Mason Hershenow is a photographer, writer, and institutional critic working to highlight redundant and exclusionary systems in academic art and beyond.

Influenced by the tools we build and use to interact with ourselves, each other, and the world around us, Hershenow's work focuses on the relationship — and distance — between contemporary photography and the academic art world. Originally trained as a straight photographer, Hershenow’s practice frequently blends candid, often personal images with elements of modernist design, traditional and contemporary typesetting, and the use and misuse of academic language in order to challenge the viewer’s notions of who and what establishes expertise and validity in galleries, lecture halls, and other formal spaces. Far from an anti-academic, Hershenow’s goal is to use institutional critique as a means of illuminating and weakening the most harmful mechanisms of exclusion built into contemporary academic, artistic, and social systems.

Hershenow is a northern California native. He earned his Bachelor of Art in photography from Sacramento State University in 2014 and his Master of Fine Art in photography from San José State University is 2020, where he also taught a number of introductory photography courses. In September 2020, he founded it's no sam studios and began hosting Meaning What, a podcast exploring conversations missing in fine art and culture.

A full artist CV is available at the bottom of this page. Business or collaboration inquireries may be forwarded here.

Solo Exhibitions

  • A Collective Fever Dream
    Virtual gallery and Zoom performance, Sacramento, California 2020.
  • But That’s No Way To Tell You
    Sylvan Gallery and Design Studio, Sand City, California, 2020.
  • Sentimentality; or Unimportant Object #200108
    John Pickelle Gallery, San José, California, 2020.
  • Advancement to Candidacy: An Unsanctioned Critique of the San Jose State University MFA Program (performance art piece)
    Martin Luther King Jr. Library, San José, California, 2020.
  • I've Never Been So Sure Of Anything
    Gallery 5, San José, California, 2019.

  • godless children | holy objects
    Belcher Gallery, San José, California, 2018.
  • Selections from The Quiet Capitol
    Insight Pavilions, Sacramento, California, 2016.
  • The Quiet Capitol
    Blue Line Arts, Roseville, California, 2015.

Select Group Exhibitions

  • Extra Ordinary
    Embark Gallery at Fort Mason Center for Arts & Culture
    San Francisco, California, 2019.
  • Cluster-Fun: SJSU MFA Group Show
    San José State University, 2019.
  • Countering Productivity: SJSU MFA Group Show
    San José State University, 2018.
  • CSUS Design Department Spring Showcase
    California State University Sacramento, 2013.


  • Honorable Mention, OneShot: Movement (Street Photography), International Photography Awards, 2020.
  • Phi Kappa Phi National Honors Society Member, Spring 2020 – present.
  • Vernon Davis Scholarship, 2018.
  • Dierks-Morgan Scholarship, 2018.
  • Best in Show for a Senior Portfolio in Photography, California State University Sacramento, 2013.
  • Honorable Mention, Black and White Category, Photographer’s Forum Best of College Photography, 2009.

Select Features and Publications

Bio June 2019

Image: Alana Rios