Posts Tagged ‘Art’

Peter Fetterman Gallery Now Representing Philip Hyde

May 18th, 2011

The Celebrated Peter Fetterman Gallery Of Santa Monica, California Is Now Representing The Pioneer Fine Art Landscape Photography Of Philip Hyde

 

Corn Lily Leaves, Proposed North Cascades National Park, Washington, 1959 copyright Philip Hyde. One of the original vintage black and white prints on consignment at the Peter Fetterman Gallery.

The Peter Fetterman Galleryhouses one of the largest inventories of classic 20th Century photography in the United States. The Peter Fetterman Gallery is also the number one photography dealer in Southern California and a member of AIPAD, the Association of International Photography Art Dealers.

Peter Fetterman came to the Los Angeles area from his birth city of London, England over 30 years ago. Peter Fetterman’s first exposure to still photography, through Hollywood while he worked as a filmmaker, interested him in pursuing the art of photography as a collector. Over 20 years ago, Peter Fetterman established his first photography gallery. In 1994, he became a pioneer tenant of Bergamot Station, the Santa Monica Center of the Arts when it first opened.

The diverse holding of the Peter Fetterman Gallery today include work by Henri Cartier-Bresson, Sabastiao Salgado, Ansel Adams, Paul Caponigro, Willy Ronis, Andre Kerstez, Manuel Alvarez Bravo, Lillian Bassman and now pioneer landscape photographer Philip Hyde.

The Getty Museum And Documentary Photography

The Getty Museum of Los Angeles recently acquired a major selection black and white prints by the social documentary photographer Sabastiao Salgado. Peter Fetterman is largely responsible for the development of Sabastiao Salgado in the US and in Europe. Sabastiao Salgado, originally from Brazil, now lives in Paris. He was a photojournalist for such agencies as Sygma, Gamma and in 1979 he joined Magnum. The Wikipedia article on Sebastiao Salgado said, “He is particularly noted for his social documentary photography of workers in less developed nations.” Photographer Hal Gould, founding member of AIPAD and of Camera Obscura Gallery of Denver, Colorado, said that Sabastiao Salgado is one of the 21st Century’s most important photographers. Hal Gould gave Sabastiao Salgado his first US Exhibition at Camera Obscura Gallery. To Read more about Camera Obscura Gallery see the blog post, “Hal Gould And Camera Obscura: 50 Years Of Photography Advocacy.” Philip Hyde exhibited at Camera Obscura Gallery twice: once in the 1970s as part of a group show and once in September-October 2010 as one of the last exhibitions at Camera Obscura Gallery see the blog posts, “Philip Hyde’s Mountain Landscapes at Camera Obscura Gallery,” or “Vintage And Digital Prints Together In One Exhibition.”

More recently Sabastiao Salgado’s Genesis project on landscapes and wildlife in their original settings helped spark Peter Fetterman’s interest in representing the best landscape photographers who made their own film era vintage prints. Philip Hyde was one of the few photographers of the 20th Century who was considered a master of both color landscape photography and black and white photography, as well as hand print making in both mediums.

Peter Fetterman On Collecting Photography

What Peter Fetterman advises about collecting photography:

One of the wonderful things about photography is that it is still possible to build up a significant collection for relatively small sums of money, if you go about it in a smart way. You may love Modigliani, or Rubens, or Rembrandt or Matisse but for most of us that would be fantasy collecting. Fortunately it is still possible to acquire images by the equivalent masters of photography, at an accessible level, and in a market that has so far only ever gone up in value.

‘How do I go about it?’ you may be wondering. The best advice I give my new clients is to do what I call “photo aerobics.” Exercise your eye. Take every opportunity to look at as many images as you can, be it in museum shows, galleries, art fairs, and build up a library of photography books. As in any field of collecting the more knowledge you can acquire the greater the pleasure you are going to experience from the whole process. Find a dealer you can communicate with who is willing to share their own knowledge and expertise with you. Finding the photographs that inspire you is a highly creative endeavor in itself, and can even be an act of self-discovery. As your learning curve grows you will soon understand and appreciate the difference between a silver print and a platinum print, a vintage print and a modern print.

Happily it is still possible to buy an important print in the $1000-$5000 range, and by important I mean a photograph that is going to have longevity not only in terms of the image itself, but also the reputation and importance of the artist. To do this today in any other medium is virtually impossible. This will of course not always be the case with photography either. The realities of increasing demand as more and more collectors enter the arena, will mean a diminishing supply of available of affordable prints of classic images by recognized masters.

Peter Fetterman Is Now Working To Develop Philip Hyde Collections In More Major Museums

The Peter Fetterman Gallery offers a large selection of Philip Hyde vintage black and white silver prints and vintage color dye transfer and Cibachrome prints, most of which are still in the price range mentioned above. Peter Fetterman has also already begun talking to more world-class museums about Philip Hyde. World class venues that have shown or collected Philip Hyde include The Smithsonian, New York’s Museum of Modern Art, Time-Life, The Cosmos Club, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, University of Arizona in Tucson Center For Creative Photography, National Geographic Society, George Eastman House, Oakland Museum, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, California Academy of Sciences, Yosemite National Park Visitor’s Center, Grand Canyon National Park Visitor’s Center, the Ansel Adams Gallery, Weston Gallery, Alaska State Museum and many others.

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?

The Flowers Of San Francisco

August 5th, 2010

Flowers of San Francisco, Downtown San Francisco, California 2009 by David Leland Hyde. Nikon D90. Camera Raw.

If you’re going to San Francisco,

Be sure to wear some flowers in your hair.

If you come to San Francisco,

Summer time will be a love-in there.

Wall Design, Trees, San Francisco, California, 2010 by David Leland Hyde. Nikon D90. Camera Raw.

The popular 1967 song written by John Phillips of the Mamas and Papas and sung by Scott McKenzie, inspired thousands of young people to travel to San Francisco in the late 1960s and is still inspiring visitors and natives of San Francisco to this day. San Francisco in the summer time is the place to escape the heat and experience all forms of art and fine art, perhaps a place to create your own art.

A Friend Twirling and Dancing In Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, California, 2009 by David Leland Hyde. Nikon D90. Camera Raw.

Starting in the mid-20th Century and for many generations San Francisco has been a hotbed of art and is no less a major incubator of artists today than in any other era. Life’s rich pageant blooms in many colors and races in San Francisco. San Francisco is a collage of opposites, of old and new, industry and art, wisdom and foolishness, wealth and poverty.

Golden Gate Bridge Span and Marin Headlands, San Francisco, California, 2009 by David Leland Hyde. Nikon D90. Camera Raw.

It was the birthplace of the Sierra Club, the Exhibit Format Series, perhaps even landscape photography, the Beat Generation, earthquake insurance, the Summer of Love, the sexual revolution, the anti-war movement, Friends of the Earth, Earth Island Institute, Bank of America, Bechtel, Jefferson Airplane, Jerry Garcia, Courtney Love, William Randolph Hearst, Robert McNamara, Robert Frost, Jack London, Gary Snyder, Ansel Adams, Philip Hyde, Clint Eastwood, Bruce Lee, Val Kilmer, Steve Jobs, Jim Jones, O. J. Simpson, Rob Schneider, Jerry Brown and 407 other celebrities.

Stan Zrnich and Himself at the California Academy of Sciences, San Francisco, California, 2009 by David Leland Hyde. Colors digitally altered.

I visit San Francisco several times a year to go to San Francisco art galleries, photography galleries, museums and libraries for research and as ambassador of my father’s photography. When I am there I feel a quickening as I am artistically moved, culturally enlightened and creatively freed.

Reflections, San Francisco, California, 2010 by David Leland Hyde. Nikon D90. Camera Raw.

My father, who was born in San Francisco, escaped the city and spent most of his life photographing wilderness. Ironically, I was born in the wilderness and do photograph nature often, but feel like I could easily spend the rest of my life photographing San Francisco.

Lines Curving Into The Sun, San Francisco, California, 2009 by David Leland Hyde. Nikon D90.

When I am in The City, as northern Californians call it, I often feel compelled to write about or photograph this diverse built landscape of fog, cable cars and the big red bridge.

Man Ray On Art And Originality

May 19th, 2010

One of the World’s Most Recognized and Unusual Artists, the Painter, Sculptor and Photographer Man Ray, Brings Insight to the Creative Process, Art and Originality

Man Ray did not pursue Recognition, Fame or Financial Success. He was broke most of his life.

Are you in it for recognition? For money? Why are you a landscape photographer?

Salvador Dali and Man Ray, Paris, 1934 by Carl Van Vechten. Public Domain image. This photograph was made in Paris while Philip Hyde was there at age 11 with his little brother Davy age 5, his sister Betty, age 16, his mother Jessie and his father painter Leland Hyde, who was studying at the world famous L' Ecole de Beau Arts, one of the art hubs of Modernist Paris.

A hot topic recently in the landscape photography blogosphere has been this variously defined idea of “copying,” that is: one photographer copying another’s photograph by standing in roughly the same place under roughly the same conditions and capturing essentially the same image. While the laws of physics prevent the making of an exact copy, many photographs come close enough to bring the intent of the “copying” photographer into question. I made a few comments on some posts on the topic.

Photography Blog Posts Discussing Copying Or Related Themes Recently:

“The Art of Copying” from Guy Tal Photography Web Journal

“Copying Other Photographer’s Images; Good, Bad, Legal?” from Pro Nature Photographer Blog

“Moving Past The Repertoire” by Greg Russell here on Landscape Photography Blogger

“Make Your Own Tripod Tracks” by David Leland Hyde on Alpenglow Images Blog

“Originality – A Matter of Perspective Revisited by Jim M. Goldstein on JMG Galleries Blog

“Creativity and Copying” posted by Kevin Schafer on the Outdoor Photographer Blog

“Iconic Locations and the Making of Art” from Little Red Tent Blog

“Copy/right and the Nature of Art” from Pomeroy Photography Blog

“Photography and Icons” from Skolai Images by Carl Donohue

“Art; an Exploration of the Unknown” also from Skolai Images

Some photographers have proposed that any photograph that is copyable is not art. Others say this is preposterous. Indeed, one could just as easily argue that any photograph that is not copyable is not art, but is merely a documentation of special effects or techniques and manipulations that go against the nature of photography to stand on real subjects. Is a clean simple, unaffected photograph of nature not to be considered art just because some smart aleck bought a topo map or used GPS mapping to find the location? Either argument may be just as theoretically vacuous and irrelevant to the actual act of making a photograph; except that the photographer’s intent and purpose behind his photography may be the underpinning not yet examined in this discussion.

This Generation Must Do Something Entirely New

As I commented on Guy Tal’s blog post, “Copying Discussion Follow-Up,” we all from time to time can benefit from some introspection. Current landscape photographers and landscape photography in general would benefit by getting away from photographing the icons in the same old ways. Here’s part of what I wrote:

…The next generation must do something else entirely. We have to ask ourselves, why we got into photography in the first place? We have to dig for our own meaning and direction. We must at all costs, eliminate anything that even hints of copying the copiers. That’s my take, anyway, for what it’s worth, and my idea of what is necessary to make any contribution to the art of landscape photography.

More on this and a related discussion on what keeps landscape photography going here on the Landscape Photography Blogger blog post, “Is Landscape Photography Thriving Or Dying.” On a similar note, a few photography bloggers recently called for discussions on the creative process. Greg Russell on his Alpenglow Images Blog raised concerns about creativity and the use of Photoshop in his blog post, “Where Does the Creative Process Stop?” You may find the comments on this post interesting as well as on the insightful post, “Was That Photoshopped?” from the Landscaping! Blog.

Man Ray’s Shocking Originality And Poverty

One of the world’s most famous photographers, a sculptor and painter, Man Ray, may be one of the most original artists ever. Man Ray was so creative that nothing he ever produced in any medium looked anything at all like any other art that ever existed. Man Ray was not interested in producing photographs that looked like previous masters to learn. He made his own style in everything. He broke all the rules and set the trends. Man Ray also had his work rejected by galleries and the public for many years. Near the end of his life he became accepted by the wealthy art establishment in Paris, France where he lived most of his life. He earlier had become known for his portraits of famous people and soon-to-be famous people such as Ernest Hemmingway, Gertrude Stein, Jean Cocteau, James Joyce, Antonin Artaud and many others. He gained a measure of success but it was not until after his death that his original Dadaist sculptures and paintings became highly sought after and sold for millions in auctions.

The point is not that landscape photographers now must be starving artists, it does not matter if you are rich or poor, only if you are unique. The point is to put originality above making money or gaining recognition. Some will starve doing this because they believe that to make money they have to do whatever everyone else is doing. Some will become wealthy through their unique vision.

In a video called Man Ray: Prophet of Avant-Garde from the PBS American Masters series, the modernist painter, sculptor and photographer said:

I never think about art and I don’t think the old masters ever thought that they were creating art. They had to express the spirit of their times and they would then start to invent. What seems to be the tricks of the day, will be the truths of tomorrow. Students ask me, ‘How do I make something original?’ I tell them, be yourself and you will be original. Who are you?

Why are you a landscape photographer?

For a blog post by Jay Goodrich that makes a similar inquiry and features some interesting responses see, “Why Do You Photograph?” To see some new, innovative photographs see also the blog post, “Breaking New Ground With Digital Photography Creations.” To learn more about a pioneer who went far beyond innovation to influence all of landscape photography see the blog post, “The Hidden Brett Weston.” To look beyond creativity to photographic tools such as film and its influence on the direction of landscape photography see the blog post, “Did Velvia Film Change Landscape Photography?

Galen Rowell And Outdoor Photographer Style

April 30th, 2010

Galen Rowell, Philip Hyde And The Finding Of A Personal Outdoor Photographer Style

Lone Pine Peak, Alabama Hills, East Side of the Sierra Nevada, California, 1978 by Philip Hyde. This photograph is an example of Philip Hyde's receptive approach. He often went against the standard wisdom and made photographs in the middle of the day. He was in the vicinity at this time and had a hunch to turn off and visit the Alabama Hills because of the fresh snow on the Sierra Nevada peaks. He drove around and got out of the vehicle and walked around with his view camera. The picturesque parallel curves of the three boulders with the angular peaks in the background presented themselves to him. This image is in contrast to photographs by Galen Rowell, who lived in the area, could visit the Alabama Hills when lighting conditions or the alpenglow was at its best. Galen Rowell made a number of memorable images of the Eastern Sierra Nevada. Carr Clifton was the first to photograph the Alabama Hills' Mobius Arch with the Sierra Nevada behind in March 1983. Carr Clifton's photograph was first published in the 1985 Sierra Club Wilderness Engagement Calendar. Galen Rowell made a different photograph of the arch much later in 2001, but he may have made an earlier photograph of the arch. Since then the image has been copied over and over by subsequent outdoor photographers who rather than using Galen Rowell's visioning, Philip Hyde's receptive approach, or any creative method of their own, came to the landscape looking for a specific landmark to add to their checklist.

(See the Photograph full screen Click Here. To see Galen Rowell’s photographs of the East Side of the Sierra Nevada Click Here. To see Philip Hyde’s never before seen new prints on display at Galen Rowell’s Mountain Light Gallery May 8 through August 31, 2010 see the blog post, “New Philip Hyde Releases At Mountain Light Gallery Exhibition.”)

Galen Rowell and Philip Hyde differed in their process for choosing photographs. Galen Rowell observed certain elements in the natural setting and then visualized a scenario where those elements came together. By sheer will, attractive power and personal dynamic energy, he would very often vision into being the very circumstances for the photograph he had imagined.

Philip Hyde had a nearly opposite approach to finding photographs. His was a yin, receptive, and contemplative method.  He would still his own inner processes, tune into the land around him, and allow it to fill his being until a photograph came forward. He was interested in letting photographs present themselves by attaining a quiet composure and seeing carefully.

As can readily be seen in the work of these two outdoor photographers, either method can result in spectacular images. A developing outdoor photographer can experiment with these two differing styles, see which he or she prefers overall, or use each method in different circumstances. I’m sure that both Galen Rowell and Philip Hyde used an opposite approach to their standard one at times, or tried a hybrid sometimes too. In my own experimenting with the two ways, I have found that in most instances the two methods produce very different photographs, but there are instances when they produce the same photograph. Sometimes I find I am meant to make a certain image whatever process I use. At other times the two methods themselves can even end up feeling the same or merged, as opposites sometimes do.

Galen Rowell’s Vision And The Outdoor Photographer

Galen Rowell applied his visionary process when he made his most famous photograph, “Rainbow Over The Potala Palace.” He described it in his book, Galen Rowell’s Inner Game of Outdoor Photography. Galen Rowell for years studied atmospheric conditions in the Sierra Nevada, interested in discovering what caused alpenglow and how he could capture it more consistently. He also had studied the physics of light and how it affected conditions for the outdoor photographer. In the book, Galen Rowell explained that he saw the rainbow beginning to form, observed the water vapor conditions that cause rainbows and ran a great distance across the field knowing that odds were good that if he positioned himself just right, the rainbow would end on the Dali Lama’s Potala Palace. Getting these factors to line up this way not only took mental focus and determination, but also specialized knowledge and diligence in understanding the science behind the craft of the outdoor photographer.  “My vision came true as the sunlit curtain of falling rain stayed in place while the rainbow moved with me in relation to the sun,” Galen Rowell wrote. “I used a telephoto lens to magnify part of the bow as a spot of light came through the clouds onto the palace.” Galen Rowell described his whole process more in his book.

In Search of An Outdoor Photographer Style

In the book Galen Rowell’s Vision: The Art of Adventure Photography, Galen Rowell wrote an essay called “In Search of Style.” In this essay, excerpted here, Galen Rowell shares some of the elements that bring out this elusive thread running through a photographers work:

Every photographer has a definable style, but I spent at least a decade worrying that I didn’t. If someone asked me what my artistic goals were, I would mumble platitudes about capturing my vision of the wilderness and pursuing light. I feared that my diverse work was adrift in an ocean of outdoor photography…. I also had a disdain for externally directed photographic styles, which continues to this day. For example, I was deeply offended by work that called attention to itself by some artificial device (such as an introduced color filtration, weird lens, strange darkroom twist, or exaggerated grain) to stylistically link photos that otherwise lacked an internal message. I liked deceptively simple pictures that drew more attention to honest vision than to technique…. Ansel Adams wrote eloquently about the difference between external and internal photographic events. The most meaningful photographic styles are always reflections of the internal. We react not so much to what an outdoor photographer sees, but to how he or she sees and renders the subject for us. Personal style comes from within, from a photographer’s unconscious and conscious choices. We usually pass over a photograph devoid of emotional reaction to its subject and say, ‘This doesn’t do anything for me.’ Of course it doesn’t. The photographer didn’t have his or her heart in it. Devoting personal energy to a photograph isn’t enough unless that energy is internalized. An easy way to block the internal message is to be overly concerned about results. For example, knowing their top images will be critiqued in front of the group, workshop participants out for an afternoon shoot often wander around shooting nothing because they have created unrealistic expectations for themselves…. Pros on a major assignment can easily allow externally directed cues to block the very style that caused the client to hire them…. One solution for a blocked-up photographer is to write an imaginary letter to an internal self: Wish you were here to see this. You wouldn’t take the boring photo I’m considering right now because you’d respond by… People avoid developing a personal style by emotionally distancing themselves from their work…. However, some sort of personal stamp does sneak through, even in the most banal photography. The balance of foregrounds to backgrounds and the choice of subject matter are among the subtle clues that the images were made by a thoughtful human being rather than by a monkey or some machine. The central process of art is not to render something exactly as it appears, but to simplify it so that meaning, clarity, emotional response, and a sense of wonder combine to create a style from within.

Besides being a great outdoor photographer, you can see that Galen Rowell was also a great writer. He put into words in more than 20 books, the methods, style and inner awareness that translated powerfully to the page and produced a body of photography and texts that will endure. The Philip Hyde exhibition at Galen Rowell’s Mountain Light Gallery is first time the two photographer’s work will be shown together in the same building, see the blog post, “Pioneer Photography Of Philip Hyde At Mountain Light Gallery.” To read more on Galen Rowell’s influence and how his choice of film changed landscape photography see the blog post, “Did Velvia Film Change Landscape Photography?

Which of the two approaches does your own method most resemble for outdoor photography?

What Makes A Photograph Art?

February 28th, 2010

What defines art, in your opinion?

L’Accordéoniste, 1911, by Pablo Picasso. Public Domain Image.

With all the discussion about the relationships between art, nature and photography lately on several excellent blogs, I thought I would put in a word or two, or at least add some words from masters of the past, as that seems to be my emerging role.

I made a comment on each of the three blogs involved in the discussions, that were sharing recent posts about art, the nature of art, the relationship between art and nature, and how photography relates or substitutes in the discussion for the word ‘art.’ Each of the three blogs are well worth reading for their take on these subjects: Guy Tal Photography Web Journal, Paul Grecian Photography and Carl Donohue’s Skolai Images. The discussion veered in the direction of what made something “more” art or not and while this made little linguistic sense, the argument itself was solid.

Here’s my comment on Skolai Images:

As I wrote on Paul Grecian’s blog, the eminent photography critic John Szarkowski once claimed that Ansel Adams photographed entirely for his own enjoyment. Several photographers and photography critics including Philip Hyde made vehement and effective counter-arguments to John Szarkowski’s statement. Hopefully I can dig up that material and share it with you, if you are interested. It touches on what you say here and on what Paul recently said in his post. Echoing those who have gone before, I say as Paul did that the appreciation of art is part of the process that makes it such. An audience is part of what makes it art. However, the SIZE of the audience does not make it MORE or LESS art. Isn’t something either art or not, like the old adage about being pregnant. You can’t be MORE or LESS pregnant. On the other hand, I completely agree with your idea that art is certainly not limited to creation by humans, or even by what we perceive as “living” beings. Though perhaps it is easier for us to talk about art created by people. Harder to relate to birds and other wildlife, though some are friends of mine, maybe more so than some people.

There’s a lot going on around here currently, but I started rummaging around. I haven’t found the John Szarkowski rebuttal material yet, but will sooner or later. My dad, master landscape photographer Philip Hyde, talked about it some on a tape I made while interviewing him. I remember I asked him specifically about John Szarkowski’s claim in that interview. I will find that tape as well. In the meantime, I did run across a book called, Dialogue with Photography: Interviews by Paul Hill and Thomas Cooper. Hill and Cooper interviewed Paul Strand, Man Ray, Imogen Cunningham, Brassai, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Robert Doisneau, Cecil Beaton, W. Eugene Smith, Jacques-Henri Lartigue, Andre Ketesz, Brett Weston, Minor White, Wynn Bullock and others. The interviews that caught my eye were Paul Strand at the beginning and Brett Weston at the end. For more on Brett Weston see the blog post, “The Hidden Brett Weston.”  I’ll start here with a few quotes from Paul Strand and share more in another post. Other popular posts about Paul Strand include: “Straight Photography And Abstraction,” and “Ansel Adams And Paul Strand On Self-Promotion.”

Paul Strand talked about Alfred Stieglitz and his gallery, “291.” Paul Strand said that Alfred Stieglitz welcomed and supported many of the modern art painters at the time such as Paul Cezanne, Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque, and Constantine Brancusi. Alfred Stieglitz liked certain modernists and their art because, “this art was being trampled on in the same way that photography was,” Paul Strand said. “Photography as an art was denied, ridiculed, attacked—especially by the academic painters, who thought that the camera might take their livelihood away. The acknowledgement of the validity of photography as a new material, as a new way of seeing life through a machine, was questioned and fundamentally denied. Well, here were these pictures by the Cubists, which were also looked upon as the work of idiots.”

This relates back to a comment on my post, “Photography’s Golden Era 2.” Derrick Birdsall, threw out several more good thought-provoking questions: “…if you can buy a quality print from a new up and comer for less $ than from a seasoned professional – is that bad? The seasoned pro had to start somewhere and was an up and comer at some point… How does one make that transition from up and comer to seasoned professional? …other than simply putting in the time, how does that transition work? How does a photographer develop their style so that it’s clearly recognizable?”

I will address the development of style in a future post or two of interviews of photographers to come, but as far as how certain art comes to be valued higher than other art, one of the factors has to do with novelty. It has to do with the artist doing something perceived as completely new. That is one reason why an Ansel Adams print is worth so much compared to Joe the Photographer. Same idea applies to a Pablo Picasso painting.

But more from Paul Strand on the art of photography, “There was a fight going on for the integrity of a new medium and its right to exist, the right of the photographer to be an artist, as well as the right of Picasso and other artists to do the kind of work they were doing, which was a form of research and experimentation into the very fundamentals of what is, and what is not, a picture. I think it is very important for young photographers to find out about the whole development of the graphic arts, not simply come along and show photographs that could not stand up to Cezanne for a second. You cannot claim that photography is an art until your work can hang on the same wall.”

Certainly, as Derrick said, everyone starts somewhere. Most paintings are not on par with Paul Cezanne and they do not have to be. There is room for all levels of skill and talent in painting, photography and other mediums, including bird songs or beehive dances, but is it art? …And, if you claim, “It’s all art,” then what determines whether it is ‘good’ art?

See also the blog post, “Man Ray On Art And Originality.”

What defines art, in your opinion? Please share your thoughts in Comments…

Photography’s Golden Era 2

February 4th, 2010

Photography’s Golden Era 2

(CONTINUED FROM BLOG POST, “Photography’s Golden Era 1“)

Are We Currently in Another Golden Era of Photography?

HEY, THAT’S NOT ART!!!!!

Volcan From South of Colima, Mexico, 1995, by Philip Hyde. A "contemporary" Philip Hyde photograph, the last time he traveled in Mexico before he lost his eyesight. This less landscape and more landscaping image will not be printed for some time. It will eventually be part of the Mexico Portfolio, that contains many architectural and travel style photographs with a more "post-modern" feel.

After the first post on Photography’s Golden Era, one of the responses has been rolling around in the back 40 of my vacuous mind. A photographer named Derrick Birdsall of “My Sight Picture” said he enjoyed the “walk back in time,” and when I asked him what else he would like to see covered on the subject he wrote: “David, as a historian (and neophyte photographer) myself, I enjoyed the perspective you shared. Gotta know where you’ve been if you want to know where you’re going. As for future topics… why would you say that the “Golden Era” was in the past? Some could argue that with all of the technology more or less readily available and affordable today that we are currently in a Golden Era today?? I’m not arguing the point, but I’d be interested to hear your views on the matter.”

Interesting questions, and put to me in an open-ended, ‘let’s see what you think’ manner. I couldn’t resist. I decided to offer my take on it here. It would be fun to hear what others think too. Are we in a new Golden Era, or in the pits of the cherries now? Here’s my response, edited again…

Hi Derrick,
Great questions. I did not label the period from 1946 to 1955 at the California School of Fine Arts when Minor White was lead instructor and the time just before that in the San Francisco Bay Area when Group f.64 formed. Photo historians and curators including Ken and Victoria Whyte Ball in their forthcoming book, The Golden Decade: Photography at the California School of Fine Arts 1945-1955 (written about in the blog post, “The Golden Decade: California School of Fine Arts Photography“) have called it the Golden Era because the energy, creativity, optimism and serious commitment of the G.I.s coming out of WW II and looking to get on with their lives, meshed with the gathering of the greatest teachers and innovators photography has ever seen. At a unique time when there had been no fine art photography before, it all came together in one place and brought forth photography that will endure “forever” if that is possible.

Definitely a good point you raise about the current day. On the internet synergy occurs, though at times it seems much less like a coming together of the greatest talents and more like dispersion in a million directions. See also the blog post, “Is Landscape Photography Thriving Or Dying.” I’m new to the forums, though my impression is that they are mainly a training ground for the accelerated honing of new photographer’s skills. Certainly the old pros are around in places too. Photography is changing faster than ever. The technology is allowing for just about anyone to make a good photograph now and then. However, does that define a Golden Era? The various directions will have to settle out a bit to find out.

Lorraine Anne Davis, in her Black and White Magazine column “Curator’s Corner” interviewed Lynne Warren, curator of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago for the April 2008 issue. Lynne Warren said, “I was getting pretty cynical about the emphasis on large-scale color work, often poorly executed—it just seemed all the rage. Too many artists seemed to think they could just pick up a digital camera and shoot, knowing nothing about photography. But I’ve seen a change. Younger photographers seem to be getting very serious about their craft, and realizing that if you want a photo to look a certain way, you had better be able to consciously achieve it rather than accepting whatever comes out of your digital camera.” A lot of excellent work is out there. However, forgive me for being blunt, and I certainly don’t think this is always the case, but there are too many sunsets, sunrises, contrived drama, over-saturated colors and people following formulas they read in somebody’s 17 quick tips.

My father, master landscape photographer Philip Hyde, often quoted Minor White who said sunsets are cliché. Both Minor White and Philip Hyde, and Ansel Adams for that matter, taught that photography is more of a Zen-like practice of stilling the mind, opening the eyes and seeing deeply. There isn’t anything quick about it. Also, Dad said that in order to photograph nature, it is necessary to understand something about the subject, to spend time out there away from the iPod, iPad, iPhone, IBM, IPO, ISP, IMF, IOU and IRS.

Another issue that Lynne Warren and Lorraine Anne Davis did not even touch is the effects of Photoshop on the medium. Will the transformations of photography through digital technologies ultimately improve the quality of the best art? Hard to say this soon. Ansel Adams’ silver prints, Philip Hyde’s dye transfer prints and Christopher Burkett’s Cibachrome prints have yet to be matched by anyone printing in digital. It will be interesting to see later if the beginning of the digital era will indeed be seen as a Golden Era. This may be a settling out era. It may bring about some kind of Renaissance, but has the Renaissance already started? Hmmm, we’ll see. Because many of the big scenes have been done, now many museums are collecting mainly quirky, bizarre, experimental stuff. It may be “Golden” or it may be merely the birth of what is essentially a new medium, searching to find itself.

Much of what I also see are various ways of changing photographs to look more like paintings or some other related visual art that is not straight photography, but is more like a reincarnation of the pictorialism that held photography back from becoming its own art form. Alfred Stieglitz in New York, and the members of Group f.64 in San Francisco, set photography free with Straight Photography. Lorraine Anne Davis is also a prominent appraiser with another column in Black and White Magazine called “What’s It Worth.” In a piece about the work of Edmund Teske, she wrote, “After photography broke from Pictorialism at the beginning of the 20th Century and embraced Modernism, it soon became stuck in the trap of Straight Photography.” Many people believe that the parameters of realism hold photography back, but everyone is free to create whatever they choose. If you paint over old photographs, you move into a different art form altogether, as with many of the new directions in digital, often inspired by Photoshop. Read more on the effects and techniques of Photoshop in the blog post, “Monday Blog Blog: Photoshop For Pros.” More power to them, but they are not what Ansel Adams and Edward Weston called “pure” photography and they are more experimental than “great” at this juncture, in my opinion.

So how do you feel about the current era? Is it a new Golden Age? Or the doom of everything grand? Take a gander, what will the future hold?

(Continued in the blog post, “Photography’s Golden Era 3