Patrick Nagatani is a professor emeritus in the Department of Art and Art History at the University of New Mexico. Nagatani is a Japanese-American who grew up in a Polish neighborhood in Chicago and was raised Catholic. He now follows Buddhism. His father's family lived outside of Hiroshima, Japan. From 1983-1989 he worked with the Polaroid 20X24 camera and collaborated with artist Andree Tracey, building and photographing extensive, theatrical "tableaux." Nagatani moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico, in 1987, where his work focused on nuclear power, the Japanese American concentration camps and fictional narrative. He has been a “tapist” (paints with masking tape) from 1983 to 2012. Currently he is writing and editing with other writers a novel called “The Race”. A member of the Atomic Photographers Guild, he taught photography at the University of New Mexico for 20 years.
A major survey of his work from 1978-2008 opened at the University of New Mexico Art Museum and travelled to the Japanese American National Museum in L.A. and was exhibited at the Clay Center for the Arts and Sciences of West Virginia. His book Desire for Magic has recently been published. In 1991 he earned the Outstanding Faculty Award, from the College of Fine Arts and from 1998 to 2000 he was honored with a Regent's Professorship. He received his M.F.A. degree from the University of California, Los Angeles in 1979. He is a past recipient of two major National Endowment for the Arts Visual Artist Fellowships. Some of his awards include: The Aaron Siskind Foundation Individual Photographer's Fellowship, The Kraszna-Krausz Award for his book Nuclear Enchantment , the Leopold Godowsky Jr. Color Photography Award, the Eliot Porter Fellowship in New Mexico, and the California Distinguished Artist Award from the National Art Education Association. He is an honored recipient of the "Governor's Award for Excellence in the Arts” from Governor Bill Richardson in New Mexico as well as the Honored Educator Award from the Society of Photographic Education in 2008. He has served as a panelist for the Illinois Art Council, Southern Arts Federation, Massachusetts Council on the Arts and Humanities, Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation, California Arts Council, and the National Endowment for the Arts.
Nagatani has given numerous public lectures, seminars and workshops and his work has been exhibited widely both nationally and internationally.