Photographer Chris Payne ’86 Documents Martin Guitar-Making for The New York Times

Alumnus and renowned architectural photographer Chris Payne’s subjects have range. Chris has chronicled—in large format documentation—some of America’s most venerated industrial heritage, from New York City substations to Steinway pianos, from pencil-manufacturing in New Jersey to abandoned mental hospitals across the country. On November 28, Chris’s work was featured in The New York Times Magazine in “How to Build a Guitar”, a feature for the monthly publication The New York Times for Kids that explored the Martin Guitars factory to share “how humans and machines make music.”

Chris was one of five alumni artists who visited campus in January 2020 as part of RL’s 375th Anniversary celebration, contributing to an alumni art exhibit and meeting with students in classes throughout the day. Several of his images from the General Pencil Company in Jersey City, New Jersey, were featured in that exhibit. A self-described “city kid,” Chris has always had an eye for urban architecture; while a student at RL he studied obscure buildings and explored almost every inch of the Boston subway system. Chris earned degrees in architecture from both Columbia and UPenn. His training as an architect led to his fascination with design, assembly, and the built form. His photography celebrates the craftsmanship and small-scale manufacturing that perseveres in the face of global competition and evolutions in industrial processes. Chris has been awarded grants from the Graham Foundation, the New York State Council on the Arts, and the New York Foundation for the Arts. His work has been featured in publications around the world and several times in special presentations by The New York Times Magazine.