Mostly self-taught in photography, Olivia Parker usually constructs what she photographs in the studio. Her photographs are fundamentally still life inspired by those painted in the traditional Dutch, Flemish and Spanish 17th century style, with their torn petals, sumptuous but imperfect fruit and improbable insects. Parker feels that photographic still life is still an open arena precisely because of those intrinsic qualities of this contemporary medium that distinguish it from painting. She says that the expression of the classical ideals of form is "dead matter" because the objects she chooses to photograph, whether alive or dead, are instead all signs of life. She is drawn to the implication of visual edges; the swollen limits of a ripe pear touching a hard line or light downy feathers, confined by a metal grid. Her photographs ask viewers to continually evaluate their meaning by never truly defining where the eye comes to rest.
After graduating from Wellesley College in 1963 with a degree in Art History, Olivia Parker began her career as a painter. She became intrigued with photography in 1970.
She originally began by working exclusively in black-and-white, using large format cameras: 8 x 10" up to 12 x 20", then turned to Polaroid and Cibachrome materials and returned to painting and creating elaborate preparations and background materials for her individual images. All her work is composed and shot on copystand. In the last five years, she has employed digital technologies but continued with the same concerns she has dealt with throughout her career.
Olivia Parker has had more than a hundred one-person exhibitions in the United States and abroad, and her work is represented in several major private, corporate and museum collections.