Born in Manhattan, New York in 1939,Melissa Shook grew up in the white middle-class neighborhood of Port Washington on Long Island. When she was 12 she lost her mother, and this and subsequent events led to a rare type of memory loss of her entire childhood. On her 20th birthday, when she was a student at Bard College, her father gave her a Pentax camera. She started taking photographs but didn't become serious about it until she took the course "Photography of Human Behavior" by Columbia University lecturer Paul Byers. Byer's theory that photographs reveal something about the photographer impressed her.

At Bard, Shook met Darryl Clegg the father of her daughter Krissy. In around 1964 Shook began photographing Darryl and then Krissy from age one. When her daughter was three, Shook went back to finish her education at Goddard College, Vermont, where she met photographer, Will Faller. He and his wife Marion, also a photographer, and their son "Little Will" lived in Lower Manhattan as did Melissa and Krissy, and the two families became close friends. Shook used Faller's darkroom and with his help improved her darkroom skills.

In 1972, while teaching photography at a private high school and several colleges, Shook committed to documenting herself daily in her apartment, sometimes with her daughter, friends, and pet cat. Her insecurity as a single mother raising a biracial child and her obsession to keep her memory vivid and intact for her daughter were the main drives for this artistic mission. Over the next 8 months, Melissa developed a remarkably fertile personal landscape.


Her work, published in Camera 35 Magazine, attracted the attention of MoMA curator John Szarkowski, and he purchased a dozen prints for their collection in 1975. The following year, Shook moved to Boston, in part to raise her daughter in a better environment, and got a job as the first female photography instructor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In 1979 she joined the Arts & Art History Department at the University of Massachusetts, Boston, to teach photography for 31 years, leaving an indelible mark on generations of students.


1974-1977  Creative Photography Lab, MIT, Cambridge, MA.

Associate Professor, Art Department, University of Massachusetts, Boston.

(Continued teaching photography part-time through 2012.)


Solo Exhibitions


Aging, -  The Trustman Art Gallery, Simmons College, Boston, MA.


(A panel discussion, "Perspectives on Aging: Perspectives on

Dying," was sponsored by Simmons Institute for Leadership and Change and the Department of Art and Music.) 


Streets Are For Nobody: Photographs and Excerpted Interviews of 

  Homeless Women In Boston, Cleveland and Tucson - Towne Art Gallery, Wheelock College, Boston, MA. (Presentation by Melissa Shook and members of Roofless Women Action Research Mobilization, March 8.)
1993  Street Are For Nobody - Metroland Medical Center, Cleveland, OH
  (photographs and excerpted interview text;) Mandel School for Applied Social Sciences, Case Western Reserve, Cleveland, OH; Ohio University, Lancaster, OH ("Homeless Women Speak Symposium." May;) Hamilton Williams Campus Center, Ohio Wesleyan University, 

Delaware, OH; The Ocasek Building Artium, Akron, OH; Lorain County Community College, Elyria OH ("Homeless Women Speak" symposium, March 29, 1993)

1992 Streets Are For Nobody - Mather Gallery, Case Western Reserve 
  University, Cleveland, OH. (photographs and excerpted interviews. Sponsored by the Federation for Community Planning and the George Gund Foundation. "Homeless Women Speak" symposium, October 9,1992)

Streets Are For Nobody, Homeless Women Speak, (photographs, 


excerpted wall-text interviews and video) - Mills Gallery, Boston Center for the Arts, Boston, MA.

(64 page catalogue of photographs and edited interviews)

1990  1701 James Street - Mather Gallery, Case Western Reserve, 
  Cleveland, OH.
1989  1701 James Street - Onondaga County Public Library, 
  Syracuse, New York 
1986 Krissy - Work Space Gallery, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO.
1978 Krissy - Foto Gallery, New York, NY.
1976 Krissy - MIT Creative Photo Lab Gallery, Cambridge, MA.
1975 Daily Self-Portraits, Photographs and Drawings - MIT Creative Photo 
  Lab Gallery, Cambridge, MA 
1975 Melissa Shook (daily self-portraits) - Foto Gallery, New York, NY.


Group Exhibitions


An Elevated View: The Orange Line - Wiggin Gallery, Boston Public Library. Boston, MA


Pictures by Women: A History of Modern Photography - Museum of Modern Art, New York.
2010 Ater Till Verkligheten - Arbetets Museum, Norrkoping, Sweden
2009 Reality Revisited: Photography from the Moderna Museet Collection - Moderna Museet, Stockholm, Sweden.
  Taking a Different Tack: Maggie Sherwood and the Floating Foundation of Photography - Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art, State University of New York, New Paltz.
2005 Essex Art Center Annual Juried Show - Essex Center, Lawrence, MA. 
  (Showed 80 clay small clay nude female figures from “Clay,” with a grid of digitally printed self-portraits.) Won one of six juror prizes judged by Howard Yeserski.
2002 Show: The Flag - Armory Northwest Gallery, Pasadena, CA. 
  (A grid of five digitally printed images from each of the eight members of
 2002 6 months/a memorial - Photographic Resource Center, Boston, MA.
  (A web-based collective response to 9/11, a project started by Sally Stein and Melissa Shook, involving images from seven photographers around the country.
2000 Photography in Boston: 1955-1985 - DeCordova Museum, Lincoln, MA.
1997 Making Pictures:Women and Photography, 1975 - Now, In dialogue: New England Women and Photography ー Bernard Toale Gallery, Boston, MA.
1994 Time Recorded: Reflections on Aging - Spaces, Cleveland, OH 
  ("I'm a Day Older, Aging's Issues: Health, Family and Freedom, Panel Discussion.)
1994 View From a Small Opening: An exhibition of contemporary pinhole photographs 
   Eastern Michigan University, Ypsilanti, MI 
1993 Family Matters: An Exhibition of Works by Sally Mann, Vince Leo, Melissa Shook and Philip-Lorca diCorcia
  Northlight Gallery, School of Art, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ. (catalogue)
1993 Melissa Shook, Joseph Rodriguez - The Department of Photography, 
  Tisch School of the Arts, New York University, New York, NY.
1993 Anxious Art -  Bernard Toale Gallery, Boston, MA.
1992 Ways to See: New Art from Massachusetts - The Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, MA
   (with video tape and documentation and artist book, Displacement)
1990 Seven Photographers on Transportation - State Transportation Building, Boston, MA. (catalogue)
1987 Along the El,  (The Orange Line Project) - State Transportation Building, Boston, MA.
1987 Along the El, (The Orange Line Project) - The Boston Public Library, Boston, MA.
1985 A Human Portrait: Five Contemporary American Photographers," Shelby Lee Adams, Debbie Fleming Caffery,

Mark Goodman, Ken Light and Melissa Shook - Zoller Gallery, Penn State School of Visual Arts, Penn State University, State College, PA.


Twelve on 20x24

  (Premier installation of touring exhibition of 20x24 Polaroid photographs, program coordinated by the Museum School Gallery), Boston, MA. (catalogue)
1984 Massachusetts Photographers: 1984, (Exhibition of 33 photographers sponsored by The Cambridge Arts Council)
  Federal Reserve Bank Gallery, Cambridge, MA.
1981 Se dig om i gladge (six photographers) - Fotografiska Museet
  Moderna Museet, Stockholm, Sweden. (catalogue)
1979 A Photographic Exhibition by the Four Faculty members of the MIT Creative Photography Lab - MIT, Cambridge, MA
1978 Tusen och en bild - Fotografiska Museet, Moderna Museet, Stockholm, Sweden.

Photography: Recent Acquisitions 1974-1976 - Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY.


Hollis Frampton, Nostalgia; Robert Hout, Diary Paintings; Melissa Shook, Daily Self-Portraits, 


Colgate University, Hamilton, NY.


Three-Person Show - Soho Photo Gallery, New York, NY.


Recent Special Projects

In 2011 and 2012, I videotaped interviews for the Bread and Roses Centennial Celebration, sponsored by the Lawrence History Center and the Essex Art Center for exhibition in Lawrence, MA. And also exhibited a grid of 100 small drawings and text from Bruce Watson’s book about the history of the Bread and Roses Strike.

In 2010 and 2011, I worked on grass roots projects and have had three shows about local issues in alternative venues. “The Community Garden,” at the Chelsea City Café, “Harvest Celebration,” an extensive exploration of activities at the Chelsea Senior Center, sponsored in part by a Community Fund Grant, and “A Season in the Garden,” sponsored in part by a LCC Massachusetts Cultural Council Grant, at the Chelsea City Café. Along with color, digital photographs, I made numerous videotapes about activities in the Chelsea Community Garden and at the Chelsea Senior Center that were shown on Chelsea Cable TV.


Video Work


  A website devoted to interviews by folks who work on the backside of Suffolk Downs, 2006-2014.
  An interactive documentary about George Brown’s Thoroughbred breeding farm in Rohoboth, MA.
2013 Jimmy Sullivan – and that, too

A video about Jimmy Sullivan’s

recovery from profound memory loss after he was gay bashed in the early 1980s when he was a transvestite drug using and selling prostitute and his subsequent long and difficult recovery from almost all of his additions.

2011.    Kemper and Me
  A video in which two seventy-year-olds, Kemper and me talk about our different memories, experiences, needs when I had an abortion before Roe v Wade and we were briefly married.
2008 Identity, Have Some
  Improvisations by Kristina Shook, concerning assumptions about ethnic identity.
2007 How to Fight, a portrait of Joyce Watson

A video about my friend from Guyana who worked three somewhat menial jobs to support her son and daughter and lived in a superindendent’s apartment in a wealthy section of Greenwich Village.

Topics: race, education, expectations for children, money and class.


Additional Short Videos: Miriam, 2015; A Visit with Lee Loebelenz, 2014; Nance Comes to Visit, 2013


Homage to Sid Caesar; Porcelain Boxes; Nathan and NY; Krissy and her Grandparents; Drawing Upon; Bedrock


Writing (Selected)

2014.   He Says, She Says, I Say, and Nobody Tells the Truth, Whatever That Is, on the Backside of Suffolk Downs
  A narrative by Melissa Shook, Turning Point.
2012 My Suffolk Downs 
  30 poems and 19 black and white photographs, Pressed Wafer and Kat Ran Press, Boston, MA.
2010 The Real Story 

a chapbook, 28 poems, Finishing Line Press, Georgetown, Kentucky. “Magritte’s Rider,” a chapbook, 30 poems,

Pudding House Press Chapbook Series, Columbus, Ohio 

2010 Near 
  Ellen La Forge Memorial Poetry Foundation: honorable mention, Boston, MA.
2004 The Real Story
  Family Reunion, Poems about Parenting Grown Children, Chickory Blue Press.



2012 LCC Massachusetts Cultural Council Grant, Chelsea, MA.
2011  LCC Massachusetts Cultural Council Grant and a Chelsea Community Fund Grant, Chelsea, MA.
1999 -1981      various grants from the University of Massachusetts, Harbor Campus, Boston, MA.
1990 MassProductions Grant
  (To interview and photograph women who have been or are homeless for an exhibition at Boston Center for the Arts).
1988 Massachusetts Council Community Grant
  (To interview and photograph residents of Chelsea, MA for exhibition)
1988 Massachusetts Lottery Grant
  (To complete preparation of Chelsea, MA exhibition)
1985 National Endowment of the Arts Visual Fellowship
1984 The Museum School/Polaroid Foundation
  (For two-day use of the 20x24 color camera to culminate in group exhibition)
1984 Arts in Action, NEA Grant for cross-discipline projects. Recipient Artist.
  (For performance piece with Jeanne Lee, concert and videotapes, Catskill Center for Photography, Woodstock, NY).
1981 Swedish Government Travel Grant
  (For lecture, "Mote med Fotografi," at Fotografiska Museet, Stockholm, Sweden)


Permanent Collections

The Museum of Modern Art, New York

The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, MO

Center for Creative Photography, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ 

Fotografiska Museet, Moderna Museet, Stockholm, Sweden. Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris, France.

Light Work, Syracuse University, Syracuse, NY. Visual Studies Workshop, Buffalo, NY.

Cuyahoga County Board of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities, Cleveland, Ohio.

Federation for Community Planning, Cleveland, Ohio. The Center for Photography at Woodstock, Woodstock, New York.

 Lawrence History Center, Lawrence, MA.


Special Projects

Board Member and President of the Homeless Empowerment Project, Chair, Editorial Committee.

Writer, Photographer for SpareChange, a street newspaper, 1997- 2002.


Homeless Women Speak. Forum with formerly homeless women as primary speakers, organized in conjunction with "Streets Are For Nobody, Homeless Women Speak" exhibit. Boston Center for the Arts, May 4, 1991. To encourage women who have had the experience of being homeless to help define the content of the roundtable discussions and become the experts who would speak from experience. Extensively funded.


1701 James Street. Exhibition traveled to branches of the Cuyahoga County Library, sponsored by the Cuyahoga County Board of Mental Retardation and the Federation for Community Planning (January 1988 - July 1988) toured through Ohio sponsored by Ohio Public Images and the George Gund Foundation, 1988 - 1989.


The Artist's Lens: A Focus on Relocation. A two-year project sponsored by UrbanArts documenting the elevated Orange Line subway in the southwest corridor of Boston. Five photographers worked with students at the Humphrey Occupational Center to improve their skills and document the elevated structure, and the effects on the surrounding neighborhood of its removal. September 1985 - June 1987.

Musing On Our Lives. Performance piece with videotape, Melissa Shook and Jeanne Lee, March 31, 1984. Sponsored by the Catskill Center for Photography, Arts-In-Action Coalition and grants from NEA, The New York State Council on the Arts and the IMB Corporation.