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About Joan Liffring-Zug Bourret

Joan Liffring-Zug Bourret was a photographer for over thirty years before becoming a publisher. She founded Penfield Press in 1979, followed by Penfield Books in 2001, which includes all books published and distributed by Penfield Press. “Premiere Iowa woman photographer of this century” was the reference to Joan at a special ceremony held by the State Historical Society of Iowa acknowledging her gift of over 500,000 black and white negatives and color images now archived in the Society’s collection.

Her photographs are in many collections, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art which holds two from her “Women 1957-1975” series. Exhibitions of her work have been held in many museums and galleries: the New York City Camera Club, Iowa Art museums and others. A retrospective of her work has been on tour in Iowa since 1996 and at a museum in Freeport, Illinois in the spring of 2000.

Joan’s documentary photographs were instrumental in the 1960s civil rights movement, leading to open housing and employment in Cedar Rapids and Muscatine, Iowa. She was elected to the Iowa Women’s Hall of Fame in 1996; she is also included in the Who’s Who of Iowa Women, and in a thesis about women newspaper photographers in America by Margaret Thomas, University of Texas, Austin. Joan says, “I am an explorer trying to find aesthetic truths to share, whether the subject is a person, people, social situation, or nature. There is a visual unity possible and a visual spirit to discover.”

Joan’s October 2022 death was front page news in Iowa. In March 2023 she was posthumously awarded the Governor’s Art Award in the Arts Legacy category, by Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds and the Iowa Arts Council.