Barry Lopez was born in 1945 in Port Chester, New York. He grew up in Southern California and New York City and attended college in the Midwest before moving to Oregon, where he lived on the McKenzie River from 1968 until his passing in December of 2020. He was an author, essayist, and short-story writer, and traveled extensively in remote and populated parts of the world.
Lopez was the author of Arctic Dreams: Imagination and Desire in a Northern Landscape, for which he received the National Book Award in 1986; Of Wolves and Men, a National Book Award finalist in 1978, which was awarded the John Burroughs and Christopher medals; and eight works of fiction, including Light Action in the Caribbean, Field Notes, and Resistance. His essays are collected in two books, Crossing Open Ground and About This Life. He contributed regularly to Harper’s, Granta, The Georgia Review, Orion, Outside, The Paris Review, Manoa, and other publications in the United States and abroad. His most recent books were Home Ground: Language for an American Landscape (2006), a reader’s dictionary of regional landscape terms, which he edited with Debra Gwartney; Outside (2015), a collection of six stories with engravings by Barry Moser; and Horizon (2019).
In his nonfiction, Lopez wrote often about the relationship between the physical landscape and human culture. In his fiction, he frequently addressed issues of intimacy, ethics, and identity. Lopez, who was active as a landscape photographer prior to 1981, maintained close ties with a diverse community of artists. He collaborated with the composer John Luther Adams on several theater and concert productions, spoke at exhibitions of the work of sculptor Michael Singer and photographer Robert Adams, and wrote about artists Alan Magee, Lillian Pitt, and Rick Bartow, and potter Richard Rowland. Fine press limited editions he collaborated on include Apologia and The Letters of Heaven, both with artist Robin Eschner; The Mappist and Anotaciones, with book artist Charles Hobson, and Six Thousand Lessons with designer Sandy Tilcock.
Lopez was a recipient of the Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters; the John Hay Medal; Guggenheim, Lannan, and National Science Foundation fellowships; Pushcart Prizes in fiction and nonfiction; the St. Francis of Assisi Award from DePaul University; the Denise Levertov Award from Image magazine; and honors from the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, the Association of American Geographers, the New York Public Library, The Nature Conservancy, and the American Society of Magazine Editors. In 2002, Lopez was elected a Fellow of The Explorers Club, and in 2020, he was awarded The Sun Valley Writers’ Conference inaugural Writer in the World Prize in recognition of his singular voice in the landscape of English literature.
In 2001, Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas, acquired Lopez’s papers as part of the foundation of The Sowell Family Collection in Literature, Community, and the Natural World. Lopez and Harvard University biologist Edward O. Wilson worked together to design TTU’s Environment and the Humanities degree program, and in 2003, Lopez was appointed the university’s first Visiting Distinguished Scholar.