Archive for ‘Photography History’ category

San Francisco Art Institute Photography History, Part 12

July 26th, 2011

Minor White Meets Alfred Stieglitz, Edward Weston, Paul Strand And Other Photography Greats All In One Year

Continued from the blog post, “Photography’s Golden Era 11.” The title of this series of blog posts has been changed from “Photography’s Golden Era” to “San Francisco Art Institute Photography History.” The next post in the series following this will be called, “San Francisco Art Institute Photography History, Part 13.”

Rock Formations Detail, Weston Beach, Point Lobos State Reserve, California, copyright 1949 by Philip Hyde. Many of Philip Hyde's early close-ups and landscape photographs showed the influence of Edward Weston. Edward Weston and Minor White may have been present when this original large format 5X7 black and white photograph was made. Widely published and exhibited with Group f.64. Planned to appear in the forthcoming book: "The Golden Decade: Photography at the California School of Fine Arts, 1945-55."

See the photograph large, “Rock Formations Detail, Weston Beach, Point Lobos.”

In January 1946, the same year he began teaching at the California School of Fine Arts, now the San Francisco Art Institute, Minor White met Alfred Stieglitz and in December he met Edward Weston. Alfred Stieglitz had a profound effect on Minor White and his photography and other photographers impacted Minor White’s thinking, but the influence of Edward Weston became the greatest of all.

As a member of Beaumont Newhall and Nancy Newhall’s social circle on the East Coast, that year Minor White also met Berenice Abbott, Harry Callahan, Edward Steichen, Paul Strand, Todd Webb, and Brett Weston.

Then in July 1946, with the help of Beaumont and Nancy Newhall, Minor White accepted a teaching position on the West Coast under Ansel Adams at the California School of Fine Arts, now the San Francisco Art Institute in California. Minor White started by teaching the Summer Session as Ansel Adams’ assistant, but Ansel Adams recognized right away that Minor White had teaching talent and knowledge, besides he related to the students well. Within a few weeks, Ansel Adams left Minor White in charge and within a few months his job title changed to lead instructor. Arriving on the West Coast for the first time, Minor White moved from Princeton, New Jersey to a house owned by Ansel Adams at 129 24th Avenue in San Francisco, where Ansel Adams had his darkroom. Minor White would soon be as impacted by Edward Weston on the West Coast as he was by Alfred Stieglitz in New York City.

Parallels Between Minor White And Alfred Stieglitz

James Baker Hall wrote in his biographical essay in Minor White: Rites And Passages (Aperture Monograph):

Some of the parallels between Alfred Stieglitz and Minor White are more apparent than others. Much of White’s best work, both as a photographer and as an editor, came directly and consciously out of Stieglitz’s idea of the Equivalent, the photographic image as a metaphor, as an objective correlative for a particular feeling or state of being associated with something other than the ostensible subject. Each man in his day embodied and promulgated that controlling idea by editing journals of comparable impact, Stieglitz with Camera Work, White with Aperture. Just as Stieglitz and Edward Weston—the other principle influence on White—fairly dominated a significant portion of the photography world during the second quarter of the century, so White, along with Henri Cartier-Bresson, Ansel Adams and Robert Frank, dominated it during the third. Ideas play a role in the influence of Weston, Cartier-Bresson, Adams and Frank, but not nearly as important a role as they do with Stieglitz and White. Their work as teachers and editors has reached far fewer people than their photographs, and it has been less well understood, but both men’s lives testify in no uncertain way to the fact that it was every bit as important to them as their camera work.

Minor White’s Most Profound Influence, Edward Weston

In December 1946, Minor White traveled south from his living quarters in one of Ansel Adams’ houses next to Ansel Adams’ darkroom near Baker Beach in San Francisco to Carmel and Point Lobos to meet Edward Weston for the first time. Edward Weston also lived in a cottage with his darkroom in Carmel Highlands on Wildcat Hill. Peter C. Bunnell, in the biographical chronology accompanying the exhibition The Temptation of St. Anthony Is Mirrors, wrote that Minor White began “a profound attachment to the man, his ideals, and the place.” For the next few years Minor White took his students from the California School of Fine Arts, now the San Francisco Art Institute, on field trips to Point Lobos where they observed Edward Weston photographing with his large format view camera. The classes would then proceed to Edward Weston’s home on Wildcat Hill where they reviewed Edward Weston prints and student’s portfolios.

In Jeff Gunderson’s essay in The Moment of Seeing: Minor White at the California School of Fine Arts, he wrote regarding Minor White’s meeting with Edward Weston for the first time in December 1946:

This proved to be not only a personal, creative, and photographically significant milestone in his life, but it would also be of immense importance to the future of the school’s photography program and its students. Over the next couple of years, White and his students took numerous field trips to Point Lobos, where they met with Edward Weston.

Peter C. Bunnell, in Minor White: The Eye That Shapes, wrote:

Edward Weston, who will have the most profound influence on White of any artist, develops a rapport with the younger photographer, and they meet many times before Weston’s death in 1958. Based on White’s deep admiration for Edward Weston and his work, Point Lobos will become for him a kind of quintessential photographic site, and it is in relation to his understanding of how Edward Weston gained his inspiration here that White will approach Point Lobos and other landscape sites for his own creative purposes.

Minor White And In Turn Philip Hyde, Both Mentored By Edward Weston

Philip Hyde also kept up a correspondence and regular visits to Wildcat Hill to see Edward Weston until his passing in 1958. Philip Hyde and four other California School of Fine Arts classmates, Bob Hollingsworth, Bill Heick, Al Richter and John Rogers, originally became more acquainted with Edward Weston than their other classmates by camping on his lawn in tents when the class visited Wildcat Hill on field trips. The tent campers would talk and review prints with Edward Weston into the night, but not too late as Edward Weston was an early riser. Then with Edward Weston’s blessing, they would sleep a short time, wake up very early and lie awake waiting for signs of life in the house, whereupon they would rush inside and resume their discussion of photography with Edward Weston. This practice begun in 1947 continued for Philip Hyde for a number of years before Edward Weston’s health failed. Ardis and Philip Hyde camped on Edward Weston’s lawn and arose to show Edward Weston a new batch of prints, a number of times after Philp Hyde earned his certificate of completion from photography school in 1950. Read more on interactions between Edward Weston and Philip Hyde in future blog posts. For more on interactions between Minor White and Philip Hyde see the blog post, “Minor White Letters 1.”

California School Of Fine Arts Field Trips, With Edward Weston On Point Lobos And At Edward Weston’s Home In Carmel, Boosted Class Intensity

Minor White looked forward to his visits to see Edward Weston with great enthusiasm. Jeff Gunderson wrote that Minor White sent a letter in 1948 to Beaumont and Nancy Newhall just before his July 25 return to see the master:

Minor White considered the pilgrimage to Point Lobos “the climax of every year,” so important that at one point he made the “generous proposal” to “forgo his own salary in favor of Mr. Weston.” He waxed that “on this trip the intensity rose like a thermometer held over a match flame.” He wanted to make sure that students had the opportunity “to study the working methods of artists” on the week-long trip with Weston “in his home territory.” Weston and the students roamed “over Point Lobos for an afternoon without cameras.” Only then would they photograph, while Weston would “climb around to each student and discuss what is on the ground glass.” They would sit on the rocks at Point Lobos, gathered around Edward Weston, “all trying to figure out what makes an artist tick.” After hiking and taking pictures, the students would drive to Carmel for dinner, then regroup at “Weston’s cottage to see the man and his photographs.” Weston “selected carefully, put them one at a time, on a spot-lighted easel. He talked quietly or not at all,…purred to his cats and kittens…He never belittled his work, never boasted, but let each picture speak for itself…And we looked. With the sound of the sea,…the smell of a log fire around, many of the seeds, planted during the year, sprouted.” White, as well as the California School of Fine Arts students, benefited from the trek to Carmel. White was effusive about what he learned at Point Lobos in correspondence to Edward Weston. The students were familiar with Edward Weston by the time of the field trip to Carmel. His books were in the school library, his work talked about in classes, and one student, Ruth-Marion Baruch, had written Edward Weston: The Man, The Artist, and the Photograph as her master’s thesis while a student at Ohio University…the cachet of Edward Weston’s name on the roster of instructors would increase the schools profile.

All of it arranged by Minor White and to his credit as lead instructor of Ansel Adam’s new photography program.

This series was to continue in a blog post called, “Photography’s Golden Era 13,” but the series will take the new title “San Francisco Art Institute Photography History.” The next post in the series can therefore be found under the name, “San Francisco Art Institute Photography History 13.”

References:

Minor White: The Eye That Shapes by Peter C. Bunnell

The Moment of Seeing: Minor White at the California School of Fine Arts by Jeff Gunderson, Stephanie Comer and Deborah Klochko

Minor White: Rites And Passages (Aperture Monograph)

Photography’s Golden Era 11

May 26th, 2011

California School of Fine Arts Fall 1947 Photography Class

(Continued from the blog post, “Photography’s Golden Era 10,” about the California School of Fine Arts Photography Department application questions.)

Windswept Pass And Clouds, Yosemite High Country, Yosemite National Park, Sierra Nevada, California, copyright 1949 by Philip Hyde.

(See the photograph full screen Click Here.)

“In the early classes with Ansel Adams, we were with him all the time, day and night,” said Ira Latour, photographer and a co-author of “The Golden Decade: Photography at the California School of Fine Arts 1945-1955.” Ira Latour enrolled at the California School of Fine Arts, now the San Francisco Art Institute, in the first classes Ansel Adams offered in 1945. Ira Latour also took the first full-time class that started in the Fall of 1946.

“We were in class with Ansel and in the field with him,” Said Ira Latour. “In the evenings we either printed in the darkroom or got together at Ansel’s house in San Francisco.” The Summer Session 1946, besides being an intensive round-the-clock photography experience, was also an opportunity for students to either show they were ready for the full-time professional training classes or were to continue in the evening classes for amateurs that served as a basis for a semi-professional training.

By September 1947 there were 20 full-time students for the new fall professional class. Nearly all of the students in the Fall 1947 photography class were World War II veterans enrolled using their G.I. Benefits. Ansel Adam’s photography department at the California School of Fine Arts had been inundated with applications from soldiers recently discharged from the armed services. The 20 full-time students selected out of hundreds that applied were as Minor White described them, “Full of plans after the long futility of no planning; older, most of them experienced in photography… and in school because they chose to be.”

The Class Of 1947’s Major Names In Photography

In his book “The Moment of Seeing: Minor White at the California School of Fine Arts,” Jeff Gunderson wrote that the majority of these students had learned photography in the armed services. He added that the Fall 1947 Class included an African American student, David S. Johnson, later famous for his Jazz era photographs of San Francisco’s Fillmore District, two Chinese American students, Charles Wong and Benjamen Chinn, who both became noted photographers. The class also included celebrated documentary and portrait photographer Pirkle Jones, who worked with Dorothea Lange, as well as Pirkle Jones’ future wife who also became a well-known photographer Ruth-Marion Baruch. In letters to Ansel Adams, Minor White praised the work of a number of students, in particular the nature photographs of Philip Hyde and the portraits and natural scenes by Bill Heick. Don Whyte, Ira Latour, Bob Hollingsworth, Helen Howell, Pat Harris, Walter Stoy, John Rogers, and Al Richter all started at the California School of Fine Arts in the Fall 1947 photography class and went on to become prominent photographers in the West Coast tradition.

Who Were The Advanced Students And When Did The Students Socialize?

Philip Hyde later said that some of the students started the class with more advanced photography skills than he did. He said that the more advanced students headed out into the field right away. “Some were more interested in taking pictures of people and some more interested in the outdoors,” Philip Hyde said. “Each student’s preferences were indulged fully. Ben Chinn and many others were independent types. Ben had been photographing since he was 10 years old.”

Benjamen Chinn concurred that many students were more advanced, but did not include himself in that group. He said that Philip Hyde had taken photography classes since high school. He pointed out that Philip Hyde went to Polytechnic High School, a technically oriented high school. Benjamen Chinn also said that Philip Hyde took photography classes at San Francisco City College. The student-instructor Bill Quandt and Benjamen Chinn had both been photographers at Gabriel High School and at San Francisco City College as well. Benjamen Chinn gave more background and explained why he did not get as much feedback as some of the other students:

The rest of the students sometimes would gather around and B. S. about photography and what they photographed. I had my own darkroom. Usually I attended class then came home and did my own work. So, I never knew, I never had any feedback on my own photography from Minor or Ansel until after I turned my work in. I never did know how I was doing. Philip, your dad, only lately told me, maybe 10 years ago, that the people in class would talk about me and wonder what I would come up with for my assignment. I did everything at home. They never knew what I was going to do. They were always interested. They were surprised when I turned in my assignments or they saw my prints at the print exchange parties. The print exchanges were the only times when Minor and Ansel and some of the other instructors saw my work.

Benjamen Chinn explained further about student efforts to understand Ansel Adams’ concepts and how it brought them together:

Maybe I would just skip and go home. Another classmate, George Wallace, and I became friends when Ansel was giving the zone system. It was very, very complicated. George and I and anther guy by the name of Jerry Seward had engineering training. George Wallace was an engineer for US Steel. The way he got into photography was that his family owned US Pipe and it went down after World War II. George made a deal with his brother to sell him his share of the company. George offered his brother $500/month plus his brother would also pay for tuition for him at photography school. Because of his technical and engineering background George sort of understood what Ansel was talking about. Ansel talked about graphs and exposure care, exposure relationship with density, and a lot of people didn’t know what he was talking about. Somehow George Wallace knew, I don’t know how he knew that I could not understand it. I invited him home to my darkroom and we discussed it among the three of us, including Jerry Seward. We talked about the problem of how to explain it to other students. We also used to get together with other students at homes. The student-teacher Bill Quandt used to get the students to go down to North Beach to a cafe called Vesuvio. It was right across from the Save Right Book Shop. We used to get five cent beers and hang out. Now we have all known each other for 60 years or more.

Vesuvio Cafe And The Rise Of North Beach As  A Hip Artist’s Hangout

Benjamen Chinn held that the lifetime friendships that developed in photography school started with discussions about photography, efforts to solve homework problems for class and otherwise just enjoying each other’s company down at Vesuvio. At Vesuvio they sometimes drank beer or other alcoholic beverages, but just as often they had sodas or something to eat. North Beach in the late 1940s and early 1950s already had become an interesting part of town with artists, musicians and the beginnings of what would become the epicenter of the beat generation on the West Coast.

By the mid to late 1950s, just down off Russian Hill where the California School of Fine Arts would soon become the San Francisco Art Institute, many beat generation writers such as William S. Burroughs, Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg made their homes in North Beach. Today the North Beach neighborhood “overflows with independent literature cafes, old-world delicatessens, jazz clubs and gelato parlors,” reads the San Francisco Art Institute website. Besides the cultural experience of North Beach that developed after World War II and is still thriving today, “Close enough to hear the sea lions barking at Pier 39” is Fisherman’s Wharf, San Francisco’s most visited neighborhood.

As far as developing a vibrant art culture like New York City, San Francisco was just starting to blossom after World War II. The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, SFMoMA, did not have much space. “They were located on the third and fourth floors of the Veterans Hall,” Benjamen Chinn said. “They didn’t do much for photography then yet.”

To read more about the forthcoming book, Golden Decade: Photography at the California School of Fine Arts, 1945-1955, and the special exhibition to honor Golden Decade photographers see the blog post, “The Golden Decade: California School of Fine Arts Photography.”

This series was to continue in a blog post called, “Photography’s Golden Era 12,” but the series will take the new title “San Francisco Art Institute Photography History.” The next post in the series can therefore be found under the name, “San Francisco Art Institute Photography History, Part 12.”

Did Velvia Film Change Landscape Photography?

May 12th, 2011

Did the “over-saturation” of landscape photographs start with digital printing and Photoshop, or did it originate well before that in the film era with the advent of Fuji Velvia Film and Kodak Ektachrome E100VS Film? Is “over-saturation” a myth?

Urban Railroad Distortion, Reno, Nevada, copyright 2009 by David Leland Hyde. Nikon D90. Post-processed in Photoshop.

In his 1993 book Galen Rowell’s Vision: The Art of Adventure Photography, Galen Rowell wrote a chapter called Velvet Media in which he extolled the virtues of Fuji Velvia film, with some cautions. Galen Rowell wrote:

After twenty-five years of using Kodachrome film whenever sharpness was of the utmost importance, I abruptly gave up on it in February 1990 after seeing tests of an amazing new slide film from Japan…. Fuji’s introduction of ISO 50 Velvia at the Photo Marketing Association show in Las Vegas… After I returned home, I ran controlled comparisons of Velvia against Kodachrome 25, Kodachrome 64 and Fuji Pro 50. On my own light table the next morning, I clearly saw the end of an era. Velvia was the best of all existing worlds. Its resolution exceeded that of Kodachrome 25 and the other test films in high-contrast tests simulating daylight and equaled Kodachrome 25 in soft light. Its color saturation and separation of tones exceeded those of Fuji Pro 50 and the other films. I was aware that many photographers would prefer Kodachrome’s relatively muted colors, but I believed much of this was due to a conditioned constancy illusion that Kodachrome slides accurately represented the natural world. I knew better and fully expected Velvia to establish a new constancy illusion with picture editors and the public… I wanted to see the world freshly through this new tool and to push it to the limit to see what it would do. Over the years, the limitations of other films had caused me to consider certain kinds of subject matter and lighting as impossible. Murky renditions of greens in shadow under a blue sky on Kodachrome became vivid on Velvia. Fuji Pro 50 renditions of delicate foliage have very strong color, but also a lack of resolution that calls attention to itself, especially when compared with Kodachrome 25. Velvia holds both color and sharpness.… I soon began asking, ‘Is anything wrong with this film?’ not only to myself but to other users. The few negative answers had to do with too strong colors and a slower film speed than the advertised ISO 50.

In early 2010, in the comments on Steve Sieren’s blog post, “Ever Wonder About The History Of Landscape Photography?” large format landscape photographer Michael Gordon commented about how Fuji Velvia film had changed Landscape Photography. Michael Gordon first did a blog post about Velvia in 2008. In his 2010 comment, Michael Gordon said, “Want to be shocked? Compare Hyde’s “Drylands” photos to the current crop of Velvia-ized desert landscape photographs. Porter too. Not many years have passed, and despite the drying climate, the desert sure got a lot more vibrant in photographs!” Other comments on Steve Sieren’s blog post addressed the effect Velvia film had in the hands of various landscape photographers and its general impact on all landscape photography.

Many galleries, museums, photographers and others blame “over-saturation,” if it exists and can be defined, on the advent of the digital age and Photoshop, but here we see much evidence that “over-saturation” began long before. Also in 2010, outdoor, documentary and landscape photographer Carr Clifton offered his thoughts and possible explanation as to what happened in landscape photography from 1990 through the early years of the new millennium. Carr Clifton said, “When we first started printing digitally, we were used to trying to get the richest and even the hottest color out of whatever film we were using. Many films didn’t have the rich color palette that we now see. The same thing happened back in the 1990s with Velvia. Velvia was different because for the first time, it offered too much color, more than you see in nature. When everybody started scanning film and making digital prints, even the scans of Velvia were too gaudy.”

On reading Galen Rowell’s Outdoor Photographer features, Sierra Magazine articles and several of his books I discovered that he wrote more eloquently about photography than perhaps just about anyone else ever, with the possible exception of Robert Adams, Charis Wilson, Edward Weston, Minor White and Ansel Adams at times. That puts Galen Rowell at the top of all writers on photography. He is also admirable as a landscape photographer because he was self-taught. My father, pioneer landscape photographer Philip Hyde has been said by many of the who’s who of photography today to have influenced a generation of photographers. See the blog posts, “How Color Came To Landscape Photography,” “The Golden Decade: California School Of Fine Arts Photography,” and the series beginning with the blog post, “The Battle Over Dinosaur: Birth Of Modern Environmentalism.”

Notwithstanding, Galen Rowell also influenced a generation, the next generation, our generation, the landscape photographers just coming into prominence now. Galen Rowell was also one of the most talented photographers who ever lived. He was the master of “fast and light” and capturing unusually powerful landscape photographs. When we showed the Philip Hyde exhibition at Galen Rowell’s Mountain Light Gallery, I found through talking to guests and staff that Galen Rowell was also known as a life-changing mentor, a generous mountain guide, a driven activist for various conservation and social causes and a dynamic leader of an organization of top quality people who continue to inspire the world. However, some segments of the art establishment hardly recognize him because they feel he overdid the color. Carr Clifton, who also greatly admired Galen Rowell put forward the theory that when Velvia film first emerged on the scene and also in the early days of digital printing, that Galen Rowell went a little far with the color, but never lived to rein in when other photographers did.

“It was around 2003-2004 that everybody started to pull back some and bring their color back into the realm of reality,” Carr Clifton said. “All except for a few blatant examples that remain. Galen, unfortunately for all of photography, died in the plane crash in early 2002. We were all very sad about it. Now Galen’s prints are frozen in a state of too much syrup. He never made it to the time in 2003-2004 when everyone backed their color off.” Because Galen was so admired, there are now many photographers who try to do what he did with sunrise-drenched mountain tops, brilliant reflections and ultra-vivid colors. Other landscape photographers agree with Carr Clifton. They believe that Galen Rowell might very well have pushed his own work back down the color saturation scale if he had lived. It’s all conjecture, but an interesting theory and something to consider in view of how much landscape photographers try to emulate Galen Rowell’s work. For more about other concerns over the direction of landscape photography today see the blog post, “Is Landscape Photography Thriving Or Dying?” For a new way to look at it and other remedies see the blog post, “What Urban Exploration Photography Learned From Nature.”

Travel and landscape photographer Richard Wong wrote on this subject in November 2010:

…Galen did have a large audience probably due to several factors, one of which was a long relationship with Outdoor Photographer Magazine dating back to the beginning from what I understand, but even before that he had “street cred” in the outdoor community for being a prolific adventurer and rock climber. There were photographers just as good if not better out there at all the different things he did but he was able to connect with and convey his philosophy to his audience much more effectively than most. He was a great writer. And also someone who was always striving to innovate. Looking at his body of work, you can clearly see the evolution over the years. You also have a good point about the color. I was told that his staff worked on those digital masters from his slides in the years prior to his death and probably against advisement, he wanted to push the envelop on the saturation. You can tell by looking at some of his prints up close at his gallery and also in some of his books that some highlight detail was probably sacrificed due to saturation. His Evolution Lake image for example. With that said, I have always overlooked that phase of his career because that doesn’t define his body of work. One thing I’ve always pondered is what Galen would be doing now on the Nikon D700 if he were still around. Breaking new ground for photography I would imagine.

Fuji Velvia film was not the only film that amped up the saturation. Galen Rowell provided a warning against overdoing the color saturation in this quote also from the 1995 book, Galen Rowell’s Vision: The Art of Adventure Photography:

 

Much of what people were saying when Velvia first came out applies to Kodak E100VS today. Sometimes it looks garish, sometimes it looks great, and much of the time it will produce the image that editors will choose. Kodak E100VS often produces bright colors closer to what you believe you saw in flat light or at a distance, but if you use it all the time, you risk having the sum total of your style appear garish and suspect. In direct light this film doesn’t just come near the edge of the color saturation envelope; it moves beyond into a realm that requires the same sort of restraint as the use of color-enhancing filters does.

Probably the same could be said for the color saturation adjustment slider in Photoshop. What do you think? Is “over-saturation” an overblown issue? Is it a myth? Is over-saturation a problem in landscape photography today?

Photography’s Golden Era 10

February 22nd, 2011

California School of Fine Arts Application Questions

(Continued from the blog post, “Photography’s Golden Era 9” in which Philip Hyde shared how the teaching of Minor White and Ansel Adams differed. For more on the teaching of Minor White and Ansel Adams at the California School of Fine Arts now the San Francisco Art Institute see also the blog post, “Photography’s Golden Era 7.”)

Locomotive Drive Gear Parts, Northwest Pacific Railroad Yards, Tiburon, Marin County, California, 1948 by Philip Hyde. Part of a photography school project.

(See the photograph full screen Click Here.)

Ansel Adams taught the 1946 Summer Session at the California School of Fine Arts now the San Francisco Art Institute. The 1946 Summer Session, besides being an intensive round-the-clock photography experience, was also an opportunity for students to either show they were ready for the full-time professional training classes or were to stay with more of the evening classes geared more toward amateurs and semi-professional training.

In his book The Moment of Seeing: Minor White at the California School of Fine Arts, Jeff Gunderson wrote that by the Fall 1946 class, a more in-depth application had also been devised to better determine whether students were ready for the full-time course. By September 1947 there were 20 full-time students for the new fall class. Due to a mix up, Philip Hyde’s application did not get processed for the Fall 1946 Class. He had to wait until the Fall 1947 Class to start at the San Francisco Art Institute. For the story of what he did for that year read the blog post, “Photography’s Golden Era 6.”

We have not yet found Philip Hyde’s application for enrollment. He must have filled out one of the forms below, either in 1946 or 1947. The following are the application questions for the Fall 1947 California School of Fine Arts Photography Department full-time student application:

CALIFORNIA SCHOOL OF FINE ARTS

800 CHESTNUT STREET

SAN FRANCISCO  11, CAL.

Because of the great number of requests for entrance in the Photography class of Fall 1947, it has become necessary to ask you to answer a few questions. It will aid us greatly in selecting students for the Fall class if you will answer them as carefully as possible.

NAME:                                                                                    DATE:

ADDRESS:

1.     Age?

2.     What schooling have you had?

3.     Are your abilities and preferences more mechanical than intellectual? Do you do things with your hands well or only moderately well?

4.     What kind of music do you like best?

5.     Why do you want to learn photography?

6.     If you have had less than two years of university or college training, why do you seek to enter a photography school rather than go to college or complete your work there? (It is recommended that all potential photographers obtain a college degree before attempting to become professionals, although this is not an essential condition of entrance to this school.)

7.     If you have finished college, what was your major and minor and what extra-curricular activities did you have?

8.     Do you intend to aim for the high bracket money reputed to be available to the top-flight commercial or journalistic photographer?

9.     Are you willing to accept a low wage standard for most of your life in order to follow photography as a means of expressing yourself? In other words, do you wish most of all to use the camera as an art medium?

10.  Briefly stated, what are your impressions of the following photographers?  Valentino Sara, Edward Weston, Paul Strand, Edward Steichen, Lisette Model, Berenice Abbott, D.O. Hill, Alfred Stieglitz, George Hurell, George Platt Lynes.

11.  What cameras have you worked with? What experience have you had with photography?

12.  What is your opinion of the present day Salon?

(Please use separate sheet of paper for answers.)

For background on the California School of Fine Arts now the San Francisco Art Institute see the blog post, “Photography’s Golden Era 8.” To read a summary of the beginnings of Ansel Adam’s photography department, the first art school program to teach photography as a full-time profession, see the blog post, “Photography’s Golden Era 1.” To read the controversy over whether the present day is another Golden Era, see the blog post, “Photography’s Golden Era 2.” Find an overview of the first straight photography, Paul Strand, Group f64 and Alfred Stieglitz in the blog post, “Photography’s Golden Era 5” and the blog post, “Photography’s Golden Era 3.” To read about other early influences on Philip Hyde and his father’s wilderness painting, see the blog posts, “Photography’s Golden Era 4,” and “Minor White Letters 1.” For an overview of Philip Hyde’s black and white printing and role in the introduction of color to landscape photography see the blog post, “Black And White Prints, Collectors And Philip Hyde.”

The series will continue in the blog post, “Photography’s Golden Era 11.”

Photography’s Golden Era 9

November 11th, 2010

Ansel Adams And The First Days Of Minor White At The California School Of Fine Arts In The Summer Session

Have you ever been in love?
Only then can you photograph.
–Alfred Stieglitz
(Said to Minor White when he first visited Alfred Stieglitz at Gallery 291 in New York.)

(Continued from the blog post, “Photography’s Golden Era 8“)

Weathered White Bark Pine, Matterhorn Canyon, Yosemite National Park, Sierra Nevada, California, 1950 by Philip hyde. Made the summer after Philip Hyde earned his certificate from the California School of Fine Arts now the San Francisco Art Institute.

(See the photograph full screen Click Here.)

Minor White wrote a letter to Alfred Stieglitz on July 7, 1946 about his first few days in class with Ansel Adams in Summer Session at the California School of Fine Arts, now the San Francisco Art Institute. “My first class the other night was a delicious experience,” Minor White said. Philip Hyde was also in class for the first time with Ansel Adams that same summer.

“It was interesting to watch and listen to the questions of the ex-servicemen,” Minor White wrote to Alfred Stieglitz. Minor White right away in class began to address students’ questions about Alfred Stieglitz and his methods. “I am pretty darned happy to be able to give them first-hand knowledge of your kind of photography,” he wrote.

Ansel Adams Quickly Approves Minor White’s Teaching

“Within the first week, Minor White was busy teaching Alfred Stieglitz’ ‘equivalents’ as well as the Zone System,” wrote Jeff Gunderson in his essay in The Moment of Seeing: Minor White at the California School of Fine Arts. Beaumont and Nancy Newhall, who had originally recommended Minor White for the teaching job received a letter from Ansel Adams that said “Minor is a perfectly swell egg.” “By the third Thursday in the six-week course, Adams took a long weekend in Yosemite,” Jeff Gunderson noted. Ansel Adams “obviously felt comfortable enough to leave the class in White’s hands for a few days after knowing him for less than a week.”

Philip Hyde in a 2004 interview said, “I remember at first I said, ‘Who is this Minor White? He is an interloper. I am interested in what Ansel has to say and do.’ I got over that when I realized that Minor had a lot of things to say too and would be very helpful and interesting.” For more on how Minor White and Philip Hyde influenced each other see the blog post, “Minor White Letters 1.”

Ansel Adams And Minor White Disagree Agreeably

“Minor was a very different person and teacher from me,” Ansel Adams said in his Autobiography. Ansel Adams said that Minor White’s teaching “involved intense ‘verbalization,’ – the talking out of creative intentions, concepts, and directions.”

Minor required maximum quality and conviction of a photographer’s images, all implying superior craft. However, it was the inner message of the photograph that most concerned him; he always wanted to know the thoughts, feelings, and reactions of the artist to his subject and his image. Many were the vigorous yet friendly arguments we endured on this subject over the ensuing years. I remain convinced that the medium must explain itself in its own terms. I agreed with Edward Weston’s frequently spoken Louis Armstrong quote, “Man, if you has to ask, ‘What is it?’ you ain’t never goin’ to know.”… For the viewer, the meaning of the print is his meaning. If I try to impose mine by intruding descriptive titles, I insult the viewer, the print, and myself. I hope to enhance, not destroy, that delicate imaginative quality that should be expected from any form of art…. In retrospect, I feel that Minor was just the right foil for the slightly Calvinistic philosophy of the Group f64 school that my friends and I professed. We stressed the basic craft as it has seldom been accented before or since. Minor taught a high order of craft as well as the introspective attitudes of personal psychology and, later, such Oriental philosophies as Zen. In a sense he added another dimension to the art of photography: perhaps controversial, but convincingly creative.

Philip Hyde Explains Some Ways That Ansel Adams and Minor White Differed

Philip Hyde observed Ansel Adams and Minor White together in the same class from Minor White’s first day at CSFA. Philip Hyde said that Ansel Adams taught much of what he wrote in his books in his Basic Photography Series: The Camera (Book 1), The Negative (Book 2), The Print (Book 3), Natural Light Photography (Book 4) and Artificial Light Photography (Book 5). “Ansel and Minor both devoted time in class to talking broadly about photography,” Philip Hyde said. “They both wanted us to understand the context. They gave us reasons for making photographs too.” Philip Hyde said that seeing was also very important:

Seeing is a process that involves much more than just looking at something. It involves analyzing what you are looking at and thinking about what you are going to do and why you are doing it. When you look at something casually, you are not really seeing it. Meaning is all part of it, but looking hard and letting your eyes go over the subject to see what its nature is and what you want to do with that, how you want to show it. That was part of what Ansel and Minor taught us. We looked at photographs, talked about them and were absorbed in photography. Whatever came across the desk we would look at and analyze.

Minor applied spirituality to his work much more than I was interested in at first anyway. I have always shied away from the word spiritual because it means so many different things to so many different people. I like to find other ways of expressing the idea. Minor and Ansel’s teaching styles were different because Minor was a much more outgoing and outspoken person. He was always surrounded by people and interested in a lot of people. By contrast I don’t think of Ansel as being like that, although Ansel was certainly outgoing and friendly, but he was more formal and Minor was more open. Form in photography was subtle to Ansel. It was not as prominent as with Minor. Minor went to considerable length to emphasize form, whereas Ansel was more interested in conveying his experience through photographs. Minor would see form in things that other people wouldn’t see. Ansel is portrayed as very social with parties at his house, the piano and heads of state visiting, but in his photographs Minor was more outward and social.

Continued in the blog post, “Photography’s Golden Era 10.”

Straight Photography And Abstraction

November 1st, 2010

Alfred Stieglitz, Paul Strand, Edward Weston, Philip Hyde, Straight Photography, Documentary and Abstraction

Reflections, San Juan River, Utah by Philip Hyde. This medium format 6X7 photograph exhibits aspects of abstract photography but is not entirely abstract. The shoreline sandbars, grasses and rocks help clarify what is depicted, while the cliff face is only abstract in that it is upside-down. It can be readily identified as a reflection. Philip Hyde on numerous occasions photographed up-side-down reflections, in some cases without any visual orientation of nearby right-side-up objects. He was the first landscape photographer to photograph an upside-down reflection without any nearby clues.

Some contemporary photographers believe that straight photography is documentary and limited to showing “reality” exactly as it might be seen on an ordinary day as you or I walk by it. A few photographers even try to “brand” themselves natural or straight photographers by sticking to realism and realistic portrayals of their subject. See photographer Guy Tal’s rant against this tendency, “No Lesser An Art.” The realism-only interpretation of straight photography is narrow and defeats the original purpose as envisioned by straight photography’s pioneers such as Alfred Stieglitz, Paul Strand and Edward Weston.

The objective of the photography of Paul Strand for example was not to appear “real” or to depict “reality.” Conversely, Paul Strand’s photography, without any manipulation, showed ordinary objects in a way that caused them to transcend reality.

The website, Ted’s Photographics, describes the work of Paul Strand:

Paul Strand fused together the two seemingly contradictory approaches of documentary and abstraction. For years he only produced contact prints, his pictures were pure, direct and devoid of trickery. His work represented the final break with the traditional concepts of photographic subject matter.

Paul Strand was both the “Father of Abstract Photography” and the “Father of Straight Photography.” Recently photographer Paul Grecian wrote a thought-provoking blog post, “Abstract? It’s All Abstract…” He said that all photographs are abstract because they are different than the objects they depict. While this may be true, a comment by Marty Golin argued that the reverse is also true, that photography is all “reality.” An interesting discussion developed.

Pool In Scorpion Gulch, Escalante Wilderness, now the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah, 1970 by Philip Hyde. First published in "Slickrock: The Canyon Country of Southeast Utah" by Edward Abbey and Philip Hyde. Scott Nichols of Scott Nichols Gallery in San Francisco has been a good advisor from time to time, helping me select images of Dad's to make into archival digital prints. He voted against this one. Paraphrasing, he said for an abstraction it was not abstract enough. He said that collectors wouldn't get it and wouldn't buy it. What do you think? I don't necessarily disagree with his conclusions, but this photograph is one of my own personal favorites, even if it won't sell. Fans of "Slickrock" probably like it. I did not respond at the time but I might have said something about Dad doing with this photograph partly what Paul Strand did. This is an example of the cross-over between documentary and abstract photography. Whether people 'get it' or not, it is a documentary recording of what was there, with a touch of abstraction.

Today some photography intentionally, some unintentionally, is going toward Pictorialism, often taking on aspects of the worst of that genre, sometimes exhibiting the best it offered. In some instances creative expression beyond and after the point of capture can be quite freeing. Extraordinary new types of work are developing. Straight photography has held back some photographers, they feel. With the advent of Photoshop and image alteration, combination, stitching, shifts in focus, and many other special effects or manipulations of color, the creative juices are flowing again. To read more on advanced Photoshop techniques see the blog post, “Monday Blog Blog: Photoshop For Pros.” On the other hand, some photographers today take subject matter that could potentially be transcendent and render it ordinary or even cliché through photographer-imposed affectations and stylization.

Alfred Stieglitz devoted the last issue ever published of his magazine Camera Work to Paul Strand. In Camera Work, Alfred Stieglitz described what constitutes an important contribution to photography:

In the history of photography there are but few photographers who, from the point of view of expression, have really done work of any importance. And by importance we mean work that has some relatively lasting quality, that element which gives all art its real significance….Paul Strand has added something to what has gone before. The work is brutally direct. Devoid of all flim-flam; devoid of trickery and of any “ism”; devoid of any attempt to mystify an ignorant public, including the photographers themselves.

In Creative Photography: Aesthetic Trends 1839-1960, Helmut Gernsheim wrote:

Paul Strand brought a new vision to photography, discovering in the most ordinary objects significant forms full of aesthetic appeal. Nearly all of his pictures broke new ground both in subject matter and in its presentation…. “Abstract Pattern Made by Bowls” and other experiments in abstraction were the result of Strand’s seeing at “Gallery 291” the work of Picasso, Braque, Brancusi and others. [Modernist Abstract Impressionists.]

Paul Strand himself explained this process:

I was trying to apply their then strange abstract principles to photography in order to understand them. Once understanding what the aesthetic elements of a picture were, I tried to bring this knowledge to objective reality in the “White Fence”, the “Viaduct” and other New York photographs…. Subject matter all around me seemed inexhaustible….Yet what makes these photographs is their objectivity. This objectivity is of the very essence of photography, its contribution and at the same time its limitation. The photographer’s problem is to see clearly the limitations and at the same time the potential qualities of his medium, for it is precisely here that honesty no less than intensity of vision is the pre-requisite of a living expression. The fullest realization of this is accomplished without tricks of process or manipulation, through the use of straight photographic methods.

Alders Reflected, Andrew Molera State Park, Big Sur Coast, California, 2009 by David Leland Hyde. Nikon D90. This photograph was made in honor of a well-known vintage black and white photograph by Philip Hyde made on the far Northern California Coast in the Redwoods also called "Alders Reflected." Philip Hyde's "Alders Reflected" does not show any trees or other objects right-side-up, but frames only the up-side-down reflections of alders with a slight wind movement of the water that causes the reflections to break up into diamond-shaped bits of water surface in places. Philip Hyde's "Alders Reflected" has not yet come into the digital era and may not. We may make modern darkroom silver prints of it instead.

Abstraction, more than a technique is the result of selecting a composition that removes the objects in the frame from their context as found in “reality” and changes their nature in the photograph. Another one of the great abstract photographers was Brett Weston. Read more about Brett Weston’s influence in the blog post, “The Hidden Brett Weston.” Webster’s Third International Dictionary Unabridged defines abstract as, “Expressing a property, quality, attribute, or relation viewed apart from the other characteristics inherent in or constituting an object; of a fine art: presenting or possessing schematic or generalized form frequently suggested by and having obscure resemblance to natural appearances through an ordering of pictorial or sculptural elements.” Thus, photographing a field of corn and defocusing the image does not make the photograph abstract, it merely makes it fuzzy. Photographing a corn leaf in such a way that it takes on separate characteristics from those typically associated with corn, is abstract photography.

Do you agree or disagree? What do you feel makes a photograph abstract? Are you drawn more to straight photography, Pictorialism or something in-between?

Lake Tenaya and Yosemite National Park

October 27th, 2010

Lake Tenaya, John Muir and Yosemite National Park Introduce Philip Hyde To Wilderness

All the merry dwellers of the trees and streams, and the myriad swarms of the air, called into life by the sunbeam of a summer morning, go home through death, wings folded perhaps in the last red rays of sunset of the day when they were first tried. Trees towering in the sky, braving storms, for centuries, flowers turning faces to the light for a single day or an hour, having enjoyed their share of life’s feast–all alike pass on and away under the law of death and love. Yet all are our brothers and they enjoy life as we do, share heaven’s blessings with us, die and are buried in hallowed ground, come with us out of eternity and return into eternity.  — John Muir

Early Morning, Lake Tenaya, Yosemite National Park, Sierra Nevada, California, 1975 by Philip Hyde.

(See the photograph full screen Click Here.)

Philip Hyde had a long association with Yosemite National Park, many years before meeting Ansel Adams and Virginia Best Adams of Best’s Studio in Yosemite Valley and a long association with Yosemite after meeting Ansel Adams. Philip Hyde first visited Yosemite National Park with the Boy Scouts on a 1938 Sierra Nevada high country backpack. He returned the following year with the Boy Scouts for another backpack, and nearly every year thereafter, most often with his father Leland Hyde and his brother David Lee Hyde. All the while he carried a soiled and worn copy of John of the Mountains: The Unpublished Journals of John Muir. To read more on how John Muir’s writings inspired Philip Hyde see the blog post, “New Portfolio: Yosemite And Sierra Black and White Prints.”

Philip Hyde’s Early Black And White Landscape Photographs

Philip Hyde made a photograph in 1942 of “Shadow Creek, Minarets Wilderness, Sierra Nevada” on a backpack trip with his father and brother into the Minarets Wilderness, now the Ansel Adams Wilderness. This photograph and others made before World War II in the Sierra Nevada back country, Philip Hyde considered his first fine art quality wilderness photographs, though he did make superb photographs of some trackless wild areas of Sugar Bowl Ski Area in the winter of 1940. A few of these early 1940s photographs are on exhibition for the first time since before World War II, as part of Philip Hyde’s Mountain Landscapes at the Camera Obscura Gallery (post-War digital images from the show are on the Camera Obscura website), currently showing through November 13, 2010. For more details see also the blog post, “Vintage And Digital Prints Together In One Exhibition.”

As described in the blog post, “Photography’s Golden Era 6,” Philip Hyde first met Ansel Adams in the 1946 Summer Session of the California School of Fine Arts, now the San Francisco Art Institute, after serving in the Army Air Corp. For Summer Break 1949, between photography school courses, Ansel Adams helped Ardis and Philip Hyde land the caretakers job at the Sierra Club Parson’s Lodge and McCauley Cabin in Tuolumne Meadows, Yosemite National Park. Read more about the Hydes in Tuolumne Meadows on Philip Hyde’s Sierra Club History pages. Philip Hyde created some of his best black and white landscape photography during the Summer of 1949 and the next summer on a Sierra Club High Trip led by David Brower that started in the back country of Yosemite National Park, headed north through the Minarets Wilderness and circled back to Tuolumne Meadows. For many years Philip Hyde kept up his association and correspondence with Virginia and Ansel Adams, from time to time visiting them at their home in Carmel.

Philip Hyde Teaches At The Ansel Adams Workshops In Yosemite Valley

In 1968, Ansel Adams invited Philip Hyde to sit in on a workshop at the Ansel Adams Gallery in Yosemite Valley. Within the next few years, Philip Hyde began to teach the Ansel Adams June Workshop with Ansel Adams and eventually co-led the Color Workshop for years with William Garnett, Wally MacGalliard, Steve Crouch, David Cavagnaro and others. Philip Hyde also taught the Ansel Adams Landscape Workshop with John Sexton, Stu Levy, Joan Myers and others. The Sierra Photographic Center based in El Portal, California just outside the park, also hosted workshops in Yosemite National Park that Philip Hyde taught, as did the Yosemite Institute and the University of California Extension with such teachers as Philip Hyde, Wynn Bullock, Al Weber, Huntington Witherill, Pirkle Jones, Dave Bohn, Steve Crouch, Art Bacon, Bob Kolbrenner and others. For an introduction and list of the workshops Philip Hyde taught in other places besides Yosemite National Park, see the blog post, “Photography Workshops Taught By Philip Hyde.” In the mid 1970s Best’s Studio was renamed the Ansel Adams Gallery and Ansel’s son, Michael and his wife Jeanne Adams took over the business from his mother Virginia Best Adams. Virginia’s father, Harry Best, originally opened his “studio” to sell his paintings in a tent in 1902. The Ansel Adams Gallery Workshops continued and Philip Hyde with them into the 1980s when he made a number of his best color landscape photographs in Yosemite National Park, before or after teaching workshops, while still lugging around his 4X5 Baby Deardorff View Camera in his 60s.

Ardis And Philip Hyde’s Last Yosemite Sierra Nevada High Country Trip

Ardis and Philip Hyde made their last Sierra Nevada pack trip into the Yosemite High Country July 24 – August 3, 1991, six days before her 66th birthday and 12 days before his 70th birthday. They hiked 6.7 miles the first day from the Dog Lake Trailhead on the Vogelsang Trail to Vogelsang High Sierra Camp. Vogelsang offered “luxurious” tent deck cabins and a common building. Ardis Hyde wrote in her travel log, “Pack trains and numerous hikers going in both directions. The path is a groove but the going is easy and the altitude not noticeable at our slow pace.” They stayed at Vogelsang High Sierra Camp four nights and made side trips while Philip Hyde photographed. The flowers Ardis Hyde identified around Vogelsang were mountain pretty face, alpine hulsea, mountain jewel flower, soft arnica, Gordon’s ivesia, mountain wallflower and ball head sandwort. They also saw an adult Golden Eagle and an immature Golden Eagle. More details of this pack trip in future blog posts. The hike to Merced Lake Camp was 7.6 miles, where they also stayed four nights and then hit the trail at 6:30 am for the long “mostly up” 10 mile hike to Sunrise Camp where they camped for two nights before hiking out to Tuolumne Meadows to end their pack trip and a life-long exploration of the Sierra Nevada High Country and a love of mountain wilderness, particularly in Yosemite National Park.

Falling In Love With The Wilderness Of The Sierra Nevada

This life-long love affair with mountains and Yosemite National Park began for Philip Hyde in 1938 at age 16. The next year at age 17, for the second time he rode in the back of an open truck from San Francisco across California’s Great Central Valley with his Boy Scout friends, “through the foothills of the Sierra into the deep canyon of the Merced River,” as he described it in “Notes On A Life Of Photography” in “The Range of Light”:

This time we headed for Lake Tenaya over the old Tioga Road–that magnificent, unexcelled display road–narrow, twisty, bumpy, steep. We couldn’t go fast; the road’s low standard prevented it–so naturally we saw more of the country, some of the finest in the Sierra Nevada. At Tenaya we had the lake and the wonderful granite sand beach at the east end to ourselves. A camper could borrow one of the camp’s canoes, which I did one night, paddling alone out on the silent, dark lake. I remember sitting for long minutes, my head cocked back so I could see, entranced by the millions of pin-points of light–a city kid whose only views of the night sky had been through fog or haze and light-flared dense city air. That was my first brush with the immensity, silence and solitude of wilderness.

The next blog post will be number 100 for Landscape Photography Blogger. We will honor the occasion with the first part of “A Lament For Glen Canyon” by Philip Hyde, originally published in The Living Wilderness.

Photography’s Golden Era 8

October 25th, 2010

The California School Of Fine Arts Makes Art History

Continued from the blog post, “Photography’s Golden Era 7.”

Snags And Tree Reflections In Lake In Ritter Range, now Ansel Adams Wilderness, Sierra Nevada, 1950 by Philip Hyde. This photograph almost made the "Golden Decade: Photography at the California School of Fine Arts 1945-1955" book. It was the next runner up.

(See the photograph full screen, Click Here.)

The California School of Fine Arts, now the San Francisco Art Institute, since 1930 has occupied the same campus buildings at 800 Chestnut Street between Jones and Leavenworth on San Francisco’s vibrant Russian Hill. The Russian Hill neighborhood “offers some of the best views of the city, a park at its summit and Lombard, the ‘crookedest’ street in the world,” explains the San Francisco Art Institute’s website:

Founded in 1871, the San Francisco Art Institute is one of the U.S.’s oldest and most prestigious schools of higher education in contemporary art.… At SFAI we focus on educating artists who will become the creative leaders of their generation.… SFAI has been central to the development of many of this country’s most notable art movements. During its first sixty years, influential artists associated with the school included Eadweard Muybridge, photographer and pioneer of motion graphics; Maynard Dixon, painter of San Francisco’s labor movement and of the landscape of the West; Henry Kiyama, whose Four Immigrants Manga was the first graphic novel published in the US; Louise Dahl-Wolf, an innovative photographer whose work for Harper’s Bazaar defined a new American style of “environmental” fashion photography in the 1930s; John Gutzon Borglum, the creator of the large-scale public sculpture known as Mt. Rushmore; and numerous others.

In 1930 Mexican muralist Diego Rivera arrived in San Francisco…to paint a fresco at the school’s new campus on Chestnut Street. Many of the school’s faculty had visited Rivera in Mexico, and the school had a distinguished program in fresco painting.… After 1945, the school became a nucleus for Abstract Expressionism. New York artists Clyfford Still, Ad Reinhardt, and Mark Rothko taught here, along with David Park, Elmer Bischoff, Nathan Oliveira, and others… The first film course at CSFA was taught by Sydney Peterson in 1947. Jordan Belson, who had enrolled as a painting student in 1944, showed his first abstract film, Transmutations, in 1947 at the second “Art in Cinema” program, co-sponsored by CSFA and the San Francisco Museum of Art. In 1949, an international conference, The Western Roundtable on Modern Art, was organized by CSFA Director Douglas McAgy, and included Marcel Duchamp, Frank Lloyd Wright, and Gregory Bateson, among others. The object of the roundtable was to expose “hidden assumptions” and to frame new questions about art.

Renamed the San Francisco Art Institute in 1961, SFAI refuted the distinction between fine and applied arts, and expanded the definition of art to include performance, conceptual art, graphic arts, typography, and political and social documentary. The year 1968 was, as elsewhere in the world, a pivotal year in the history of the San Francisco Art Institute. Among the students at SFAI that year were Annie Liebovitz, who had just begun photographing for Rolling Stone magazine; Paul McCarthy, well-known for his gross but hilarious performance videos; and Charles Bigelow, who would be among the first typographers to design fonts for computers. Alumni Ruth-Marion Baruch and Pirkle Jones (also faculty) were documenting the early days of the Black Panther Party in Northern California, and the photographs were exhibited at the de Young Museum.

CSFA Students In Other Art Departments Reject Photography As An Art

Pirkle Jones was a classmate of Philip Hyde and Benjamen Chinn in the second class of Ansel Adam’s photography department that started in Fall 1947. All three photographers went on to full-time photography careers throughout their lives. Benjamen Chinn continued to work for the Navy as a civilian in charge of the photo lab in San Francisco and on his own made fine art photographs of China Town for many years. Pirkle Jones developed an illustrious publishing career including projects with documentary photography pioneer Dorothea Lange. Philip Hyde’s photographs were central to the development of the modern environmental movement and helped introduce color to landscape photography. These photographers and the others who attended Ansel Adam’s photography program in its early years began their careers when photography was still becoming recognized as an art form and when little market for stock photography existed. Many California School of Fine Arts students became instrumental in the development of the medium. For more information on the work of the many talented CSFA photography students see the blog post, “The Golden Decade: California School of Fine Arts Photography,” or the blog post, “Over 500 People Attend Golden Decade Opening.”

In 1945 when word passed around the California School of Fine Arts that Ansel Adams was starting a photography department, the other departments flew into an uproar. Ansel Adams described it in his Autobiography:

The painters, sculptors, printmakers, and ceramicists arose in wrath and protest; photography is not an art, they claimed, and had no place in an art school. Besides, the other artists insisted they had insufficient space as it was. Ted Spencer (Previous CSFA President, Head of the Board, and President of the San Francisco Art Association) was really provoked but he stood fast. He knew photography is an art form and he was determined that it become part of the school curriculum. I was very unpopular around the school until it became obvious that my basic teaching in that medium, in both craft and aesthetic direction, was agreeable and progressive.

However, even then objection sometimes bubbled just beneath the surface, particularly in the painting department, where both students and faculty continued to conspire against the new department. These objections and malicious undermining finally softened as talented photography students began to take courses in other departments and excel. The students became acquainted and the ice began to melt. Besides, the photography students were bringing the school new recognition in exhibitions around San Francisco at some of the best museums and galleries.

Ansel Adams Plans “The Best Photo School In The U.S.”

Ted Spencer, besides being president of the San Francisco Arts Association, was a renowned architect. He helped Ansel Adams brainstorm and lay out the photography department. Ansel Adams had many other allies including the influential art barron, Albert Bender. Albert Bender helped some of the students and graduates with what became a prestigious Grant In Aid. Philip Hyde was one of the first two recipients of the Bender Grant. More on the Bender Grant in future blog posts. In Jeff Gunderson’s essay on the beginnings of the phtography program in The Moment of Seeing: Minor White at the California School of Fine Arts, he said that Ansel Adams “did not want to repeat the mistakes he had witnessed while teaching at the Art Center in Los Angeles” in developing the California School of Fine Arts photography department and curriculum. Jeff Gunderson wrote about and quoted Ansel Adams describing his plans:

He stressed “personal contact with the instructor,” which he thought “more effective and stimulating than continuous, routine, group instruction.” Consequently he strongly recommended that the department “be based…on a music conservatory plan…with lectures, demonstrations and exhibits,…required reading, and personal instruction and assignments.” These lectures would serve to “orient the entire school” not just the photography students, “toward understanding…good photography as an important element of contemporary life.” Adams stressed that the history of photography needed to be incorporated into the “general course of art history offered to all students” and that the photography faculty would be prepared to contribute the necessary lectures and illustrations.” To increase income and publicize the department, he proposed “evening classes for amateurs” that could be offered “as an interesting inducement to the general public.” Adams recognized that the venture would consume much of his time, and he was driven to complete other extracurricular projects, including a “series of 6 books on technique for Morgan & Lester” that would eventually include Camera and Lens, The Negative and The Print.

In 1945 as the first of the G.I. Bill students began to pour in recently liberated from World War II, CSFA finances boosted enough that the CSFA Board gave Ansel Adams the go-ahead to teach one eight week course and two four week sessions. By January 1946, a full-time session “for advanced amateurs and professionals” began with a maximum capacity enrollment of 36 students that continued in the Fall as the first full-time class in the department.

Philip Hyde, who was scheduled to begin the full-time class in the Fall of 1947, attended the Summer Session in 1946. Students anticipated this Summer Session because Ansel Adams had written that it would be a special class that would allow the school to “clear up various ‘bugs’ in the studio, lab and general operation.” It would also serve as a “screening course” for the next entering class and should be “very intensive and…reveal with its 6 weeks’ span the abilities—or lack of them in the students.”

Benjamen Chinn Talks Skills And Photographic Prints

Benjamen Chinn later remarked that Philip Hyde had been much more experienced as a photographer than he was when they started together in the Fall of 1947. This is surprising and possibly part of Benjamen Chinn’s modest nature to describe Philip Hyde that way because Benjamen Chinn had taken photography when he attended Galileo High School, which today is known as Galileo Academy of Science and Technology. Benjamen Chinn knew Bill Quandt from his high school photography classes. Later, beginning in 1947, Bill Quandt assisted Minor White as instructor of photography at the California School of Fine Arts. Benjamen Chinn had also taken photography at San Francisco City College and had been a photographer for the Navy during World War II. Philip Hyde took photography at Polytechnic High School and at San Francisco City College before the War but never met Benjamen Chinn until Fall 1947 in class at the California School of Fine Arts.

The Summer 1946 course, besides Ansel Adams, had two established Bay Area photographers on faculty, both Group f64 members, Imogen Cunningham and Alma Lavenson. Minor White first joined the class as a student on July 5. Ansel Adams had hired Minor White to take his place as lead instructor. “The whole muddled business of exposure and development fell into place,” Minor White wrote of his experience in the first class he sat in on. “Sitting up in class my problems…cleared up pronto!… The theory was crystalline clear…and I was out in the afternoon helping kids trying to do it. I think they probably knew more about it than I did; but some of them knew less, so I talked to those.” To read more about Minor White’s teaching and how he and Philip Hyde inspired each other see the blog post, “Minor White Letters 1.”

“Ansel was interested in good fine prints like his own,” Benjamen Chinn said. “He was a fine pianist. I always maintained that his piano playing was even better than his photography.” Benjamen Chinn’s print collection included those by Imogen Cunningham and Edward Weston but not Ansel Adams. “I wasn’t collecting then,” Ben said. “I didn’t realize his prints would go up in price that much. Of course now all photographs are going up.” Benjamen Chinn pointed out in 2005 that many collectors are now collecting prints from the first ten years of Ansel Adams’ photography program. Richard Gadd, Director of the Weston Gallery in Carmel, said in 2009 that the late 1940s and early 1950s have been overlooked by collectors and are now getting more attention. A well-known Bay Area photography collector specializes in collecting photographs by California School of Fine Arts students. Benjamen Chinn said that this collector published a catalog of the work of most of the early California School Of Fine Arts students.

“They priced each small print at $3,000 or $2,500 and up,” Benjamen Chinn said. They usually collect from estate sales. They got three or four of my prints from a classmate’s collection. When she was moved to a home they cleaned out her place and found some of the exchange prints. A lot of people had Bill Quandt’s prints and they got his originals too. I’m sure they didn’t pay much for them. After they found out who I was they asked me to go up to where they lived in the Mission Street area in San Francisco and sign their prints with them. They showed me some prints of mine, and many others. They probably got the whole estate for $500. The people didn’t know what they had. They just wanted to get rid of the stuff quickly.”

In future blog posts in this series look forward to reading about student gatherings and print exchanges in various homes, at Ansel Adam’s house and at Vesuvio’s in vibrant North Beach, about the unusual questions on the California School of Fine Arts photography school application, more about Ansel Adam’s Zone System, how students would wonder what Benjamen Chinn was doing for his assignment as he worked at home, classes with Minor White, a field trip with Edward Weston, how the Bay Area art culture began to blossom and much more. For more about Edward Weston not in this series see the blog post, “Edward Weston’s Landscape Philosophy Part 1.”

Continued in the blog post, “Photography’s Golden Era 9.”

Photography’s Golden Era 7

September 4th, 2010

Classmates Philip Hyde And Benjamen Chinn Talk About Ansel Adam’s Photography Department At The California School of Fine Arts

(Continued from the blog post, “Photography’s Golden Era 6.”)

San Francisco Emerges As Post-War Art And Industrial Center Of The West

Locomotive Drive Gear Parts, Tiberon Northwest Pacific Railroad Yards, Marin County, California, 1948 by Philip Hyde. This photograph among others in the Black and White I and Photography School Portfolios will appear in the new book, "The Golden Decade: Photography at the California School of Fine Arts, 1945-1955" to be released Tonight, September 4, 2010 at the opening reception at Smith Andersen North Gallery. Also this evening will be a preview screening of the short documentary film, "Looking For My Father Through Ansel Adam's Lens."

(See the photograph full screen Click Here.)

San Francisco flourished coming out of World War II and grew into the financial capitol of the Western United States. In 1945 Bank of America became the largest bank in the world. Bechtel built Glen Canyon Dam on the Colorado River in the early 1960s, and by the 1970s developed into the largest privately held corporation in the world.

Just up the hill from Kaiser, Bank of America, Bechtel, Utah Mining and Construction and others in San Francisco’s financial district, stood the Mill Towers headquarters of what developers called the “enemies of progress,” the Sierra Club. Before the 1950s the Club had only a few thousand members, but in just two decades its numbers soared into the hundreds of thousands.

While industrialists and environmentalists squared off, San Francisco also became the West Coast’s creative center. After World War II, discharged veterans were armed with a new domestic weapon, the G. I. Bill, that promised to pay for their education in the trade school or college of their choice. The Jazz age brought a vibrant night life and music scene to the streets and night clubs of San Francisco. Artists from war-torn Europe and elsewhere settled in the Bay Area. The many military bases funneled young men into industrial development and provided labor for an expanding city.

Writers and artists took over cheap rentals in Marin County from what had been shipyard housing. Abandoned barges in Sausalito were converted into homes with roofs and plumbing. The mingling of painters, sculptors, print makers, photographers, potters, graphic artists, metalworkers and other artists transformed Northern California and the world. It was a great time to be a photographer in San Francisco.

The Legacy And Optimism Of California School Of Fine Arts Photography

At the California School of Fine Arts now the San Francisco Art Institute, painters and sculptors, many who later became famous, taught or attended classes. At the time the California School of Fine Arts was among a handful of institutions in the nation that offered an extensive full-time program in photography. Ansel Adams had founded the first academic department in the country to teach photography as a profession at the California School of Fine Arts in 1945. The importance of the school and its influence on all of photography has lasted well into the 21st Century. Ansel Adams and his lead instructor Minor White from Princeton, hired on recommendation from Beaumont Newhall, helped transformed the dialog around photographic practice to a serious study. Students were trained to be not only technically proficient but thoughtful and intentional about how they approached the world with a camera. To learn more about Minor White’s classroom and his letters to Beaumont and Nancy Newhall and his student Philip Hyde about one of his questions, see the blog post, “Minor White Letters 1.”

Their education delayed by the War, many of the photography students were at least three years older than the typical college freshmen. “Most of us were in the service where our lives were on hold,” said San Francisco born student Philip Hyde. “The War taught us a lot that grew us up fast.” Though Philip Hyde’s 15-20 classmates got along well, he said they never talked about the War. “We were enthusiastic about our new lives and wanted to leave the past behind.” They were serious, yet “happy to be free” and enthusiastic to pursue such an outstanding opportunity in San Francisco, the post-war hotbed for the incubation of young artists. The photography students were all highly dedicated. One student, Al Richter, always carried his camera, even at the parties. Al Richter took pictures of each class member and gave them prints.

“The times were amazing because optimism permeated the country,” Philip Hyde said. “Those were some of the happiest days of my life. I was newly married and pursuing something that I thought was important to do. There was a lot of lightheartedness in class. A few of the guys were wags, you know, they often cracked jokes.”

Who Made The Jokes In Class

“That was John Rogers cracking the jokes,” said another classmate Benjamen Chinn. “I know how to Joke but I don’t talk as much as John Rogers. John was the one that always teased Minor White. Al Richter was quiet but had a dry sense of humor.” With the humor, positive outlook and time spent together, many of the class members became life-long friends. Al Richter and Benjamen Chinn called Philip Hyde after he moved to the mountains for the rest of their lives. They drove the five hours from San Francisco to Philip Hyde’s home in the wilderness in 1958, 1959 and 1961.

“Al took his vacation and my vacation didn’t matter, I could take it any time,” Ben Chinn said. “Two or three years in a row he wanted to go up and visit Philip. He did the driving and I just rode along. Al might have had a plan, but I never knew it. He never told me where we were going. It was for the best.” They traveled equipped with 4X5 Baby Deardorffs on wooden tripods. They had a rule that if either one of them saw a picture they would stop and photograph for a while before going on. “Paul Caponigro went with us one of those trips,” Ben said. Paul Caponigro was a photographer friend of Ben’s that he introduced to Ansel Adams, and who subsequently became renowned in his own right.

Ansel Adam’s Approach To Teaching

As founder of the school and teacher of the classes from time to time, Ansel Adams had to find the best way to harness the student’s enthusiasm. He said in his autobiography, “The teacher must guide the student carefully asking if his image says what he wanted it to say and what he tried to visualize as the completed print before the exposure was made. It must be the student’s image, not one imposed upon him.”

“He talked to us in class in such a way, especially when we were out in the field,” Philip Hyde said. Though Ansel did not get into the field with us as much as Minor White or Edward Weston. People have said Ansel’s books are essentially the material he taught in class. Both Ansel and Minor devoted a lot of time talking to us about photography. For Ansel ‘Seeing’ was very important.”

Seeing, Looking, Minor White’s Space Analysis And Other Discoveries

“To me seeing is a process that involves much more than just looking at something.” Philip Hyde said. “It involves analyzing what you are looking at and thinking about what you are going to do, what you are doing it for. When you look at something casually you are not really seeing it. You have to look pretty hard and you have to let your eyes go over it and size it up.”

Benjamen Chinn had been a photographer since age 10. He did aerial reconnaissance photography during the War. Ben started in September 1947 just like Philip Hyde, but left in the middle of 1949 to go to art school in Paris. Benjamen Chinn attended the famous Art School at Sorbonne, University of Paris. He also hitch-hiked all over Europe and in time traveled the world. For many years he worked for the U. S. Department of Defense establishing and overseeing its color photo lab in San Francisco for many years.

Neither Philip Hyde nor Benjamen Chinn seemed to have a firm grasp of Minor White’s famous Space Analysis. Ben said it was one thing he never knew. “On the assignment I did what I thought he wanted. I did a far and near subject. You either had to have the far and near all in focus or focus on the background then focus on the foreground. This identified the space. That is what I thought it was. I am not sure.”

“I don’t have a specific definition of it,” Philip Hyde said. “It is roughly as I say, looking at what is there and deciding what you will include. In doing that you have to look over the space you are pointing at with the camera. The camera and lens are going to select something to capture. We learned to operate the camera to select what we wanted. We learned to take in the whole scene and see what is really there. With some subjects in some photographs my process of seeing was almost instantaneous. The average passer-by doesn’t see everything, not because their eye missed it, but because they didn’t notice it, their brain edited it out.”

This emphasis on careful seeing was a key component of what Ansel Adams, Minor White and Edward Weston taught at the California School of Fine Arts. Philip Hyde explained that some of it was verbalized and some of it he received “largely by osmosis.” He said he learned many of his life-long tools of perception through immersion. “I learned by looking at photographs, talking about them and being totally involved with being a photographer,” Philip Hyde said. “Certain details of a scene capture my attention. With some photographs I experienced a recognition that there was something I ought to photograph. Sometimes seeing can be very quick. After the decision to make a photograph, then you can go back over it and analyze and make sure everything is right about your adjustments: how you framed it and so on. After you see the photograph the process continues with deciding exposure and lens settings. When I’m out looking for photographs it is like I am setting up my own interior camera.”

Pre-Visualization, Photography Exhibitions And Student Assignments

Ansel Adams taught students to make a rectangular black cardboard frame cut out to compose pictures at first. The student could put that special film over the opening and even end up with a black and white image. Philip Hyde said this was only the initial phase in working with the camera. “I wanted to use my eyes rather than an artificial piece of cardboard.”

Philip Hyde said Ansel Adams and Minor White generally had no trouble motivating the students. “All they had to do was say, ‘we are going to do this’ and everybody would be ready to do it. If there was a show at the school or at the San Francisco Museum of Art, Minor would send us on assignment to report on the show.” Sometimes these reports were written and sometimes they were given in verbal form, one student at a time to the rest of the class. “With the verbal reports, we were to describe the show and say something about what impressed us and what we looked for and what we thought the show meant. Sometimes we would describe a picture we particularly liked and explain what about it interested us. There was a lot of that kind of analysis. That was one of the ways we learned.”

For information on a unique exhibition opening tonight of the CSFA photographers from this era go to the blog post, “The Golden Decade: California School of Fine Arts Photography.” For more on the landscape photography of Edward Weston see the blog post, “Edward Weston’s Landscape Philosophy Part 1.”

Continued in the next blog post in the series, “Photography’s Golden Era 8.”

References:

Taped Interviews with Philip Hyde

Taped Interviews with Benjamen Chinn

Community of Creatives Website

Smith Andersen North Gallery Website

The Moment of Seeing: Minor White at the California School of Fine Arts by Stephanie Comer, Deborah Klochko and Jeff Gunderson

Photography’s Golden Era 6

July 22nd, 2010

The Early Days Of Ansel Adam’s Photography Department At The California School Of Fine Arts

(Continued from the blog post, “Photography’s Golden Era 5.”)

The Minarets From Tarn Above Lake Ediza, Minarets Wilderness (now the Ansel Adams Wilderness), Sierra Nevada Mountain Range, California, 1950 by Philip Hyde. This photograph Ansel Adams said he liked better than his own of the Minarets. Philip Hyde during and after photography school at the California School of Fine Art was invited by his teachers and mentors, Ansel Adams, Minor White, Edward Weston, Imogen Cunningham and Dorothea Lange to exhibit his photographs with theirs in major exhibitions. He exibited on several occasions with Edward Weston in a two-man show, once with Minor White in a two-man show, and in group shows with members of Group f.64. This photograph of the Minarets was chosen for a number of the exhibitions and now resides in national collections such as the Eastman Kodak House and others.

The Dispersion of Group f.64 Members

From Group f.64’s beginnings in the San Francisco Bay Area, members dispersed in various directions, setting out to show the world that this “new” form of photography would not only take, it would become the prevailing form. Today in the Twenty-first century people all over the world study the work of the members of Group f.64 and similar greats of the Modern Era, which lasted roughly from 1930 through the 1950s in the United States.

Many members of Group f.64 left the Bay Area in pursuit of a change in public perception of what made a photograph art. Willard Van Dyke moved to New York and became an avant garde filmmaker believing “film could promote change faster than still photography.” Ansel Adams also spent time in New York and mounted exhibitions of his work there. Edward Weston went to Santa Barbara to be with his son. Many accounts agree that Group f.64 was mainly social and short-lived. “Yet in interviews with these now famous photographers,” Therese Thau Heyman in Seeing Straight: The F.64 Revolution in Photography pointed out,  “In their notes and letters, and in newspaper reviews beginning with the (De Young Museum) exhibition, there are indications that these assumptions are hasty. Hurried notes, a few initials in exhibition lists, and recently discovered letters refer not to one but to a series of shows. Los Angeles, Portland, Carmel, Seattle, and still other sites are mentioned as venues at which the photographs were seen…”

Photography Obtains Status With Other Arts: A Photography Department At The Museum Of Modern Art

In 1940 David McAlpin, a Rockefeller heir and trustee of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, abbreviated MoMA, financed the founding of a department of photography at the museum. A Harvard-trained art historian, MoMA librarian and curator of MoMA’s first photographic exhibition in 1937, Beaumont Newhall was the department’s curator. McAlpin’s gift was contingent on Ansel Adams consenting to be vice-chairman and agreeing to come to New York for six months to advise the launch. Over 500 New Yorkers turned out for the first opening. This was regarded as a large crowd for such an event and Time Magazine asserted that such a department gave photography equal status to painting and sculpture. However, most other press failed to recognize its significance.

Back in 1932, the renowned architect Ted Spencer had first caught the straight photography vision when he attended a Group f64 exhibition at the M. H. de Young Memorial Museum in San Francisco and met Ansel Adams, Edward Weston, Imogen Cunningham and other Group f64 members. Ted Spencer was president of the San Francisco Art Association, which held the controlling interest in the California School of Fine Arts, now the San Francisco Art Institute. By 1945, the California School of Fine Arts had a prestigious reputation as an art school with painting faculty including Elmer Bischoff, Mark Rothko and Clyfford Still. Ted Spencer suggested to Ansel Adams that they work together to develop a photography department at the California School of Fine Arts. Ted Spencer set aside the greater part of the main basement and one of the large studios for the new department. With architectural advice from Ted Spencer, Ansel Adams designed three darkrooms and a large demonstration area. The lowest estimate for the construction came in at $9,500. Following a search elsewhere, Adams finally received $10,000 from the Columbia Foundation and raised another $2,500 for equipment. After many delays and complications, Ansel Adams was ready to teach his first classes. He had already developed the cornerstone of his system for teaching photography that he called, “The Zone System.”

Ansel Adams Refines The Zone System

With the idea of furthering photography as an art form, Ansel Adams first began to teach workshops and classes at the Art Center School in Los Angeles. Other photographers have been credited with its invention, but Ansel Adams named it “The Zone System.” Ansel Adams developed “The Zone System” at the Art Center School in Los Angeles in 1941 and later refined it in early classes at the California School of Fine Arts from 1945 through 1947. The ‘Zone System’ enabled even inexperienced photographers to make quality photographs. Simplified, the ‘Zone System’ is a method for measuring light and dark tones in the photograph’s subject and corresponding values in the final print. Assigning Roman numerals from one at near-white to ten at near-black becomes what Ansel Adams called, “A framework for understanding exposure and development, and visualizing their effect in advance.”

Philip Hyde Writes Ansel Adams For Advice

In 1945, Sargeant Philip Hyde, while awaiting “separation” from the Army Air Corp was stationed at Maxwell Field, Montgomery, Alabama. Having heard of Ansel Adams before World War II, he wrote to the master landscape photographer in San Francisco and asked for advice on choosing good photography schools. Ansel Adams replied to Philip Hyde with a four-page letter discussing the pros and cons of various types of training. Near the end he mentioned that he just then happened to be working to obtain funding for the first college-level photography department ever at the California School of Fine Arts. Besides his extensive good advice to the young Sargeant, Ansel Adams wrote Philip Hyde, “This is confidential but…. We are hoping to establish the most advanced and effective photographic school in the country…. Do not be taken with the idea that technique is the only requirement, or that photography can be mastered in a year. It is just as tough as music, architecture, or painting–if it is going to be good.”

Philip Hyde was honorably discharged in December 1945 and made it home to San Francisco by Christmas. Philip Hyde briefly met his future wife and life-long traveling companion, Ardis King at a New Year’s Eve Party in San Francisco. They did not see each other again until the Fall of 1946, when Philip Hyde took several classes at the University of California Berkeley through a twist of fate. Ansel Adams taught a one-month course at the California School of Fine Arts in January 1946 and a Summer Session from June 24 through August 2. The first regular semester day class was to start in September 1946.

Philip Hyde Looses His Place In Class But Gains His Life Long Companion

Philip Hyde attended the Summer Session at the California School of Fine Arts instructed by Ansel Adams. Philip Hyde was waiting eagerly for the full-time Fall photography class. However, a surprise was in store. “Nearly 500 students applied to the photography program,” wrote Jeff Gunderson in The Moment of Seeing: Minor White at the California School of Fine Arts. “The capacity of the laboratory facilities limited the number of students to 36.” Philip Hyde had written and applied early but due to some mix-up in his paperwork or confusion over the date of his application, Ansel Adams had to write to let him know that he “headed the waiting list” for the next regular semester day class to start the following Fall 1947. Philip Hyde would have to wait a year to start photography school. He was upset at the time but Minor White suggested it was an opportunity to get some broader education using his G.I. Bill.

Philip Hyde applied to U. C. Berkeley and took a design class, a painting class with the famous Japanese painter Chiura Obata and several other classes over two semesters. He also ran across Ardis King again, who was studying for her teaching credential. They eventually were married in June 1947 (More in a future blog post and in the book.) “If it weren’t for the mix-up at CSFA,” Dad said. “I never would have become acquainted with my future wife. Thus the year he waited to go to photography school became one of the happiest years of his life. However, when he joined the second regular class in September 1947, something else had changed.

Ansel Adams Leaves Minor White In Charge Of The New Photography Department

In 1946 Ansel Adams received his first Guggenheim Fellowships to photograph national parks. During the Summer Session he trained photographer Minor White, imported from Princeton, to take his place as lead instructor. This freed Ansel Adams to hit the road. Ansel Adams taught the first three weeks of the course in the Fall of 1947 and then left for Death Valley and on to the Southwest to make landscape photographs. Minor White was left with a somewhat disgruntled crew of students who had expected to learn directly from Ansel Adams. However, the students soon realized that Minor White was a superb teacher and took their studies far beyond mere technique. Philip Hyde knew Minor White had much to offer as a teacher because he had seen Minor White and Ansel Adams work together in the 1946 Summer Session. For more about Minor White’s teaching and Philip Hyde’s participation in class read the blog post, “Minor White Letters 1.”

Minor White wrote of Ansel Adams in Memorable Fancies, “This morning in his class at the California School of Fine Arts the whole muddled business of exposure and development fell into place. This afternoon I started teaching his Zone System.” Ansel Adams wrote of Minor White in his Biography, “After seeing his photographs and observing his teaching of the students over the space of a few weeks, I quickly recognized that Minor White was a remarkable photographer and a potentially great teacher.”

Despite mutual respect the two men often had opposite views. Ansel Adams said that the craft of photography could be taught but that the art of seeing was not expressible or teachable. Nor did he believe photographs should be psychologically analyzed. In contrast, Minor White had learned Freudian analysis from the eminent art historian Meyer Schapiro at Columbia University. Minor White taught what he called Space Analysis. Benjamen Chinn, Philip Hyde, Bill Heick, David Johnson and what ended up being about 11 other photography students started the second full-time day student class in Fall 1947. Benjamen Chinn said that the students teased Minor White, accusing him of picking subjects out of the morning newspaper and analitically relating them to photographs. Though their approaches differed, Ansel Adams and Minor White developed a mutual respect and became good friends as can be readily seen in their letters to each other. Both instructors and students benefited from the lively interaction of the conflicting perspectives of the two master photographers. For more information on the photographers of the Golden Era see the blog post, “The Golden Decade: California School Of Fine Arts Photography.” This series continues with the blog post, “Photography’s Golden Era 7.”

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