Heck was born in Excelsior, Minnesota. Heck was exposed to art and museums in Minneapolis from an early age by his parents. He began photographing at the age of 14, after receiving his first camera as a gift from his mother. In 2002, as a senior in high school, Heck received the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers Scholastic Art Awards Gold Medal for his work in photography. Heck graduated from Salve Regina University with a degree in political science and earned his MFA in photography from Parsons the New School for Design.
Erik Madigan Heck moved to New York City where he founded the semi-yearly publication Nomenus Quarterly in 2007. The project was conceived as a collaborative platform working with artists of all mediums within the worlds of fine art and fashion. Nomenus Quarterly was published both online and in print, and featured the work of artists such as Anselm Kiefer, Gerhard Richter, Rodarte, Ann Demeulemeester, and Heck himself.
Journalist Dan Thawley describes Heck’s work as “[having] a dreamlike quality marked by surrealist undertones, an appreciation for fine art conventions, and an exploration of various photographic mediums (both modern and obsolete)”. Heck works with both analog and digital photography as well as with Super 8 for film shorts.
Heck identifies himself as a “painter who uses photography,” and cites the 19th century painter Edouard Vuillard as one of his major influences as well as the work of modern photographer Harry Callahan.
Due to Heck's interest in mediums and technologies of the past, his reoccurring use of nature as a theme, as well as his focus on beauty as the ultimate ideal, Heck’s work has often been described as a contemporary extension of Romanticism. Referencing his own work, Heck explains that “...to access beauty is what we ultimately desire, and the tangibility of this access is what in my opinion ultimately differentiates fashion from art as end points on a continuum, and simultaneously elevates fashion photography to such an important place in contemporary society.”
Heck has also created advertorial portfolios for brands such as Mary Katrantzou, Kenzo, and Etro.
Heck has been published in The New York Times Magazine, TIME magazine, The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, Harper's Bazaar, Harper's Bazaar UK, New York Magazine, W Magazine, M Magazine Le Monde, British Vogue, Numéro, MUSE, and Stern Magazine.2014: High Priestess for NOWNESS
2013: The Sea for NOWNESS dedicated to Ann Demeulemeester
2012: The End for Ann Demeulemeester
2012: The Art of Fashion Parts 1 and 2 for Neiman Marcus
2012: The Corner by Erik Madigan Heck for Ann Demeulemeester
2009: Fratres für A.F. Vandevorst with Arvo Pärt
Books that have either featured the work of Erik Madigan Heck, or that Heck has published himself:2014: Keaney, Magdalene. Fashion Photography Next. Thames & Hudson. ISBN 9780500544358
2014: Creem Magazine Issue 12 by Erik Madigan Heck
2013: The Fashion Book. Phaidon. ISBN 9780714865577
2011: Owens, Rick. Rick Owens. Rizzoli. ISBN 978-0-8478-3663-5
2011: Heck, Erik Madigan. January to August: Photographs, Paintings, and Words. Self-Published. ISBN 978-0-615-51817-6
2010: A Magazine Curated by Giambattista Valli
2007-2013: Nomenus Quarterly, Issues 1-12
Heck has shown work internationally. In June 2014, Heck’s solo show, “The Absorbed Tradition,” was shown at Bosi Contemporary in New York and presented alongside a special new Heck-curated issue of Creem Magazine. His photographs have also been included in exhibitions such as “Outer Dark: Continuing After Fashion” at the Museum für angewandte Kunst Frankfurt and “Don’t Stop Now: Fashion Photography Next” at FOAM Museum Amsterdam.