Editorial photography: Visual Culture
Academic profile: The Cooper Union


Esther Choi is a multidisciplinary artist and architectural historian whose work primarily follows two conceptual strands: first, how concepts of nature have shaped and been shaped by the aesthetic and narrative conventions of Western worldmaking practices; and second, the potential for prosaic image economies and dissemination networks to operate as spaces for cultural critique.

In her academic research and writing, she is broadly concerned with the cultural and aesthetic foundations of sensibilities on biological life, environment, and climate. Her research examines how the impulse to “design” and modernize aspects of the natural world reassigns forms of cultural production as technologies of life, intersects with the rhetoric and knowledge claims of Western science and philosophy, and contributes to the reproduction of inequality. Choi is currently a Getty/ACLS Postdoctoral Fellow in the History of Art and working on a book entitled The Organization of Life. The manuscript is based on her PhD dissertation, which was awarded the David B. Brownlee Award from the Society of Architectural Historians for its contribution to architectural history and the Richard Rogers Fellowship from Harvard University.

Her artistic projects engage formally with photography’s expanded field, while contemplating how representational conventions in the histories of photography, painting, landscape, and architecture have “naturalized” the domestication and industrialization of the natural world. A prominent aspect of her practice is the incorporation of sculptures and sets made of synthetic or engineered "natural" materials that are created strictly for the purpose of being photographed.

Choi is the creator of Le Corbuffet (Prestel 2019), an artist’s cookbook, which retools food photography to ask critical questions about image economies, history, and cultural value. The book was nominated for a James Beard Award for Photography. In 2020, she founded an artist-run knowledge sharing project called Office Hours that explores radical pedagogy as artistic practice produced by and for minoritized cultural producers. Public Service, a spin-off web series inspired by the writings of Stuart Hall, will launch in 2023.

Choi is the co-editor of two books: Architecture At the Edge of Everything Else (MIT Press, 2010) and Architecture Is All Over (Columbia U, 2017). Her essays have appeared in co-edited volumes such as Reaper (JRP Ringier, 2015) and Radical Pedagogies (The MIT Press, 2022), exhibition catalogues such as Hippie Modernism: The Struggle for Utopia (Walker Art Center, 2015), and publications such as Artforum, Architectural Review, Art Papers, PIN-UP, E-Flux, and Journal of Architectural Education.

She has participated in exhibitions at The Camera Club of New York; Angell Gallery, Toronto; Fonderie Darling, Montréal; Venice Biennale 14th International Architecture; Lisbon Triennial; Texas State Galleries; and University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Her work as a public scholar and artist has been featured in T: The New York Times Style Magazine, New York Magazine, The Los Angeles Times, 032C, Deem Journal, Dwell Magazine, Elephant, Art Review, Architect Magazine, Architectural Digest, Architectural Record, The Architect’s Newspaper, Metropolis, PIN-UP, The Globe and Mail, Tatler Asia, and more.

Choi's editorial photography has been published in T: The New York Times Style Magazine, Le Monde, Dazed and Confused, and The New York Times Magazine.

Her research and work have received support from the The Ford Foundation, Canada Council for the Arts, Richard Rogers Fellowship, The Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts, Canadian Centre for Architecture, Harvard University, Princeton University, Social Sciences Humanities Research Council of Canada, and the Society of Architectural Historians, among others.

Choi has held teaching appointments in the Departments of Photography and Criticism and Curatorial Practice at OCAD University, and in the Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture at The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art. She is currently a Mentor for NEW INC at the New Museum in New York City. Choi holds a joint PhD from Princeton University, MDes from Harvard Graduate School of Design, MFA from Concordia University, and BFA from Toronto Metropolitan University. Born in Toronto, she lives and works in New York.