Posts Tagged ‘Chicago’

Enduring Images: Interview of Jack Dykinga for Outdoor Photographer Magazine

September 15th, 2016

Enduring Images: An Interview with Pulitzer Prize Winning Photojournalist, Celebrated Nature Photographer and 2017 NANPA Lifetime Achievement Award Winner Jack Dykinga by David Leland Hyde

Including Previously Unpublished Interview Sections and Materials

Cover of Outdoor Photographer September Special Issue - Photography with a Purpose

Cover of Outdoor Photographer September 2016 Special Issue – Photography with a Purpose. (Click Image to see larger.)

Jack Dykinga won the Pulitzer Prize in photojournalism while documenting the turmoil of 1960s Chicago. In 1970 he read a Backpacker magazine interview of my father, conservation photographer Philip Hyde. The article by environmental photographer Gary Braasch inspired Dykinga to move West and begin photographing landscapes. He eventually met and became friends with Dad, who mentored him in the ways of conservation photography. They even photographed together on a number of trips, some with a few other photography friends around the Southwest U.S., as well as on mainland Mexico and Baja California.

Jack Dykinga over the years also became a pillar of Western nature photography, working with the acclaimed International League of Conservation Photographers, National Geographic, Arizona Highways and other renowned organizations. The North American Nature Photography Association plans to honor Dykinga with a Lifetime Achievement award this year, much as they did Philip Hyde and David Brower back in 1996.

My interview with Mr. Dykinga touched on how he made the transition from a Midwest urban setting to photographing the wide-open wilderness spaces of the West. It also revealed the sensibilities he discovered were necessary to photograph nature and wildlife for conservation purposes. Our discussion ranged from his experience at various well-known magazines to the refinement of his approach over the years with input from Dad. Dykinga gave insights into a number of conservation projects and the making of a number of his successful books for various causes, including the upcoming new release of A Photographer’s Life: A Journey from Pulitzer Prize-Winning Photojournalist to Celebrated Nature Photographer, in which Dykinga wrote an entire chapter about Dad.

My interview ran over 26,000 words, but I kept only 2,800 for the Outdoor Photographer piece. Some of the remaining 23,200 words will go into my book, but a few sections I will share with readers here. In one section I asked Jack Dykinga about Eliot Porter and Robert Glenn Ketchum. I specifically cut this portion from the Outdoor Photographer version because I did not feel the magazine article was the place to grind the axe about how Eliot Porter has received credit for a number of Dad’s and other’s accomplishments. At the right time and place, in the appropriate venue, a more detailed version of this discussion will be pertinent. For now, Landscape Photography Blogger is more appropriate than Outdoor Photographer for starting to bring some of it to light. The Outdoor Photographer audience is interested in learning from all of these greats of nature photography, not necessarily hearing why one or another have been over or under-recognized. In my opinion Dykinga’s response, while favoring Dad, was well-considered, balanced and tactful. Let’s see what you think when you read it below… In another section, Dykinga shared his experiences and impressions while working with National Geographic and while obtaining more personal, land and place oriented photographs.

David Leland Hyde: John Rohrbach in Regarding the Land: Robert Glenn Ketchum and the Legacy of Eliot Porter, made the exaggerated claims that Eliot Porter invented color nature photography and “almost single handedly saved the Grand Canyon.” Rohrbach also wrote that Robert Glenn Ketchum was the primary photographer carrying on Eliot Porter’s legacy. It was common knowledge among those who were there and widely known thereafter that Dad led the charge spiritually and produced the most photographs for the Grand Canyon campaign. Dad’s photographs illustrated three large format Sierra Club Books and were the cornerstone of Time and the River Flowing: Grand Canyon, the one book specifically produced to prevent two dams above and below the National Park in the Grand Canyon. Eliot Porter’s Glen Canyon book enjoyed wide readership during this time mainly because the campaign to prevent the Grand Canyon dams took on global proportions. The book Time and the River Flowing landed on the desk of every member of Congress and other Washington leaders, as well as quickly fulfilling significant international demand and distribution. As Time and the River Flowing went out all over the world, it effectively advanced the momentum of the global letter writing campaign that ultimately swayed American politicians and stopped the dams. Not all of Philip Hyde’s books in the Sierra Club Exhibit Format Series sold as well as Eliot Porter’s In Wildness Is the Preservation of the World, but Island In Time: Pt. Reyes Peninsula came out the same year. Several other photographers including Litton, Brower, Adams and others were nearly as prominent as Hyde and Porter in bringing color to landscape photography. As far as any photographer taking over Eliot Porter’s legacy, late in Porter’s life when he was ill before a Truckee Meadows Workshop, the organizers called in Hyde to take over Porter’s teaching position, not Robert Glenn Ketchum or anyone else.

Jack Dykinga: Eliot Porter was a great photographer. I will say that right off the bat. Right almost in the second line of his autobiography, without even taking a breath, it says he was a medical doctor who gave that up to be a photographer. Your dad was a self-made person who wanted to be a photographer. He wasn’t a doctor that wanted to be a photographer. He didn’t have either the baggage or the promotional ability that Porter did. A guy like Robert Glenn Ketchum had Ketchum, Idaho named after his family. He lives in Bel Air and Hollywood and he’s done a lot of good conservation work, but the hardship that your father had to go through, made him stronger. Your dad was the kind of person who had to really work for everything he got. I don’t think he had time to blow his own horn. He was trying to make a living. If I had it to do over again, I sure wish I had a lot more money. I wouldn’t have to worry about the next check. But, I think that lack of money also gives you an edge, I don’t mean a winning edge, I mean there’s a certain edge to your life where you’re really having to push pretty hard to get things done and it helps you. Porter’s work had a totally different look, whereas your father’s strength was that he gave you the monumental look of the American West. Your father did a lot more trail hiking than Eliot did and really showed us the land without showing himself.

Hyde: In the early 1960s, the whole direction of the large format books shifted. At first there was the big black and white sensation, This Is The American Earth by Ansel Adams and Nancy Newhall, but then suddenly everybody was really excited about color.

Dykinga: Your father was more of a documenter of wild places. He would look at things as more of a narrative and a project. That’s more akin to what I do. A lot of my friends that I go camping with are what I call single image photographers. They go out and want to get the most powerful shot that day, where I’m more likely to be wrapped up in a concept. That’s because I’m the journalist. You get publishable shots every single day. They may not be the art you want to hang on your wall, but you may want to put them in a book to tell somebody a story. If you try to submit only those that whisper, you’ll never get published, but you can hang them on the wall and live with them and love them.

Hyde: With National Geographic are you doing more or less what Joel Sartore does?

Dykinga: I am a contract photographer. He is a contract photographer on their first list. I used to be on their first list. I have a deep connection with the magazine, but their overall view of landscape is erratic. We have different opinions.

Hyde: Their idea of landscape is always putting a person in the frame.

Dykinga: There you go. You hit it perfectly. The classic example would be the last issue on Yellowstone National Park with people, butchering animals, traps and cowboys. There’s not one sense of place in the whole article. Here we are in this dramatic, incredible landscape that just gets really short shrift with the tact they have taken. The current editor is a journalist. She was the editor of Time Magazine.

Hyde: Would you say that National Geographic goes after the culture more than the place or the wilderness?

Dykinga: You could say that. That’s sort of subjective. I was there when Chris Johns was editor and he loved my approach to landscapes. That went away when he went away. It changes all the time. I still work for them occasionally. A full feature is a 100 day contract and it’s pretty good money, except when you have things blow up, it maybe not as good as you thought.

Hyde: You were in Stephen Trimble’s book, Lasting Light: 125 Years of Grand Canyon Photography. I don’t know that he necessarily found all of the “Who’s who” of Grand Canyon photography, but he included many.

Dykinga: I spend less and less time in cliché locations. They may be visual touchstones for most people, but they’re not interesting to me because even more than the place the solitude is important to me.

Hyde: Like Ansel talked about with the experience?

Dykinga: Yes, a deeper connection. You can’t do that if you’re on a crowded boardwalk in Yellowstone with about 30 Chinese guys with selfie sticks like I just experienced. People now are interested in showing “me there,” more than “there.” I think there’s a profound shift with people being more anthropocentric.

Hyde: We have less and less connection to nature as decades go by and more and more words and noise surrounding ourselves when we do get out there.

Dykinga: I see it all the time where people really go on and on explaining their work. Your father’s message and his voice came through the image. If you go on and on about divinity and God and everything else, that’s maybe what you’re reading into it. A lot of us are just very happy when people see the place and make their own decisions based on their own divinity or lack thereof. That’s as good as you can go. It’s more of a Buddhist approach.

To read the best published portions of the above interview pick up the Outdoor Photographer September Special Issue still on newsstands now for a few more weeks, or available online in October.

My Favorite Photographs of 2015

December 29th, 2015

Jim Goldstein at JMG Galleries Blog has once again put together his blog project for hundreds of photoblogs to show a selection of photographs from the year. Last year I labeled my review blog post, “Best Photographs of 2014.” For that year, “Best” fairly described my picks because I did review every image in each genre and ran them off against each other to select what were best in my opinion. However, “Best” does not always apply to images that you choose yourself. Perhaps a stock agency or a magazine or a gallery would choose “better” images than you would yourself. Whether it is a stock agency, magazine or gallery doing the choosing, may be more the point. Each of these uses would chose different images that would be “best” in its particular situation. Different uses demand a different selection.

In a year like 2015 where I approached 10,000 total exposures, there may be several “10 best Photographs,” lurking within the 10,000 made, depending on the project and purpose. Therefore, this year I have called these “My Favorites.” Early in 2015 I gathered more images of the Northern Sierra, specifically Eastern Plumas County, to round out my Sierra Portfolio that will split into a Northern and Southern Sierra Portfolio as I begin to assemble portfolios and build a new website for my own photography. Currently I have just two portfolios on PhilipHyde.com after the 25 Image Portfolios of my father’s well-known photography that influenced more than one generation of landscape photographers.

My old friend Topher called me to announce he would marry Kori on the Blue Moon at the end of July on the white sandy shores of Lake Michigan at Meinert Park Beach. I decided to drive up to the West Coast of Michigan for the wedding and continue to photograph barns around the Midwest as I had started to do in Northern California. Every country is only as strong as its heart. I traveled to the heartland to take our pulse as a country and to photograph barns, farms and the dying small farm culture that is leaving small towns heartless across the land. Industrial cities are also in ruin in the midwest, but besides ruin and decay, hope, rebirth and rebuilding are also evident across our agrarian and rust belted center. My trip filled up with obstacles and small and large disasters, to the point where “A Drive Through the Heartland” makes a good travel narrative, currently in progress, as well as a series of informational blog posts about various sections of my trip or stories I discovered along the way. As soon as I have one draft of my travel journal, I will get back to directly working on my book about my father’s life and work in conservation photography of our national parks and wilderness.

Near the end of the year back home in California I photographed more landscapes for my Portfolio One and other portfolios, as well as more historical barns and round barns to upgrade my California Barns Portfolio to be revealed in 2016 with my new website. In 2016, I plan to take the emphasis off of making photographs and put it on marketing them more.

Misty Sunrise, Millpond, Graeagle, California by David Leland Hyde.

Misty Sunrise, Millpond, Graeagle, Eastern Plumas County, Northern Sierra, California by David Leland Hyde. Photographed this sunrise on the way to the Lakes Basin Recreation Area, but got caught here a bit too long and missed the best light up at Lakes Basin.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

D. H. Day Barn From North, Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, Michigan West Coast by David Leland Hyde.

D. H. Day Barn From North, Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, Michigan West Coast by David Leland Hyde. Most people photograph this barn from the south or from the southwest near the national park service road. It varied from pouring to steady rain. I wore my rain gear and managed to keep my camera dry long enough to walk all the way around the field to make images from all sides.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Round Barn Near Conroy, Iowa by David Leland Hyde.

Round Barn Near Conroy, Iowa by David Leland Hyde. This barn is usually hard to find, but fortunately I asked at just the right building, when I first arrived in town. I made it to the barn in short time. The owner even drove up near the end of my photography session, just in time to give me publishing permission.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Three Cowgirls, Harlan Ranch, Indian Valley, Plumas County, Northern Sierra, California by David Leland Hyde.

Three Cowgirls, Harlan Ranch, Indian Valley, Plumas County, Northern Sierra, California by David Leland Hyde. I was happily photographing the Harlan Ranch Barn from the road, when two young cowpersons who had been riding a horse in a nearby corral approached me and asked if I would photograph them. Their mother nearby saw more or less what was going on. I made close to 20 frames of the girls, who also recruited their friend to total three cowgirls in most of the photographs. Talking with their mother afterwards, she said she liked the photographs and the whole idea as it kept the girls entertained for a little while.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Moving Moment In Hansen Wedding Ceremony, Lake Michigan, Meinert Park Beach, West Coast of Michigan by David Leland Hyde.

Moving Moment In Hansen Wedding Ceremony, Lake Michigan, Meinert Park Beach, West Coast of Michigan by David Leland Hyde. The wedding photographer was also present and doing a great job getting the “money shots” of the main players in the wedding. I meanwhile focused on either the whole wedding party and audience, or the whole scene including the setting.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dogs, Farm Hand, Horse, Overlees Farm Near Franklin, Nebraska by David Leland Hyde.

Dogs, Farm Hand, Horse, Overlees Farm Near Franklin, Nebraska by David Leland Hyde. During my entire 10,000 mile, 14 Midwest State journey, I worked to incorporate not just picturesque barns, but the land, people, animals, equipment and overall culture of small farms and dairies. This was one of my better successes with the surrounding culture, which seemed to come and go out of my images depending on how much I focused on getting more than just the barns.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Children on Shore of Midsummer Pond Near Oberlin, Ohio by David Leland Hyde. At one farm, the lady at the house said I could photograph the barn, even though she was not the owner. She went back in the house and left me, a complete stranger, with her children. They followed me around while I tried to photograph the barn. At first the kids were a distraction, but then I just told them to go ahead and play between the barn and camera, which produced a number of great images. With no encouragement at all from me, they led me down by their favorite ponds and played while I made a few more images of them and the ponds. After about 45 minutes, I walked back by the house and the woman waved from inside.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Amish Teenage Brothers and Horse Cart Near Holton, Michigan by David Leland Hyde.

Amish Teenage Brothers and Horse Cart Near Holton, Michigan by David Leland Hyde. Amish people do not pose, nor will they give permission to photograph them if they are asked for it. However, if they happen to be passing by and you capture them going about their regular routine as part of another photograph, they do not object. These boys with whom I exchanged names upon meeting them, were all under 18 except for the oldest. I mentioned what I had learned about photographing Amish. They said they could pose if they wanted to and that it was up to each person to interpret their faith in that regard. While they drove by, I photographed and made a number of good images.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cloudy Sunset, Olsen Barn, Lake Almanor Near North Fork Feather River, Chester, Northern Sierra, California by David Leland Hyde.

Cloudy Sunset, Olsen Barn, Lake Almanor Near North Fork Feather River, Chester, Northern Sierra, California by David Leland Hyde. I drove to Lake Almanor four different days and stayed into the evening waiting for a good sunset, but this one from the first evening after the Feather River Land Trust day tours, turned out better than any from subsequent nights. The Feather River Land Trust used this photograph of Olsen Barn in their campaign to acquire the land and begin to restore the barn. The FRLT completed the land purchase transaction in October and by November we had the first meeting for a stewardship committee to research how best to restore the barn. I am researching the pros and cons of being on the National Register of Historic Places.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Barn Skeletons in Soybean Field Near Oslo, Minnesota by David Leland Hyde.

Barn Skeletons in Soybean Field Near Oslo, Minnesota by David Leland Hyde. I was on my way off the main US Highway toward another historic barn when I looked back and saw these barn remnants dappled by late sun through the trees. I made a number of exposures at different focal lengths, but chose this one as my favorite as it includes all three barns and some of the setting, but also gives a sense of the immense size of the large barn.

Stage From Balcony, Historic Eastown Theater, Detroit, Michigan by David Leland Hyde. Alas, the iconic theater is no more. It was demolished this year. My photograph may become historically significant someday, especially if I am one of the few to make prints.

Stage From Balcony, Historic Eastown Theater, Detroit, Michigan by David Leland Hyde. Alas, the iconic theater is no more. It was demolished this year. My photograph may become historically significant someday, especially if I am one of the few to make prints.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hole Broken in Wall, Screw and Bolt Factory, Gary, Indiana by David Leland Hyde.

Hole Broken in Wall, Screw and Bolt Factory, Gary, Indiana by David Leland Hyde. I do quite a bit of street photography on the West Coast. I have always wanted to photograph the ruins of the Midwest and Eastern Rust Belt. Gary, Indiana was one of Lake Michigan’s thriving industrial centers for many decades, but has fallen into disrepair with loss of over half of its peak population at a rate exceeding 22 percent per decade.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Psychadelic Wall Mural, Chicago, Illinois by David Leland Hyde.

Psychadelic Wall Mural, Chicago, Illinois by David Leland Hyde. Driving past this wall along an elevated roadway in Chicago, all that meets the eye are murals as far as you can see. This one caught my eye with the bright variety of colors.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shawn Lee Opening the Door to Urban Renewal Through Art at Artist Village, Detroit by David Leland Hyde.

Shawn Lee Opening the Door to Urban Renewal Through Art at Artist Village, Detroit by David Leland Hyde. Shawn Lee said the ruins of Detroit are old news and overblown by mainstream media. He said the relevant story now is the rebuilding of Detroit. He took me to see downtown gentrification and thriving upscale neighborhoods, but showed me recovering middle-class neighborhoods too. Artist Village is one place that encourages artists occupying low rent studios and helping to re-establish neighborhoods. Recovery is evident on other fronts as well. All over Detroit, neighborhood gardens are helping to rebuild communities and economically reclaim the city street by street.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Racing Team Practice, Stanford Red Barn Equestrian Center, Stanford, California by David Leland Hyde.

Racing Team Practice, Stanford Red Barn Equestrian Center, Stanford, California by David Leland Hyde. Meanwhile, with the wealth of dot.com startups and new innovations in technology, the Stanford area will continue to grow richer for a long time to come, possibly until the land goes under the ocean due to climate change.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Drive Through The Heartland 1

July 23rd, 2015

Journey Into The Heart of America

Old Tractor, Tall Grass Field and Edge of Thundercloud Near Oroville, California, copyright 2015 David Leland Hyde.

Old Tractor, Tall Grass Field and Edge of Thundercloud Near Oroville, California, copyright 2015 David Leland Hyde. (Click on image to see large.)

When I was a boy, I played in a local barn quite often. Godar’s Barn had a rope swing. Ed Godar smiled and greeted us kids most of the time, but he would get grumpy if he heard us much or if we rough housed. He said to strictly stay off the hay stacked in his barn. However, with the rope swing right there and him not around the barn much, it was extremely tempting to climb way up on the top of the stacked hay and leap off into mid air on the rope swing, which made for a much more exciting ride.

I have always loved barns and started photographing them for no particular reason in 2009. Recently I provided photographs to help in the Feather River Land Trust campaign to raise funds to preserve the Olsen Barn in Chester, California. More on the Olsen Barn in the blog post, “Save The Historic Olsen Barn: Campaign by Feather River Land Trust.”

From Plumas County in the Sierra Nevada of Northeastern California, I branched out and started photographing barns all over California. Recently, because of a wedding in Michigan, I decided to drive to the Midwest and photograph all the famous and historical barns of the Great Plains and Midwest. My journey of 8,000 miles through the Heartland of America: the Midwest and part of the South, United States, will celebrate architecture and land. I plan to photograph historical barns and farms, cityscapes, landscapes, covered bridges, old mills, wildlife refuges, waterfalls, urban blight, rural decay and perhaps even a shipwreck and more, though barns and their culture will be the main focus.

Highway Interchange at Wick's Corners Near Oroville, California, copyright 2015 David Leland Hyde.

Highway Interchange at Wicks Corners Near Oroville, California, copyright 2015 David Leland Hyde.

My friend Topher, short for Christopher, instigated this trip. Topher and I have been friends for almost 20 years. We were friends for a number of years in Albuquerque during my 30s when I finally went back to school to finish my bachelor’s degree. After I graduated from UNM, I moved to Massachusetts. Around the same time he moved back to Michigan, from where he came originally.

“I’ve been having a good time in Albuquerque,” Topher said. “But, I’ve been having the same good time in Albuquerque.” He was a traveling bus tour guide not inclined to stay put long. Out of the group of us who hung out together in Albuquerque, Topher was the least likely to get married. It was a fairly wild group. To our surprise, Topher did stay put in Michigan and lo and behold, here 15 years later he called early this year to say he will marry Kori July 30, just before the only blue moon in 2015.

Driving up to the West Coast of Michigan for the wedding will allow me to continue the barn photography project I began in California. I will do a study of the famous round barns of the Midwest, horse barns, feed barns, hay barns, milking barns and the tobacco barns of the South, as well as farm houses and other ranch buildings.

Metal Barn, Corn Field and Water Tank Near Kirkville, California, copyright 2015 by David Leland Hyde.

Metal Barn, Corn Field and Water Tank Near Kirkville, California, copyright 2015 by David Leland Hyde.

I will visit many sites I discovered through the National Register of Historic Places. I plan to photograph barns, state capitols and other structures in California, Nevada, Utah, Wyoming, Colorado, Nebraska, Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Texas, New Mexico and Arizona.

Thursday, June 16, 2015, with the evening light, my photographic journey to the heartland of the country began in the Great Central Valley, the heart of California, near the small agricultural and lumbering town of Oroville. I saw an old tractor juxtaposed with contemporary billboards in a big open field under a half clear, half stormy sky. Also, I stopped to photograph the barns and the interchange at Wicks Corners where California State Highway 70 and 149 merge. I have wanted to photograph this group of barns on two adjacent ranches for years. A few days later, I photographed metal barns near Knights Landing and Kirkville, California. I also photographed a red barn and white shed near Gridley.

Julie, Her Granddaughter and Her Horse Barn, Wick's Corners Near Oroville, California, copyright 2015 David Leland Hyde.

Julie, Her Granddaughter and Her Horse Barn, Wicks Corners Near Oroville, California, copyright 2015 David Leland Hyde.

At Wicks Corners, Julie and her granddaughter came out to say hello and talk for a bit. On her small ranch she previously had many animals, but is now down to one Quarter Horse, six dogs, one cat, four goldfish and one magpie that talks. She raised her two daughters on the ranch and now they bring their granddaughters to visit.

My goal on this journey is not only to photograph barns, but the settings of the barns—the ranches, farms, homesteads, people, animals, freeways, dirt roads, blue highways, back roads and campgrounds. The only thing missing on my travels is that I don’t have a dog named Charley, but you never know what might happen by the time it’s all over. Check back here and stay tuned for more on my adventures. I will post more updates here, at least weekly, hopefully more often and tweet my travel progress from the heartland of California across the deserts of Nevada and Utah, the Rocky Mountains and into the Heartland of America.

Follow my travels on Twitter at @PhilipHydePhoto

(Continued in the blog post, “A Drive Through the Heartland 2.”)

Photography’s Golden Era 3

February 18th, 2010

(CONTINUED FROM BLOG POST, “Photography’s Golden Era 2“)

Straight Photography and Other Early Influences

5-26-09, rev. 1-23-10

The Steerage, 1921, by Alfred Stieglitz. More than his signature photograph, it is also considered one of the most important images of the 20th Century because it helped to transform photography and change the perception of what was considered fine art. It is also one of the earliest and best examples of "straight photography" as defined by Alfred Stieglitz. Public Domain Image.

Note: Future blog posts will expand on this overview and delve into Pictorialism, documentary, straight photography and especially Group f.64 and the west coast tradition.

In August, 1921, a little known but classically trained painter and furniture maker, Paul Leland Hyde and his wife Jessie Clemens Hyde of Howard Street in San Francisco, gave birth to their third child, a boy they named Philip Jean Hyde. The year proved auspicious for fine art photography, but not for wilderness, at least not until the boy grew up.

The twentieth century’s biggest threats to wilderness and the National Park System began in 1921 when seven western states formed the Colorado River Commission, U. S. Geological Survey teams made studies of Glen Canyon, Cataract Canyon, Grand Canyon and the San Juan River Canyon and Hydrologists proposed the first dam site on the Colorado River.

Meanwhile photography thrived and took leaps forward thanks to an outspoken New York City proponent, the father of fine art photography, Alfred Stieglitz. In February 1921, Alfred Stieglitz sent shock waves through the art world by exhibiting a mixture of nude and clothed depictions of his lover, the rising painter Georgia O’Keeffe. The buzz created by the scandal and success of the show made the young Georgia O’Keeffe famous and solidified Alfred Stieglitz’ place in history both in America and Europe. Philip Hyde never met Alfred Stieglitz, but Alfred Stieglitz would indirectly impact Philip Hyde’s photography and that of all landscape photography. Alfred Stieglitz through his association with Paul Strand and Ansel Adams, influenced the west coast tradition of photography that was also born in the San Francisco Bay Area, as Philip Hyde grew up.

In 1932, an election year, Franklin D. Roosevelt ran against Herbert Hoover, whose popularity plummeted in the wake of the stock market crash and ensuing Great Depression. Roosevelt campaigned on the promise of his New Deal. He said its many programs and projects would reverse the economic collapse. In late 1932, even before Roosevelt took office his advisors started framing programs and began to employ photographers to add life to their reports. The nearly 100-year-old medium of photography conveyed the need for each program more memorably and dynamically than solely written documents. The photography originally used by government organizations such as the Farm Security Administration or FSA in the Great Depression came to be known as documentary photography and was characterized by crisp, sharp and unadorned images.

In previous decades photographers who wanted their work to be considered art, had been moving away from the plain representation of documentation. They experimented with soft focus and print manipulation in many forms including the changing of tone by various methods and printing on cotton and a variety of other art papers. These painterly forms came to be called Pictorialism and dictated what sold in galleries in New York City and the museums and art markets of the Eastern US until 1930 and beyond.

A few photographers bucked this trend, but none successfully until Alfred Stieglitz. Alfred Stieglitz produced a magazine called Camera Work in which he eventually began to encourage “Straight Photography.” When Alfred Stieglitz originally started a society he called Photo-Secession, he was still practicing many of the techniques of pictorialism, but in time he began to take the view that photography was an art form, in and of itself, and did not need to imitate other art forms to warrant public appreciation. He coined the term Straight Photography to refer to images that were sharp and printed just as they were captured by the camera on glossy non-painterly papers that brought out detail. One of the photographers Alfred Stieglitz featured in Camera Work was Paul Strand of Chicago, whose work was stark, simple and straightforward, yet possessed creative depth.

In 1930, a young pianist and photographer named Ansel Adams traveled to New Mexico to finish a book he had started on the Taos Pueblo. No rooms were available at Los Gallos Inn but the Innkeeper introduced Ansel Adams to Becky and Paul Strand who invited Ansel Adams to stay in an extra bedroom of their adobe guest cottage. Ansel Adams knew of Paul Strand from reading Camera Work and was delighted when Paul Strand offered to show him his negatives since he had no prints on hand. Ansel Adams described the negatives as “glorious… with perfect, uncluttered edges and beautifully distributed shapes that he had carefully selected and interpreted as forms—simple, yet of great power.” Ansel Adams was so inspired that he decided that afternoon, “the camera, not the piano, would shape my destiny.”

In 1932, a group of West Coast photographers met informally at photographer Willard Van Dyke’s home in Berkeley, California. Van Dyke’s guests Imogen Cunningham, Edward Weston, Henry Swift, Sonya Noskowiak, John Paul Edwards and Ansel Adams found they were on a similar journey. When Ansel Adams described his new direction in photography inspired by Alfred Stieglitz and Paul Strand, he discovered that the others were already at work on this new approach. All present agreed to pursue what they would call “pure photography” and work to reverse the trend of art photography toward Pictorialism. At a subsequent meeting they agreed to call themselves Group f.64, after the smallest aperture or lens opening setting that allowed for the greatest sharpness and depth. Later after World War II, Philip Hyde would study under three of the members of this group that redefined photography, Ansel Adams, Edward Weston and Imogen Cunningham.

(Continued in the blog post, “Photography’s Golden Era 4“)

References:
O’Keeffe and Stieglitz: An American Romance by Benita Eisler
Two Lives, Georgia O’Keeffe & Alfred Stieglitz: A Conversation in Paintings and Photographs by Alexandra and Thomas West
Seeing Straight: The F.64 Revolution in Photography by Mary Street Alinder, Therese Thau Heyman and Naomi Rosenblum
Ansel Adams: An Autobiography by Ansel Adams
Ansel Adams: A Biography by Mary Street Alinder