McPhee considers her lifework is to "look at and understand the language of a place". This theme has driven her to photograph everywhere from a New York park to Calcutta India.
McPhee earned a Bachelor of Arts in Art History from Princeton University in 1980, and a Master of Fine Arts degree in Photography from the Rhode Island School of Design in 1986. McPhee was awarded a Fulbright Scholars Fellowship in 1998 for work in India and Sri Lanka and a residency in Idaho from Alturas Foundation 2003–2005. She was also awarded a New England Foundation for the Arts fellowship in 1995 and a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation fellowship in 1993.
Her work is in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York), the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Getty Center, the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, among many others.
McPhee is a Professor of Photography at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design where she joined the faculty in 1986. She is represented by the Bonni Benrubi Gallery in New York, the Carroll and Sons Gallery in Boston, and G. Gibson Gallery in Seattle, WA.
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