Posts Tagged ‘Ansel Adams Wilderness’

Ansel Adams And Paul Strand On Self-Promotion and Exhibitions

July 7th, 2011

Split Boulder Near Lake Ediza, The Minarets, Ansel Adams Wilderness, Sierra Nevada, California, 1950 by Philip Hyde. First exhibited in the original "Perceptions" exhibition at the San Francisco Museum of Art in 1954 with the work of the members of Group f.64, Minor White, his students and a few other Bay Area photographers. This exhibition many consider one of the foundations that defined what became known as the West Coast tradition.

(To see the photograph full screen Click Here.)

In reading the letters between Paul Strand and Ansel Adams from the Center for Creative Photography’s publication, The Archive, it quickly becomes apparent that the times then were quite different. The first exchange of letters between the two photographers in 1933 occurred during the Great Depression, when photography was almost unheard of and even other forms of art were comparatively scarce in relation to the volumes produced today.

To compete and be heard in the market today, a photographer must not only make good photographs, but also promote tastefully. Writing well online also helps to develop a following. One of today’s photographers succeeding in all three is Guy Tal. I have mentioned him before on this blog and I mention him again, because what he writes often relates to what I am learning about the history of photography and because he recommended my blog to his readers. I like Guy Tal’s blog, not because I always agree with him, but because he has a knack for stirring up ideas, thoughts and opinions and getting people to participate. Recently he wrote a blog post called, “Small Confession,” in which he acknowledges the necessity of self-promotion but confesses that he respects photographers who do it reluctantly more than those who revel in it.

Shortly after reading this post, I started reading the letters between Paul Strand and Ansel Adams. These two pioneers, despite what it appears to us now, were also reluctant self-promoters. However, they lived in a time when people were looking for something new artistically and there wasn’t all that much being created of note. Along came people like Alfred Stieglitz, Georgia O’Keeffe, Pablo Picasso, Paul Strand, Ansel Adams, Edward Weston and others. These people offered something that had never been seen before.

Straight photography was not a stuffy, constraining, self-contradicting notion as it is seen by some today. It was a huge Wow, and also freeing and energizing to the medium. Also, these artists did not have to promote themselves as loudly to be heard, because there was much less noise then and fewer voices vying for the public’s attention. People mobbed most of the events of the straight photographers. Perhaps those who look at straight photography as out-dated and old-fashioned, will have justification for that opinion when their events are packed because they have invented something striking and new enough to draw hoards of people.

The first time Ansel Adams wrote to Paul Strand, he reminded him of their meeting and mentioned meeting with Alfred Stieglitz in New York City. Then Ansel Adams told Paul Strand that he had opened a small gallery…

My place is most decidedly not an imitation of Stieglitz’; I wrote him at great length and outlined my plans—I told him I was going to alternate my exhibits between photography and painting or graphic arts, that I was not a missionary or a promoter, and that I did not care if I made anything out of the gallery or not—I only hoped it would pay its own rent. I am trying to bring things to San Francisco that should have come many years ago.

Ansel Adams went on to ask Paul Strand if he would be interested in exhibiting his photographs at Ansel Adams’ gallery. Paul Strand wrote back…

Actually I have little interest in exhibitions—because at the basis they seem to be un-American—just a mean and meaningless affair; mean in that they exploit the artist to entertain the public free of charge—meaningless in that they seldom establish any standards.

I turned down three museums last year in just the above terms—Their impudence and complete ignorance of what they are doing is just disgusting—They think that flattery is a substitute—but they can all go to hell as far as I am concerned—for I refuse to be part of that racket—that is my general feeling about exhibitions—I can never get used to the idea that pictures are free entertainment in the U.S., elsewhere too, that the people who claim to enjoy a thing never support the individual who makes what gives them pleasure.

Paul Strand went on to explain that it was difficult to send his prints out of Mexico, where he was living at the time, for fear they might be damaged, and that he might entertain the idea if he could ever make it to San Francisco in person. Paul Strand told Ansel Adams of a show he had in Mexico under extenuating circumstances, that over 3,000 people came to see in 10 days. Not bad for someone who despised the whole idea. For more about the photography of Paul Strand see the blog posts, “Straight Photography And Abstraction,” and “Photography’s Golden Era 5.”

(This blog post was originally posted March 24, 2010.)

David Brower: Photographer And Environmentalist 1

January 15th, 2011

In Honor Of The One Year Anniversary Of The Launch Of Landscape Photography Blogger…

David Brower: Photographer, Filmmaker And

Father Of Modern Environmentalism Part One

Storm Over The Minarets, Yosemite Sierra High Trip, now the Ansel Adams Wilderness, High Sierra Nevada, California, 1950 by Philip Hyde. One of Philip Hyde's signature images that came from the 1950 Summer High Trip that started and ended in Tuolumne Meadows and explored the North side of Yosemite National Park and the Ritter Range in the Ansel Adams Wilderness.

(See the photograph full screen Click Here.)

David Brower, an excellent photographer and filmmaker in his own right, did more to help popularize and show the political power of landscape photography than any other single person in the 20th Century.

In light of this, in the year 2000 the North American Nature Photography Association at its national convention honored both Philip Hyde and David Brower with lifetime achievement awards. David Brower, as the first Executive Director of the Sierra Club and leader of its most ambitious conservation campaigns, was in large part responsible for helping to establish Philip Hyde as a leading landscape photographer, along with many others including Ansel Adams and Eliot Porter.

Life Magazine called David Brower the “Number one working conservationist.” The New York Times said he was, “The most effective conservation activist in the world…” The Los Angeles Times said he was, “…America’s most charismatic conservationist.” David Brower dropped out of U. C. Berkeley his sophomore year, yet he holds nine honorary degrees. David Brower changed the course of history and the way we view wilderness and the environment, yet today his accomplishments are not particularly well-known. Even though he was nominated three times for the Nobel Peace prize, he is seldom credited for his impact on activism world-wide. Why? Who was this enigmatic figure?

David Brower: High Sierra First Ascents Climber

Born in 1912 and raised in Berkeley, California, David Brower first started climbing boulders in the Sierra Nevada on a car trip to Lake Tahoe at age six. He went on to become a renowned mountaineer of the Sierra Nevada and far beyond. As a young man he was nearly killed by a loose rock while climbing in the Palisades area of the High Sierra. He met legendary mountaineer Norman Clyde, who gave him climbing lessons. Not surprisingly, it was a climber friend, Hervey Voge, who first introduced him to the Sierra Club in 1933.

In 1934, David Brower and Hervey Voge set out on a 10 week climbing trip in the high Sierra from Onion Valley to Tuolumne Meadows. They scaled 62 peaks and made 32 first ascents. In 1939 David Brower and a number of friends, some of whom also were Sierra Club leaders, climbed Shiprock. The previous 12 attempts to climb the volcanic column had failed.

David Brower Invites Philip Hyde To Photograph Sierra Club High Trip

David Brower led Sierra Club High Trips and managed the whole program from 1947 to 1954. Ardis and Philip Hyde met David Brower in Tuolumne Meadows in 1948 when he came through leading a Sierra Club trip. Ansel Adams later more officially introduced David Brower and Philip Hyde and David Brower asked Philip Hyde to join him for a Sierra Club High Trip in the Summer of 1950. That was the High Trip that Philip Hyde made his photograph of “Minarets From Tarn Above Lake Ediza, Sierra Nevada” that Ansel Adams said he liked better than his own. It was also the Summer of “Split Boulder Near Lake Ediza, Sierra Nevada” that saw major exhibitions including the famous San Francisco “Perceptions” show of Group f.64. Several other Philip Hyde signature photographs were born that summer, “Glacial Pavement, Lodgepole Pine, Sierra Nevada” “Storm Over The Minarets, Sierra Nevada” and a number of Tuolumne Meadows.

At the time David Brower was the editor of the University of California Press and had edited the Sierra Club Annual since 1946. The 1951 Sierra Club Annual gave Philip Hyde his first publishing credit with a signature of 12 of his black and white photographs of the High Sierra Nevada from the 1950 Summer High Trip.

The Sierra Club Sends Philip Hyde On The First Photography Assignment For An Environmental Cause

Richard Leonard and David Brower sent Philip Hyde to Dinosaur National Monument in 1951. In 1952 David Brower became the first Executive Director of the Sierra Club. Within one year he had convinced the reluctant Sierra Club Board to expand the scope of the Sierra Club from a California focused defender of the Sierra, to a national, or at least regional organization with battles and interests in Oregon, Washington, Utah, Colorado, Wyoming and expanding to the East Coast. David Brower pushed for the first book produced for an environmental cause, This Is Dinosaur: Echo Park Country And It’s Magic Rivers.

This Is Dinosaur eventually landed on every desk in Congress and other Washington leaders with the goal of convincing them it was a place too beautiful to destroy. The two dams proposed in Dinosaur would flood 97 out of 106 river miles inside the national monument. David Brower and a growing coalition in the Sierra Club and outside made up of various environmental groups, developed to defend this invasion of the National Park System.

David Brower and the coalition of environmental groups behind him took the position that as long as Glen Canyon Dam would be built anyway, building the dam higher would result in a reservoir that would hold enough extra water to exceed the capacity of both of the proposed Dinosaur National Monument dams. A higher Glen Canyon Dam would thus render the Dinosaur dams unnecessary. David Brower proved in Congressional testimony, using 9th Grade math not only that the higher Glen Canyon Dam would store more water, but that it would also evaporate less additional water. At the time time few people outside of the locals had ever seen Glen Canyon.

David Brower, Ansel Adams And Nancy Newhall Launch Conservation Photography History

In 1960, David Brower, Ansel Adams and Nancy Newhall made a significant contribution to photography of the natural scene or landscape photography as it is now called. They re-invented and popularized the large coffee table photography book. This Is The American Earth with text by Nancy Newhall and photographs by Ansel Adams and some of his friends including Philip Hyde, was a song to nature writ large. America embraced This Is The American Earth and others in the Sierra Club Books Exhibit Format Series.

Another major advance came to photography in 1962, also brought to you by David Brower. He introduced color to landscape photography through Philip Hyde and Eliot Porter and the Sierra Club Books Exhibit Format Series in 1962, the same year Rachel Carson published Silent Spring. Eliot Porter illustrated the gorgeous and artistic In Wildness Is The Preservation Of The Earth with quotes by Henry David Thoreau. Philip Hyde illustrated Island In Time: Point Reyes Peninsula, more of a rushed documentary project to help make Point Reyes National Seashore.

Photographers And Other Creatives Sent To Save The Grand Canyon

By 1964, again making a historical advance for photography, David Brower organized a river trip down the Colorado River through Grand Canyon National Park. With Martin Litton as river guide, filmmaker and photographer, photographer Eliot Porter, photographer Philip Hyde, writer Francois Leydet and a number of other Sierra Club board members and artists of various types, the trip promised to be creative. Martin Litton brought the group to the proposed dam sites in the Grand Canyon, to Vasey’s Paradise, to Redwall Cavern, through hair raising and often capsize causing rapids for the purpose of making a book that would be called Time and The River Flowing: Grand Canyon. The book that would be part of the campaign to stop the Grand Canyon from being dammed. David Brower remarked at the time:

The dams the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation plans to build in Marble Gorge and Bridge Canyon, within the Grand Canyon proper, would destroy not only the living river but also the unique life forms that through the ages have come to depend upon the river’s life. The major part of the canyon walls would still be there, but the pulsing heart of the place would be stopped. A chain of destructive forces would be begun in what by law was set apart as part of the National Park System, to be preserved unimpaired for all America’s future.

And needlessly. Looked at hard, these dams are nothing more than hydroelectric power devices to produce electricity and dollars from its sale to pay for projects that ought to be financed by less costly means. The dams would make no water available that is not available already. Indeed they would waste enough to supply a major city and impair the quality of the too little that is left: water already too saline is made more so by evaporation, to the peril of downstream users, especially of neighbors in Mexico. All this on a river that already has more dams than it has water to fill them.

Philip Hyde and David Brower also worked together on many other campaigns with the help of many other environmental activists. Philip Hyde made photographs for David Brower led campaigns for the Oregon and Washington Cascade Mountains, Kings Canyon, Redwood National Park, the Wind River Range, Navajo Tribal Parks, Alaska and many other smaller skirmishes. To read about one of Ardis and Philip Hyde’s travel adventures on behalf of David Brower and the Sierra Club see the blog post, “The Making Of ‘Rainbow Bridge From The Upstream Side.'” Future Blog Posts will share more stories and other points of interest of David Brower’s life and work in conservation…

The river trip through Glen Canyon on the Colorado River proved to be one of the most historically significant events that David Brower and Philip Hyde experienced together twice, once in 1962 and once in 1964 after the gates of Glen Canyon Dam closed and “Lake” Powell began to fill. To read Philip Hyde’s tribute to Glen Canyon see the blog post, “Glen Canyon Lament By Philip Hyde 1.”

References:

For Earth’s Sake: The Life and Times of David Brower by David Brower

Work in Progress by David Brower

Wikipedia article on David Brower

Wildness Within Website

The History of the Sierra Club 1892-1970 by Michael Cohen

Sierra Club: 100 Years of Protecting Nature by Tom Turner

(Continued In Another Blog Post…)

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.”

Cedric Wright And Philip Hyde On The 1950 Sierra Club High Trip

May 25th, 2010

Split Boulder Near Lake Ediza, Minarets Wilderness, Now The Ansel Adams Wilderness, Sierra Nevada Mountains, California, 1950 by Philip Hyde. This photograph that went on to be widely collected and published and was part of the famous Perceptions Show in San Francisco, was made on the 1950 Sierra Club High Trip with David Brower and Cedric Wright.

(See also the blog post on, “A Credo For Mountain Photographers” from the book Words of the Earth by Cedric Wright.)

In 1950, David Brower invited Philip Hyde to join the Sierra Club High Trip that David Brower led in the high country of Yosemite National Park. Cedric Wright was also on the trip as a veteran wilderness photographer to serve as high country photography mentor to the young Philip Hyde just out of photography school, who would also act as ‘official photographer.’

Even in 1950, Philip Hyde was no stranger to the Sierra Nevada High Country. He had been backpacking and exploring it since he was 16 turning 17 years old in 1938. Nor was he new to outdoor photography. During the years from 1946 through 1950 while he was enrolled in photography school at the California School of Fine Arts now the San Francisco Art Institute, Philip Hyde spent every summer in the mountains. The previous summer of 1949 Ansel Adams had helped Philip and Ardis Hyde land the caretaking job at the Sierra Club’s Parson’s Lodge in Tuolumne Meadows. The young couple, just married two years, lived in the rustic McCauley Homestead cabin all summer and scrambled all over the nearby peaks and domes. While Philip Hyde photographed, Ardis Hyde had plenty of peace and quiet to study for her teaching credential and identify birds and flowers. More about this special summer in a future blog post.

By the time Philip Hyde went on his first Sierra Club High Trip, he was seasoned by a summer in Tuolumne Meadows and 12 other summers in the High Sierra. However, as soon as he met Cedric Wright, he knew that this man had a depth of knowledge about wilderness travel and wilderness photography of which he had only dreamed. Here was the ideal teacher and companion.

Cedric Wright was a childhood friend of Ansel Adams. They met through piano playing. Both of them were in training to be concert pianists but ended up as landscape photographers. Ansel Adams wrote the forward to Cedric Wright’s book, Words of the Earth, one of the early volumes in the Sierra Club Exhibit Format Series:

His work reveals a strange and compelling beauty; it is not obscure, oblique, mechanical, or intellectual, but is the evidence of a great insight and intuitive power. It moves the spirit; then, because it is so simple and direct, it moves the mind and conscience… What is offered here is not merely a collection of nostalgic and beautiful pictures and poetic text, but a profound revelation of a most uncommon man, who, despite avalanches of problems and distractions, held fast to the essential dream. I regret there must be a date on this work, because in essence, it is timeless.

“That first 1950 High Trip in the capacity of ‘official photographer’ was a very important trip for me,” Philip Hyde said in 2004. “I look back now and still feel that the photographs I made on that trip are among some of my best. All I had to do was sleep, eat, make photographs and walk 10-12 miles from one camp to another, unless there was a layover.” The trip started in the northeast corner of Yosemite National Park and journeyed along the Sierra Crest to Tuolumne Meadows and beyond out of the national park and into the Minarets Wilderness Area that is now the Ansel Adams Wilderness. In those days the backcountry was little traveled. Philip Hyde shared more about Cedric Wright:

One of the things I remember about Cedric is that he had certain little systems because he had been on so many High Trips, maybe 20 or more. He had special ways of pitching a tarp. Sometimes he would give lessons to other people who didn’t know how. He also had a little practice of making it to the first camp early. When the first group of hikers would arrive, he would have hot tea waiting for them. Another time he had a number 10 can full of hot water and he would bathe people’s tired feet in hot water. One time we found a note from Cedric, ‘Be sure to go out and look at this view,’ and he wrote directions. Cedric took me under his wing and taught me all his intricate details. Some were a bit overboard, like shaving off the handle of his toothbrush to save weight. He was kind of a nut about saving weight, even though he did not carry much. His outfit was a little square box about 6″ X 6″ X 15 inches that contained his extra lenses and extra film. He was shooting black and white film pack. I didn’t get into film pack on that trip. I was still using 5 X 7 cut film, a single sheet film you load into a holder in a changing bag. The holder takes two sheets on each side, for a total of four. I think I carried 18 holders and several lenses on metal plates that I could interchange. I carried a 5 X 7 camera with a 5 X7 back on a big wooden Reese tripod that I still have. I thought I was going pretty light, but my outfit was a lot heavier than Cedric’s.

More about the Summer 1950 Sierra Club High Trip in a future blog post…

Son Of Environmental Photographer Interview By Richard Wong

May 5th, 2010

Richard Wong Interviews David Leland Hyde on his Field Report Blog About Philip Hyde Photography

Richard Wong asks about the business and creative side of Philip Hyde Photography and the representation of Philip Hyde in the digital age and beyond. Also a behind the scenes look at upcoming and ongoing events such as the Philip Hyde Exhibition at Mountain Light Gallery.

Read the Richard Wong Interview on the Field Report Blog Click Here.

58 Years In The Wilderness Intro 2

January 18th, 2010

Drake's Beach, Point Reyes National Seashore, California, 1972, by Philip Hyde. From the Reprint of "Island In Time: Point Reyes Peninsula." (Out of Print)

(See the photograph full screen: Click Here.)

(CONTINUED FROM BLOG POST, “58 Years In The Wilderness Intro 1“)

Why did the pair spend one third of their lives pursuing this unusual brand of adventure?

As the 1950s became the 1960s, groups like the Sierra Club, the Wilderness Society, the Izaak Walton League, the National Audubon Society and the National Wildlife Federation brought public attention to protecting and enjoying nature. Howard Zahniser of the Wilderness Society authored the Wilderness Act legally defining wilderness. In 1962, Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring came out in protest of chemical spraying and exposed corporate environmental negligence. The same year, Sierra Club Books released In Wildness Is The Preservation of the World with color photographs by Eliot Porter with quotes from Henry David Thoreau and Island in time: The Point Reyes Peninsula by Harold Gilliam with photographs by Philip Hyde. These were the first two widely distributed books with large color fine art landscape photographs sharing the beauty of nature. While Eliot Porter’s book was all color, Philip Hyde mixed beautiful vintage black and white photographs with large color plates. Dad was recognized as a master of both mediums, though as color caught on, Porter’s book sold more copies. A handful of photographers, through the Sierra Club and its leader David Brower, brought wilderness right to the United States Congress and Senate and into living rooms across the country. The Sierra Club had reinvented the large picture book as the Exhibit Format Series. These high-quality coffee table volumes represented, as never before, the wild places the Sierra Club wanted to protect.

Photographs first helped preserve wilderness in 1864, moving President Abraham Lincoln to establish Yosemite as the world’s first scenic land preserve. Yet in the 1950s and 1960s the use of the camera to defend wilderness reached its zenith. More preserves, wildernesses, National Parks and Monuments formed out of campaigns by environmental groups than ever as America’s leaders and people saw natural landscapes through a “new” medium. During the heyday of the Sierra Club publishing program, Club membership grew exponentially. The first book in the series, This Is The American Earth featured primarily the work of Ansel Adams though other well-known western photographers such as Eliot Porter, Philip Hyde, Edward Weston, Pirkle Jones, Minor White and Cedric Wright had one or two photographs. Ansel Adams, Eliot Porter and Philip Hyde became the primary illustrators of the series. Dad’s photographs in particular, appeared in eight out of the sixteen books published in the sequence. Several volumes in the series became bestsellers and this combined with Washington DC lobbying, brought the Sierra Club into national prominence.

After marrying in June 1947, Dad and Mom joined the Sierra Club later that year while Dad started photography school. The Club had just over 900 members, but within the next two decades the ranks swelled to over one million. Other conservation organizations like the Wilderness Society also grew exponentially and many new organizations formed.

Photography itself had undergone a transformation as well. Soft focus pictorialism dominated the first third of the 1900s. Few photographers successfully bucked the trend toward printing on canvas and other art papers, soft focus and special effects that made photographs resemble paintings, until Alfred Stieglitz published a magazine called Camera Work in which he began to encourage what he called “straight photography.” Photographers in the Western United States increasingly made photographs of landscapes without people. Only a few pioneers had captured landscapes previously, they were not common. In 1932 photographers Willard Van Dyke, Imogen Cunningham, Edward Weston, Henry Swift, Sonya Noskowiak, John Paul Edwards and Ansel Adams formed Group f.64 in San Francisco. Named after f.64, the smallest lens setting enabling the most detail in a photograph, the group composed a manifesto limiting “members and invitational names to those workers who are striving to define photography as an art form by simple and direct presentation through purely photographic methods… Pure photography is defined as possessing no qualities of technique, composition or idea, derivative of any other art form.”

In the mid 1940s, Group f.64 member Ansel Adams founded a fine art Photography Department, the first ever of its kind, at the California School of Fine Arts, now the San Francisco Arts Institute. When Ansel Adams first started the department, students of painting, sculpture and other disciplines erupted into a school-wide protest against photography being part of a fine art school. In those days, photography was not considered an art form, let alone a fine art. Yet Ansel Adams persisted with encouragement and support from San Francisco art patron Albert Bender and other California art movers, as well as fellow photographers such as Paul Strand in the Midwest, whose work appeared in Camera Work, and from Alfred Stieglitz himself. Group f.64 members Edward Weston and Imogen Cunningham helped teach at the California School of Fine Arts. Besides Philip Hyde, the program turned out such notable photographers as Pirkle Jones, Ruth-Marion Baruch, Charles Wong, Bill Heick, Cameron Macaulay, Benjamen Chinn, Don Whyte, Rose Mandel, Bob Hollingsworth, Stan Zrnich, Pat Harris Noyes, David Johnson, Ira Latour, Gerald Ratto, John Upton, Walter Stoy,  and others.

With three years of photography school and a certificate of completion, Dad built on what became known as the west coast tradition and went on to influence a generation of nature photographers with his simple, understated forms and subtle desert and mountain landscapes.

“Dear Phil,” Minor White, lead instructor at CSFA, wrote in a letter to Dad in 1950, “Your pictures are as clean as Ansel’s, with a slant of your own seeing. You are starting your career as few of my students have done. In a way I envy your present mastery of the medium…”

By 1971, Ansel Adams wrote that Philip Hyde was “one of the very best photographers of the natural scene in America.” Ansel Adams said he liked Dad’s photograph, “The Minarets from Tarn Above Lake Ediza,” better than his own photograph of the Minarets in the Ansel Adams Wilderness. In 1999, American Photo Magazine named Dad’s “Cathedral in the Desert, Glen Canyon” one of the top 100 photographs of the 20th Century. Dad’s work appeared in more than 75 books, 130 newspapers, 100 exhibitions and over 60 magazines including Audubon, Wilderness, Life, National Geographic, Aperture, Newsweek, Time and Reader’s Digest. He has received many awards including one for lifetime achievement from the North American Nature Photography Association in 1996 and the Albert Bender Award in 1956. The principal artist in over a dozen books, he also wrote magazine articles and an autobiographical essay to accompany his photographs and the writings he selected of John Muir’s in The Range of Light (1992). Dad wrote the text for Drylands: The Deserts of North America (1987), which won three literary awards. Beginning in the 1970s he taught photographic workshops for more than 30 years for organizations such as the Museum of Northern Arizona, John Sexton Workshops, Ansel Adams Gallery Workshops in Yosemite and many other schools of photography.

Dad and Mom stand as examples of how to tread lightly on the earth and find satisfaction in a simple self-sufficient lifestyle. Early in Dad’s career he made a decision to live in the mountains of Northeastern California far away from the photography marketplace. By living in such a remote place, he also gave up the opportunity to be more involved in the Sierra Club and other organizations. With fewer book signings, gallery openings and connections he sacrificed greater financial success to live close to nature.

Mom worked by his side from the beginning. While he attended the California School of Fine Art she worked as the receptionist at the school. Later she became known as an excellent kindergarten teacher and was renowned in the mountain valleys of Plumas County for her knowledge of birds, plants, organic gardening and natural cuisine long before it became popular. Dad thought he would go on working and making photographs his entire life, but in the summer of 1999 he began to lose his eyesight, and within a year he was completely blind.

(See the photograph full screen: Click Here.)

Virginia Creeper, Northern Sierra Nevada, California, 1977, by Philip Hyde. Made more magazine covers than any other Philip Hyde photograph. Example of Straight Photography and colorful enough without amping up the saturation.

Yet Dad proved there is more to vision than eyes and more to seeing than vision. He was one of the first to visualize a civilization in harmony with all life rather than exploiting the Earth as a commodity. In his photography training, as in any good art training, he learned to see deeply. Photography is the art of seeing patterns, forms, relationships that the untrained eye would not see. One day in 1987 he slowed his gait as he passed through our yard at home. He stared at the Virginia Creeper Vines against the weathered gray cedar siding of the house he built. Besides autumn reds, yellows and oranges contrasting with unturned green leaves, some of the leaves reflected blue from the sky. Most eyes do not notice the blue because we automatically edit it to green, the expected color for leaves without the reflected sheen. He ran inside and gathered his wooden Reis tripod and 4X5 Baby Deardorf view camera and set up on our front lawn for one of his most widely-published and exhibited photographs.

By late 2001, his 58-year photography career ended suddenly as his sight fully faded to black and he could no longer make photographs or even print them in his darkroom. Mom acted as his guide, business manager and constant companion. She tried to do the work of two people, keeping up with the photography business and finances as well as maintaining the grounds, house and kitchen. Then the second devastation arrived, Mom died suddenly in March 2002.When she passed on, I moved back to the mountain home where I was born, from my place across the country in upstate New York. We cried, reminisced and cried some more. Sometimes we screamed into the lonely woods, at the sky, at the stars, but the night absorbed it all. In time we began to talk on tape about the many wilderness miles we walked together. Dad described his adventures with Mom seeking the “Good Life” while helping to protect such places as Dinosaur National Monument, The Grand Canyon, The California Redwoods, and many other seashores and wilderness areas of the American West.

Until his death in 2006, I read him the environmental news almost daily. He relied on dreams for glimpses of the natural world he spent a lifetime defending. We sought to make sense of the loss of my mother; the loss of Dad’s eyesight and the state of environmental decline and violence the world is in today. Dad sometimes wondered why he worked so hard. Unfortunately environmental battles are never won, they are merely postponed. The dam site is still there, the mineral resources are still in the ground, the trees are still uncut, the road plans may some day yet destroy the pristine meadow. The beaches are always ripe for new hotels and condominiums. Nonetheless Dad saw clearly two possible visions for the future. In one we continue to poison our home until we destroy ourselves. In the other we learn to live in harmony with life and sustain ourselves on this planet perpetually. In the chapters that follow, I retrace the wanderings of Ardis and Philip and sometimes me tagging along, throughout the wilds on an odyssey through remote terrain from Alaska to Switzerland to Mexico to Southern Utah, my dad’s favorite state besides his home in the mountains of Northern California. All with the purpose of offering a glimpse of how one family lived and did what they could to make a difference and inspire others to do the same, to bring about the future with the most possibilities.