“Sternbach makes her photographs in tintype, a labor-intensive technique little changed since it’s invention in the 1850s. Spontaneous and unpredictable, the streaks and tonal variations in the finished photographs reflect their hand-made character, the corners rubbed where they were held in the camera.


Posing on rocky outcrops, in front of uprooted trees, or on thick mats of woody flotsam, Sternbach’s surfers inhabit strange landscapes. The best of Sternbach’s photographs convey insistent longing. They are about relationships – the relationship between surfer and board, between human and landscape, between photographer and subject, and between the surfers themselves…she has discovered a new sort of home – a place without walls, defined only by belonging and the physicality of existence.”

Joni Sternbach is an American artist, photographer, and filmmaker. Over the course of a career spanning many decades, her portrait-based work explores a variety of themes, including domesticity and the family, and sexuality and the body. Issues of gender, identity and feminism were the most critical themes in her early work from the 1980s-1990s, where the female figure—including her own— was a central motif.


In her current work, Sternbach experiments with a variety of historic photographic processes and is best known for her wet plate collodion tintype portraits of surfers and surfboards, made around the globe.


Sternbach received her BFA in Photography from the School of Visual Arts and a MA from New York University and International Center of Photography, where she taught for over a decade. She is an advisory board member and founding faculty at Penumbra Foundation in NYC, where she currently teaches.


Sternbach’s work is held in many international and public collections including the LACMA, The High Museum, National Portrait Gallery in London, Joslyn Museum, MOCA Jacksonville, Nelson Atkins Museum, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. She is the recipient of several grants including NYFA and CAPS and Santo Foundation.


She is represented in Los Angeles by Von Lintel Gallery, in London by Black Box Projects, in Cornwall by Circle Contemporary, in Paris by Galerie Hug and in East Hampton, New York by Arc Fine Art

Installation shots

Surfboard – Monograph 2020
Keeper Of The Hearth by Odette England
High Tide Montauk Point, artist book 2019
Surfing by Jim Heimann published by Taschen 2016  
The Memory of the Future, published by Musée de l’Elysée edited by Tatyana Franck 2016  
Surf Site Tin Type, published by Damiani Editore – Monograph 2015
The Passengers published by Cafe Royal Books 2014
Promise Land published by Cafe Royal Books 2013
The Photograph Not Taken by Will Steacy 2012
Face to Face: Ocean Portraits by Huw Lewis-Jones 2010
SurfLand, published by Photolucida essay by Phillip Prodger – Monograph 2009
Pleasures and Terrors of Domestic Comfort by Peter Galassi – published by MOMA 1991