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John M. Opera

John M. Opera

(b. 1975)
Born: Buffalo, N.Y., U.S.

John M. Opera is a Living Legacy Artist at the Burchfield Penney Art Center.



John Opera is a photographer and educator born in Buffalo, N.Y,. He was based in Chicago, Ill For more than a decade and returned to Buffalo in 2017 to teach at the University at Buffalo. He received his BFA at SUNY New Paltz (1998) and his MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (2005). He has exhibited his work nationally and is included in various collections, among them the Museum of Contemporary Photography (Chicago, Ill.), O’Melveny & Myers LLP (Los Angeles, Cal.), the Burchfield-Penney Art Center (Buffalo, N.Y.), and the Ruth Horwich Collection (Chicago). He is the subject of a 2009 monograph published by Aperture Books under the auspices of Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Photography. He is represented by Andrew Rafacz Gallery in Chicago, where, as of 2013, he has had four solo exhibitions.

Throughout his career, Opera has turned to early photographic techniques that are no longer in common usage, including, in the early 2000s, the pinhole camera, and more recently the cyanotype and anthotype. His diverse body of work has included landscapes, abstractions, and a series shot in Western New York inspired by the paintings of Charles Burchfield.

A passage in a 2002 review by Buffalo News critic Richard Huntington describing the artist’s aesthetic holds true for much of his subsequent work as well: “… Opera explores photography as a synthetic expression potentially free of the limits of the depicted world and yet somehow still dependent on it. This play between photography’s vaunted ability to capture the real and the artist’s freedom to deny that realism is what makes [his work] so compelling.” [1]

Opera has taught at Daemen College in Amherst, N.Y. and, in Chicago, Columbia College, Wilbur Wright College, the Art Institute of Illinois, the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and University at Buffalo.

For more information on John Opera, visit
Click here for a conversation between John Opera and artist Heidi Norton about his anthotypes and other subjects. 

[1] Richard Huntington, “3 Artists, 3 Views,” The Buffalo News, 03/01/2002.




John Opera was interviewed for the Living Legacy Project on December 31st, 2014.