Joel Sternfeld (born June 30, 1944) is a fine-art color photographer noted for his large-format documentary pictures of the United States and helping establish color photography as a respected artistic medium. He has many works in the permanent collections of the MOMA in New York City and the Getty Center in Los Angeles. He has influenced a generation of color photographers, including Andreas Gursky, who borrows many of Sternfeld's techniques and approaches.
Sternfeld earned a BA from Dartmouth College and teaches photography at Sarah Lawrence College in New York. He began taking color photographs in 1970 after learning the color theory of Johannes Itten and Josef Albers. Color is an important element of his photographs.
American Prospects (1987) is Sternfeld's most known book and explores the irony of human-altered landscapes in the United States. To make the book, Sternfeld photographed ordinary things, including unsuccessful towns and barren-looking landscapes.
From 1991 to 1994 Sternfeld worked with Melinda Hunt to document New York City's public cemetery on Hart Island, resulting in the book "Hart Island" (1998).
Sternfeld has also published books about social class and stereotypes in America (Stranger Passing (2001)), an abandoned elevated railway in New York (Walking the High Line (2002)), and Sweet Earth: Experimental Utopias in America (2006).