David Plowden was born in Boston in 1932. He graduated from Yale University with a degree in economics in 1955. He studied photography with Minor White and Nathan Lyons in Rochester, New York in 1959 and 1960. Plowden has carried on an extensive career as a freelance photographer with assignments for major American publications including Architectural Forum, Fortune and Life. His photography has documented various aspects of the American landscape such as industrial sites, railroads, bridges and the urban environment. These various projects have been frequently presented in the form of exhibitions or books, many in association with the Smithsonian Instutution. The Hand of Man on America (1971) and Bridges (1976) are two of the projects. he was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1968.