George Pitts

Multi-talented George Pitts taught photography at Parsons for two decades, from 1998 until his untimely death in 2017. He came to Parsons as the revolutionary, founding Director of Photography at Vibe magazine, where he worked from 1993 to 2004. He also served as the Director of Photography at LIFE magazine from 2004 to 2007. His photographic work was exhibited and published widely, and he was the recipient of numerous awards including the Lucie Award for Picture Editor of the Year in 2006. His poetry was published in Partisan Review in 1979 and in the book Partial Objects in 2016. With Kathryn Karwat, he co-directed the film, “I Don’t Exist If You Don’t,” about performance artist Ann Liv Young.

Mr. Pitts was born in Aliquippa, Pennsylvania, on September 10, 1951. He grew up in Chicago, and attended high school at Verde Valley High School in Sedona, Arizona. He received a BA from Bennington College, where he studied painting, literature, and philosophy; he also studied at the renowned Skowhegan School of Painting & Sculpture. He began teaching at Parsons after photography faculty member Barbara Bordnick met him and introduced him to Photography Department Chair Michelle Bogre. Mr. Pitts joined the Parsons faculty in 1998 and became Assistant Professor in 2007. He taught Picturing Sexuality, influencing generations of photographers including Ryan McGinley.[1] Other courses he taught included: Photography & Cinema, Portraiture & Context, and Core Studio: Thesis. His colleagues and friends at Parsons and The New School, Barbara Bordnick, Jill Enfield, and Will Edmiston, described him as “intellectual,” “dignified,” “graceful,” and “generous with his time and knowledge.”[2]

Mr. Pitts is survived by his wife, Jan Pitts. His website can be found at He lived according to his favorite quote, which was spoken by Susan Sontag at the Vassar College commencement in 2003: “Do stuff. Be clenched, curious. Not waiting for inspiration’s shove or society’s kiss on your forehead. Pay attention. It’s all about paying attention. Attention is vitality. It connects you with others. It makes you eager. Stay eager.”


[1]  Julia Himmel, “Memorial Service Date Set For George Pitts, Legendary Parsons Photography Professor,” The New School Free Press, March 8, 2017,….

[2]  Emails to author dated June 15, 2018, June 14, 2018, and June 28, 2018, respectively.


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