John Pfahl was born in New York on 17 February 1939. He was raised in Wanaque, New Jersey.
He received both his BFA and his MA from Syracuse University. An acclaimed professor of photography, Pfahl was a full Professor at the Rochester Institute of Technology and has for many years been a Visiting Professor at the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque. His early series, “Altered Landscapes,” has had a lasting impact on contemporary photography’s view of optical and spatial
Pfahl’s major retrospective, A Distanced Land: The Photographs of John Pfahl was organized by the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in 1990 and toured to Chicago, Los Angeles, and Atlanta. He received an Honorary Doctorate from Niagara University that same year. His work is included in all major collections of photography, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art; Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, Canada, and more.
Pfahl was an early adapter of new digital photographic procedures both in printing and for digitizing his negatives. He resides in Buffalo, New York with his wife of fifty years, the artist Bonnie Gordon.