Rasen kaigan (Spiral Shore) 45 from the seris Rasen kaigan (Spiral Shore) Shiga Lieko (Japanese, born in 1980) 2012 Photograph, chromogenic print *© Lieko Shiga *Courtesy, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Rasen kaigan (Spiral Shore) 45 from the seris Rasen kaigan (Spiral Shore) Shiga Lieko (Japanese, born in 1980) 2012 Photograph, chromogenic print *© Lieko Shiga *Courtesy, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
Chuck Close Photographs | Parrish Art Museum, Watermill, NY | May 10 – July 26, 2015 Chuck Close—The Museum of Modern Art, Gift of Norman Dubrow
Chuck Close’s name is often synonymous with his large-scale and meticulously rendered drawings and paintings of the faces of his loved ones and colleagues. Chuck Close

He began documenting as a way to remember the faces he so often forgets due to his struggle with face blindness. Though he often uses photographs for the basis of these photorealistic works, he also takes the medium seriously as an artform, using it as a means to document an array of subject matter with varying formats; from black-and-white film to Polaroid composites to daguerreotypes. This survey chronicles his photographic oeuvre, from 1964 to present.

Philip-Lorca diCorcia: East of Eden | David Zwirner Gallery, New York, NY | April 2 – May 2, 2015 Philip-Lorca diCorcia—Courtesy the artist and David Zwirner, New York/London
Completed over the last seven years, “East of Eden” is diCorcia’s exploration of a subject that’s brimming with religious and literary references: the post Bush-era United States economy. Philip-Lorca diCorcia—Courtesy the artist and David Zwirner, New York/London

Using seemingly disparate subjects of American life — an apple tree, scenes of domesticity, a home in the suburbs — diCorcia exposes an underlying narrative in symbols rooted in biblical narratives and vibrant relics of the “American dream.”

In the Wake: Japanese Photographers Respond to 3/11 | Museum of Fine Arts Boston, MA | April 5 – July 12, 2015 Lieko Shiga
Four years after the earthquake, corresponding tsunami, and Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster left northeastern Japan reeling, the Museum of Fine Arts is taking a look at the ways in which 17 Japanese photographers sought to capture and respond to the tragedy. Nobuyoshi Araki

The exhibition, which is rife with both documentary examples and mesmerizing artistic portrayals of the “Triple Disaster” is divided into two sections — the earthquake and tsunami, and Fukushima. It’s more than just a showcase of work by acclaimed artists and emerging practitioners, but also an in-depth look at the role photography plays in the understanding of major disasters. The exhibit includes photographic remnants that washed up in the debris.

Light, Paper, Process: Reinventing Photography | The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, CA | April 14 – Sept. 6, 2015 Matthew Brandt
Virginia Heckert, head of the Getty’s department of photographs, curates this exhibition of works by seven contemporary artists — Alison Rossiter, Marco Breuer, James Welling, Lisa Oppenheim, Chris McCaw, John Chiara, and Matthew Brandt — whose aim is to show us a new way of looking at the essential elements of photography. Henry Holmes Smith—J. Paul Getty Trust

Using everything from expired photographic paper, hand-made cameras, and extraneous materials used to affect light exposure, the artists included embrace chance in experimentation and reject the use of photography in order to simply record an event. In an age where photography has become ubiquitous as a means of communication, “Light, Paper, Process” reveals just how valuable the artist’s eye is.

Wildly Strange: The Photographs of Ralph Eugene Meatyard | Blanton Museum of Art, Austin, TX | Through June 21, 2015 The Estate of Ralph Eugene Meatyard
The late Meatyard has long been revered for his ability to transform his rural Kentucky environs into dark and unsettling photographic tableaux referencing the macabre and early spirit photography. The Estate of Ralph Eugene Meatyard

Often posing his family members, sometimes masked, he recontextualized the traditional family portrait. In the spirit of Southern Goth, he also photographed literary icons. This exhibition brings together some 35 works (including never-exhibited rare prints) from his series “Romances,” and his portraits of writers.

Arne Svenson: The Workers | Julie Saul Gallery, New York, NY | April 9 – May 30, 2015 Arne Svenson—Courtesy Julie Saul Gallery, New York
Following his controversial series “The Neighbors,” for which Svenson was sued by two of his subjects for violation of privacy — and not held liable under the First Amendment — “The Workers” takes another voyeuristic look at society. Arne Svenson—Courtesy Julie Saul Gallery, New York

This time Svenson documents those toiling with their hands in images that magnify the task in oval vignettes. His resulting works are painterly portrayals of daily life; familiar in their faceless anonymity, yet intimate in their precision. This exhibition coincides with the releases of his monograph, The Neighbors (D.A.P/Artbook, 2015).

Liz Deschenes: Gallery 7 | Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN | Through Nov. 22, 2015 Liz Deschenes—Courtesy of the artist and Miguel Abreu Gallery
If photography can be defined in this decade by an experimentation with process and a revolt from the use of the camera itself, then Deschenes’ “Gallery 7” at the Walker Art Center is its nexus. Liz Deschenes

Assembling artworks that employ only the bare minimum to create a photo — light, paper, and chemicals — the artist explores the process of capturing time through a temporal space. Here, the seventh-floor gallery has been transformed into a year-long concept-driven “photographic intervention.” Viewers are reflected in metallic photograms which in turn emit the passage of time as they oxidize, and are able to see the way light interacts on digital pigment printed on acrylic by walking around the hanging objects.

Richard Misrach: Being(s) 1975-2015 | Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco, CA | April 9 – May 30, 2015 Richard Misrach—Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco
Though Misrach is regarded for his vast large-format color photographs of striking, yet sparse landscapes, this exhibition traces works that include the human presence within. Richard Misrach—Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

Culled from his 40-year career, these sometimes austere, and often sprawling, picture planes are inhabited by individuals who seem to embrace voluntary solitude, at-one with the fabric of their environment.

Alison Rossiter: Paper Wait | Yossi Milo Gallery, New York, NY | Through May 2, 2015 Alison Rossiter—Courtesy Yossi Milo Gallery, New York
For her second exhibition at the gallery, Rossiter, who is also included in a concurrent group show at the Getty Museum in Los Angeles, continues to experiment with expired light sensitive paper from the 1890s through 1960s. Alison Rossiter—Courtesy Yossi Milo Gallery, New York

In her use of chemicals and developer to activate the sheets, she reveals their provenance in the form of fingerprints, geometric shapes from light leaks, and physical traces of expiration. Rather than freezing time with a camera, she exposes the history and attributes of these rare papers through unique chemical treatments — a contemporary take on László Moholy-Nagy’s cameraless images.

Fatal Attraction: Piotr Uklański Photographs | Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY | Through Aug. 16, 2015 Piotr Uklański
This is the first survey of photographs from multi-disciplinary artist, Uklański. Piotr Uklański

Culled from his series, “The Joy of Photography,” the works bring to life a spin on the photographic clichés of the Eastman Kodak how-to manual for amateur photographers, and in so doing, he creates mesmerizing photo collages and satirical compositions forcing us to reconsider that which has value in popular culture.

The season’s best photography exhibitions at galleries and museums throughout the country, covering documentary, fine art, portraiture, and some surprising alternative processes. See our picks for last season’s top shows.

[See also: The 10 Best New Photography Books of Spring 2015]