Born and raised near Pittsburgh, PA, Debra Achen developed a passion for art and a connection to nature as a young child. She majored in Art Education at Edinboro State University before completing her BA in Visual Arts at the University of California, San Diego. In addition to training in traditional film and darkroom photography, she studied a variety of studio arts, including drawing, painting, printmaking and sculpture. After college she embarked on a career in film and television production and later in educational technology. All the while she enjoyed making travel and nature photos as a creative outlet. Then the gift of a digital camera rekindled Achen’s love of photography as a fine art medium. This coincided with a move to the Monterey Peninsula, an incredibly scenic area steeped in the history of photography. There are many individuals and organizations in the area that continue to honor the traditions and mastery of craft that fostered the school of West Coast fine art photography. Achen immersed herself in this environment and continues to attend workshops and lectures to engage with new technical and creative innovations in the field.

Achen’s photographs have been featured in juried exhibitions throughout the US and Europe and in curated exhibitions at the Weston Gallery, the Center for Photographic Art, Carmel Visual Arts Gallery, and Upstart Modern in Sausalito. Her “Folding and Mending” series was selected for the 2022 Photolucida Critical Mass Top 50 and her award-winning self-published book, “Frequency Shift: The Stonehenge Continuum” was featured in the 12th Annual Photobook Show at the Griffin Museum of Photography. Her work can be found in a number of private and corporate collections.


“Rivers in the Sky” is a photo-collage from Achen’s “Folding and Mending” portfolio. The hand-folded, scorched, and stitched prints in this series convey the world folding in on itself from the impacts of climate change. The stitching is a metaphor for the repairing and rebuilding we must do to make our world whole again. In the first quarter of 2023, at least twelve atmospheric river events hit the Central Coast of California. Record rain, snow, and damaging winds brought flooding, fallen trees, road closures and wide-spread power-outages. The two images that make up “Rivers in the Sky” were taken between storms in January and March along the Carmel River. The impression is of rivers overflowing their banks, water flowing in all directions. Atmospheric rivers are long, narrow bands in the atmosphere that transport water vapor out of the tropics on the trade winds – like “rivers in the sky.” Warmer ocean and air temperatures resulting from climate change will increase the number and intensity of these extreme weather events worldwide.