Patrick Ryoichi Nagatani 1945 – 2017

Patrick Nagatani against the blue sky. Photo by Patrick Nagatani

Undated photograph of Patrick Nagatani. Photo by Patrick Nagatani

It is with great sadness that the University of New Mexico College of Fine Arts, Department of Art and the Art Museum announce the death of photographer and educator Patrick Nagatani.

Patrick Nagatani was born August 19, 1945 in Chicago, Illinois to Nisei Japanese-American parents who were imprisoned in the internment camps during World War II. He was an artist who pushed the conventional boundaries of photography towards his own unique expression, a generous and devoted teacher and an indefatigable collaborator.

He earned his M.F.A. from the University of California, Los Angeles in 1980 where he studied with Robert Heinecken. Nagatani had a long interest in studio set-ups and staged photography, from his collaborative Polaroid 20 X 24 work with Andrée Tracy to his Novellas, to the Ryoichi/Nagatani Excavationsand Chromatherapy images. Beginning in 1982, he was also a “tapist,” transforming found photographs into iconic images via a palette of masking tape. Nagatani developed his campaigns over many years, refining his ideas and carefully sketching out his pictures before they were ever captured on film.

Patrick Nagatani came to the University of New Mexico in 1987, and joined the Department of Art and Art History where he taught in the internationally recognized photography program until he retired in 2007. He received many honors and awards including Visual Artist Fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts in 1984 and 1992, and a Photographer’s Fellowship from the Aaron Siskind Foundation in 1997.  That same year, he was named a UNM Regents’ Professor and in 2003 he received the New Mexico Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts. In addition, Nagatani received the Honored Educator Award from the Society for Photographic Education in 2008. He was an active member of the Atomic Photographers Guild.  His work has been exhibited, published, and collected internationally.

His photographic oeuvre includes topics from the nuclear age, archaeology, Buddhism, identity, history, literature, and aviation. In 2010 a thirty-year retrospective exhibition and monograph—Desire for Magic: Patrick Nagatani 1978-2008—premiered at the University of New Mexico Art Museum and traveled to the Clay Center for the Arts & Sciences in Charleston, West Virginia as well as the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles, California. Two earlier monographs include Patrick Nagatani/Andrée Tracey Polaroid 20 x 24 Photographs 1983-1986, (Tokyo: Gallery Min, 1987), andNuclear Enchantment, (Albuquerque: UNM Press, 1991) which received the Kraszna-Krausz Book Award. His last creative endeavor, a novel titled, The Race: Tales in Flight, was just published this month by the Albuquerque Museum and Fresco Books.

In keeping with his spirit of generosity, Nagatani recently gifted over 150 works to the University of New Mexico Art Museum that span his entire career. Of special note are the early projects: Gelatin Silver (1975-76), Chromo Room (1977), Kosmopolites (1978), Beverly Hills Party (1980) and Celesitial Earthscapes (1979-1981).

Patrick was a much beloved artist, colleague, and friend who will be missed by many people in the communities of UNM, Albuquerque, and the region.  Our thoughts and support are with his wife Leigh Anne Langwell, son Methuen, and the extended Nagatani family.

Dr. Kymberly Pinder, Dean UNM College of Fine Arts
Patrick Nagatani’s active participation in the UNM Art Department and photography community in New Mexico will provide an everlasting legacy. His significant contributions assisted in building the current national reputation of UNM’s Photography Department. Patrick’s dedication to the act of teaching and mentoring as well as his innovative artistic practice inspired countless students.
Dr. Justine Andrews, Chair UNM Department of Art
Patrick was an extraordinary person and artist. He was loved by his students and colleagues at UNM. He shared his kindness, generosity, critical eye, and beauty with everyone, and leaves an indelible mark on our entire Department. He will be greatly missed.


Arif Khan, Director UNM Art Museum
Through his photography and teaching, Patrick devoted his life to finding and sharing the deep generosity of the soul. His art revealed the location where creativity, interior life and the life of the spirit are mysteriously woven together.


Dr. Joyce Szabo, UNM Emeritus Professor of Art History
Patrick was a great artist and excellent teacher as well as a superb colleague.  He was a warm, gentle person with whom I had the honor and pleasure to work.  He was the Associate Chair of the Department of Art and Art History during my first tenure as Chair, and his engaging smile kept me grounded on those days when nothing seemed to be going right.


Patrick Manning, UNM Associate Professor of Photography and former student.
As an artist, Patrick Nagatani demonstrated an extraordinary attention to detail and craft. His works were laborious acts of generosity.  In his collages, taped works, and elaborate sets, Nagatani crafted startling original works with bountiful space and excitement for the viewer. This generosity extended into his teaching, where deep listening was the norm, victories were rewarded with excitement, and small defeats received that sideways smile, shake and tilt of the head that somehow let you know he felt your pain and everything was going to be ok.