about the unknown… New ideas form, the old are shattered, and sometimes old ideas pop up again among the new like graffiti on a wall. All is uncertainty and change, but optimists and bingo players are on the lookout for moments of perfect knowledge and perfect cards.” At present, Parker is working on a series of photographs on Alzheimer’s called Vanishing in Plain Sight. These images are Parker’s speculations as to what happened in her husband’s mind as he was overcome by the disease.