Posts Tagged ‘documentary photography’

Heartland 3 – Starke Round Barn, Red Cloud, Nebraska

October 9th, 2015

Risk and Ruin at the Starke Round Barn, Red Cloud, Webster County, Nebraska

A Drive Through The Heartland, Part Three

Front Entrance and Second Floor of the Starke Round Barn Near Red Cloud, Nebraska, Midwest #Heartland United States by David Leland Hyde. (Click image to see larger.)

Front Entrance and Second Floor of the Starke Round Barn Near Red Cloud, Nebraska, Midwest #Heartland United States by David Leland Hyde, 2015. (Click image to see larger.)

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

Largest of It’s Type in the World

For their time, for any time, many Midwest barns were engineering marvels, especially the large round barns. Round barns do not have any European antecedents like other barn designs. They are entirely an American creation and an important part of American architectural history. Round barns are also the most rare. Less than one fifth of one percent of all barns in the US are round barns.

One of the most impressive designs and largest in the world of its type, the Starke Round Barn near Red Cloud, Nebraska holds together without any nails or pegs, entirely by the weight and balance of the building and the beams of the structure. However, the design of the Starke Round Barn is not the only interesting aspect of its history.

Conrad Starke and Sons Amassed a Fortune in Milwaukee

Interior of Second or Main Floor and Inner Silo, Starke Round Barn Near Red Cloud, Nebraska, Midwest #Heartland United States by David Leland Hyde. (Click on image to see large.)

Interior of Second or Main Floor and Inner Silo, Starke Round Barn Near Red Cloud, Nebraska, Midwest #Heartland United States by David Leland Hyde, 2015. (Click on image to see large.)

The Starke Round Barn story rises and falls with the fortunes of the owners. The builders of the Starke Round Barn, the four Starke brothers, came to Nebraska from Milwaukee, Wisconsin just after the turn of the century. The Starke family had been in engineering and building for many years, constructing ships on the Great Lakes.

Starke family members at the time were known to have attended elite Milwaukee society parties, having amassed a fortune and political influence through various enterprises. They owned shipping companies, tugboat lines and other businesses on Lake Michigan and the other Great Lakes.

The Starke Round Barn Historic Site explains that around 1880, Conrad Starke, Sr. and his wife Veronica purchased 400 acres of land in Webster County, Nebraska in the Republican River Valley near what is now Red Cloud. Veronica’s brothers, Gottleib and John Christian Rasser had homesteaded in the area in 1870 after serving in the Civil War.

Old Farm Equipment Inside Starke Round Barn Near Red Cloud, Nebraska, Midwest #Heartland United States by David Leland Hyde. (Click on image to see large.)

Old Farm Equipment Inside Starke Round Barn Near Red Cloud, Nebraska, Midwest #Heartland United States by David Leland Hyde, 2015. (Click on image to see large.)

Conrad Jr., Ernest, Bill and Christopher Starke Build An Engineering Marvel Round Barn

Still living in Milwaukee in 1902, Conrad Starke Sr., the mastermind behind the greatest portion of the Starke fortune, gave his four sons Conrad, Ernest, Bill and Christopher funding and supplies to go to Nebraska to live at the Starke property near Red Cloud. In addition to other building materials for a barn and other projects, the Starkes shipped gigantic 12” by 12” timbers from the Great Lakes to Nebraska. The Starke Round Barn took the Starke brothers two years to complete.

As the Starke brothers erected the barn, they did not use nails or pegs like other barns of the time. The citation for the Starke Round Barn in the National Register of Historic Places describes the construction and how the building holds together through tension, weight and balance:

The Starke barn is not polyhedronal, a type more common in Nebraska, but a true round barn. It is three stories tall and 130 feet in diameter. The central silo, of brick and mortar construction, is 28 feet in diameter and 65 feet in height, with a total volume of 40,000 cubic feet. The roof is a gable and of low pitch, required by the barn’s great circumference. The construction method is a combination of balloon framing and heavy timber supports. The entire three level vertical and horizontal support frame is of massive 12 X 12 timbers, which are held together by compressive and balancing tensile forces rather than by nails or pegs, which would be useless as fasteners under the thousands of tons the building was designed to hold. The barn was originally covered with horizontal siding. In the early 1960s, the original wood siding was covered over with corrugated iron sheets… With the exception of this minor alteration, the barn still stands today virtually unaltered since its construction.

Back Downhill Side of the Starke Round Barn Near Red Cloud, Nebraska, Midwest #Heartland United States by David Leland Hyde 2015. (Click image to see large.)

Back Downhill Side of the Starke Round Barn Near Red Cloud, Nebraska, Midwest #Heartland United States by David Leland Hyde, 2015. (Click image to see large.)

With the full three stories, the barn contains over 40,000 square feet of floor space. Other large round barns may have one level that is larger in diameter, but other levels are smaller. This is the case with the Central Wisconsin State Fairgrounds Round Barn in Marshfield, Wisconsin. The Wisconsin State Fairgrounds Barn is considered the largest round barn in the US.

The Thriving Starke Dairy Farm

The Starke Round Barn with extensive room on all three floors, originally supported a large dairy operation. The third top level, or loft, provided hay storage. The middle second floor, accessed directly from the front of the barn with a triple-wide driveway and doors, housed farm machinery, wagons, buggies and other conveyances, tools and equipment. The bottom ground floor stabled horses in one section and cows in another. Nearly half of the bottom floor extended into the hillside, while the remaining majority of the ground floor had windows around it. The milking area was on the window side of the basement floor. There were also windows on the main second floor originally, but many of these were covered in 1960 when the metal siding was installed.

Milking Area, Interior, First Floor or Basement, Starke Round Barn Near Red Cloud, Nebraska, Midwest #Heartland United States by David Leland Hyde, 2015. (Click image to see large.)

Milking Area, Interior, First Floor or Basement, Starke Round Barn Near Red Cloud, Nebraska, Midwest #Heartland United States by David Leland Hyde, 2015. (Click image to see large.)

The Starke brothers enjoyed a successful farm for nearly 20 years. However, they also overspent on farm supplies, luxuries and lavish parties. Novelist Willa Cather may have attended one of the parties, speculated the current owner of the Starke Round Barn, Liz Rasser, a relative of the Starkes, in Nebraska Rural Living. Red Cloud was the childhood home of Willa Cather. In one of Willa Cather’s short stories, “The Bohemian Girl,” the main character attended a barn dance to celebrate the completion of the largest barn in the state. Willa Cather’s father, Charles, who owned a real estate, insurance and loan office in Red Cloud, signed some of the surviving historic papers of the Starke barn. The Starke brothers were popular in the area and known by most.

“Everyone wanted to come out and work for them because they would just go sit under a shade tree and drink out of a cider jug all afternoon,” Rasser said. In 1915, the Starke brothers started the dairy operation, with approximately 75 stanchions for milking on the lower level of the barn. In 1922, the Starkes had Nebraska’s best producing cow for milk and butter.

Tools, Chair, Window, Starke Round Barn Near Red Cloud, Nebraska, Midwest #Heartland United States by David Leland Hyde, 2015.

Tools, Chair, Window, Starke Round Barn Near Red Cloud, Nebraska, Midwest #Heartland United States by David Leland Hyde, 2015. (Click image to see large.)

The barn has made it through two tornadoes and been missed by nearby fires, but tragedy struck the Starke brothers when their dairy herd contracted tuberculosis and nearly all died in the early 1920s. Debts had been mounting. Two of the Starke brothers left town and both died of heart attacks. The remaining two brothers moved to town, but lost the barn and the whole farm to a foreclosure sale on the steps of the Webster County Courthouse in 1929.

Walter and Will Rasser, nephews of Conrad Sr. and Veronica Rasser Starke, purchased the Starke farm in fateful 1929. Percy, Liz and son Cal, the current owners, are descendent from the original Rassers who bought the farm. The Rassers today give tours of the barn and hold special events and historical activities on the grounds.

The Rassers are actively raising funds to further restore the barn. Through various grants they were able to replace the gigantic roof and more maintenance is needed. To donate or get involved with the Starke Round Barn go to The Starke Round Barn Historic Site.

(Continued in the next blog post in the series, “Heartland 4 – Nebraska – Little Ruins on the Prairie.”)

Additional References:

Starke Round Barn Family History

Visit Nebraska: Starke Round Barn

Red Cloud Attractions: Starke Round Barn

Heritage Highway, US 136, Pioneer History

Milwaukee Waterways: Conrad Starke

Messages From The Wilderness Opening At Lumiere Gallery

November 11th, 2011

Lumiere Gallery Opening: Photography as Propaganda

Messages from the Wilderness

Saturday November 12

10 am – 4 pm

Opening All Day

Exhibition: November 12-December 23, 2011

Now Extended through MARCH 31, 2012

Messages From The Wilderness Installation At Lumiere Gallery, Atlanta, Georgia, Copyright 2011 by Tony Casadonte. Note the 32X40 archival digital print of Philip Hyde's "Great Overhang, Moqui Canyon, Glen Canyon, 1964" in the center flanked by 11X14 digital prints of "Virginia Creeper, Northern Sierra Nevada, California" and "Mt. Denali, Reflection Pond, Denali National Park, Alaska." Two Robert Glen Ketchum prints outside of that between the Philip Hyde prints with Philip Hyde's "Cathedral In The Desert, Glen Canyon, Utah" and "Dogwood, Sequoia National Park, California," on the outside far ends of the main wall. Other areas of the show feature Philip Hyde's hand made vintage black and white prints of Glen Canyon, Grand Canyon National Park, Canyonlands National Park and others.

Lumiere Gallery
425 Peachtree Hills Avenue – Building 5
Atlanta, GA 30305
404-261-6100

See the Lumiere Gallery website for a new video featuring David Leland Hyde talking about his father and the birth of modern environmentalism.

This exhibition features works deploying the visual power of photography to communicate and understand an appreciation of the great American Wilderness. These photographers have captured the beauty and form of nature using straight photography, documentary, pictorialism, abstraction and unusual lighting effect to communicate a story or to stimulate the viewer’s innate imagination. The work involved often has provided the foundation for major conservation campaigns.

The show includes photography by: Philip Hyde, Ansel Adams, Edna Bullock, Peter Essick, Robert Glenn Ketchum, Tom Murphy, Bradford Washburn, Edward Weston and Brett Weston.

Monday Blog Blog: Derrick Birdsall

September 26th, 2011

Monday Blog Blog: Derrick Birdsall of My Sight Picture Lands A Book Deal To Photograph North Texas Frontier Forts And Lives For A Week In A Historical Log Cabin

Sunset, Log Cabin, Farmer's Branch Historical Park, Farmer's Branch, Texas, copyright 2009 Derrick Birdsall.

(See the photograph large here.)

What in the world is Monday Blog Blog? See the blog post, “Monday Blog Blog Celebration.”

Some photographers have no problem with singing their own praises or even over-blowing the merit of their own work. In contrast, many photographers and other creative people hesitate to promote themselves because either they doubt their own work, feel self-aggrandizement is tacky or any number of other reasons. My father, pioneer landscape photographer Philip Hyde, fit into the second category and architectural, historical, street and landscape photographer Derrick Birdsall does as well.

When I proposed doing a Monday Blog Blog on Derrick Birdsall and his popular blog My Sight Picture, he said something about the caliber of photographers I feature, how short a time he had been “serious” about photography and that he felt highly honored to be the subject of such a blog post. My reply was that my father liked to support and encourage those who were the most dedicated to the craft and the most accelerated in their development. Besides, Dad was always egalitarian in his association with all levels of photographers. I added that even though Landscape Photography Blogger exists to honor my father, it is my blog, doggon it, and I will feature who I want, which essentially in time will be a wide variety of landscape photographers from all over the world that I haven’t even met yet, but to start with I will feature those who I like and who support this blog the most.

Derrick Birdsall began his participation on this blog by asking in a comment if I thought that the current period was another Golden Era for photography. See comments on the blog post, “Photography’s Golden Era 2.” Ever since, he has shown a knack for asking pithy, discussion sparking and often difficult questions. I have always been amazed at his prolific volume of photography. This month, for example, he made over 20,000 exposures. Also, he puts up blog posts more frequently than any other blog I follow.

Just five years ago, Derrick Birdsall began photographing with a small Hewlett Packard “point-and-shoot” that came with a printer he bought. Because it was convenient to keep in his pocket, he took it everywhere he went. At first he had mainly an “I was here” style, but once he was out exploring around the Gila River in New Mexico and a storm blew across the canyon. Derrick “snapped” a few pictures and found that one of them had an “Ansel Adams style to it and something just clicked in my head, that I could do this.” He now photographs mainly with his Canon 7D, with his earlier Canon 50D as a backup. For post processing, he uses only Adobe Lightroom and Idealab/Google Picasa, no Photoshop.

Right away Derrick made an impression on me with his polite, Southern manner sprinkled with “please” and “thank you, Sir.” He was born in Virginia and has lived in Texas since the 4th Grade. His distinct photography in some ways is best exemplified by his photographs from his visit to Santa Fe, New Mexico. Rather than going for the landmarks: the adobe, Native Americans on the Plaza, or other typical Santa Fe clichés, his images on Smug Mug are of the land and not even of the most prominent features. He explained that this was partially circumstantial as he had attended a museum conference, took a walk and photographed what looked good to him. “A lot of times we miss something right under our noses because we’re too busy trying to put tripods where someone else already has. Part of my uniqueness is that growing up, I never spent much time looking at, or learning about art or photography. Even now, I don’t look to others’ photographs to guide what I do.”

He photographs landscapes, motorcycles, shooting competitions, airplanes, animals, architecture and many other subjects. Here’s his explanation for wide variety over specialization:

If I had my druthers, I’d be out working the Texas deserts and canyons every day with a camera. Unfortunately for me, I can’t get out there all the time, so I take images of what I have access to. There’s beauty to be found everywhere—whether that’s in a majestic desert landscape, a nice macro that you walk by every day, your dog laying out in the sun, or whatever you might pass by.  My rule number one is that to take a good picture, you’ve got to have your camera with you everywhere you go.  That way if you see something that catches your eye, you can take the time to stop and capture that moment. That being said, I think that to really capture the essence of something, you have to know it, and the images I share with folks are of things I know and love.  Basically, it’s all about ‘seeing.’  Once you start hunting for the light, you see it everywhere you go. I also use every photo opportunity as a way to become more skilled with the camera across the board. For example, I can learn something from taking an image of a hot rod and apply it to capturing reflections of a pool of water in the desert. In the short time I’ve been working at this, I’ve learned that photography is often about trial and error. Every time you hit the shutter button it’s a learning experience. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t, and the more images you take, the better you get at being able to bend the camera to your will so that you can capture the image you visualized.

The big news recently was a book deal with TSTC Publishing for a coffee table book featuring Derrick Birdsall’s photographs of the Texas Frontier Forts. Derrick Birdsall has a background in history and has been photographing the Texas Frontier Forts seriously since 2009. He earned an MA in History from Sam Houston State University and since then has been working in museums for over 20 years. He learned from a competitive shooting mentor that if you want to succeed, “you have to let other people know what your goals are and they will help you reach your goals.” Derrick Birdsall has had the goal to produce a coffee table book on the Texas Frontier Forts for some time. At one point, he collaborated with Margaret Hoogstra, who manages a cultural tourism trail centered on the Texas Frontier Forts called Texas Forts Trail. She was at a meeting with a representative from TSTC Publishing and they started talking about potential book projects. Margaret Hoogstra mentioned Derrick Birdsall’s photography of the forts. Subsequently the publisher set up a meeting in which they agreed to do the book. Derrick called it a “networking success.”

The forts project hits so many buttons for me. For starters, I am a historian by trade… I love history, always have. Secondly, the bulk of the forts are well off the beaten path and in some truly beautiful country. Thirdly, they are some of the only places you can get to anymore where you can not only see things the way they were, but you can feel it too. Standing inside some of the old buildings and hearing the wind whistling through the cracks in the walls without the interruption of modern noises is just magical to me… I can get my history fix and my landscape fix in the same breath.

The city of Farmer’s Branch, Texas has a historical city park with 28 acres of grounds and 12 structures dating from the 1840s to the 1930s. Derrick Birdsall, park Superintendent for 12 years, slept in one of the log cabins for a week this last March in commemoration of Farmer’s Branch Historical Park’s 25th Anniversary. The Dallas Morning News article shared how Superintendent Birdsall wore period clothing and cooked over an open fire to help bring frontier days to life. See the YouTube video here. The Farmer’s Branch Historical Park, with over 80,000 visitor’s a year, is an outdoor museum, special event venue and educational facility sharing the heritage of North Texas and Dallas County.

I enjoy being able to teach people… and there are definitely perks associated with the museum world. From time to time I can flash my “museum card” and get access to places that I otherwise would not have…. My museum is… not your usual gallery type setting. One of the things that just flat drives me nuts is that quite a few of the folks who work in a gallery setting are elitist snobs. It’s my belief that the objects in our care are to be shared with as many folks as possible and that visitors should have reasonable access to the artifacts. A lot of the gallery types keep everything behind glass if it’s accessible at all and more often than not you can’t even see the items because they are hiding back in the stacks. How can you educate and teach your visitors if all of your tools are locked up behind closed doors? The other thing that I notice about some folks in more traditional types of museums is that while they are often times highly educated, they only know what they’ve read, and not because they have any experience in their subject matter.  Those are the folks that talk about the rules in art and photography but if you put a paintbrush or camera in their hands they wouldn’t have the slightest idea how to use it.

When Derrick Birdsall studied museums, he attended graduate school. When he learned competition shooting, he took classes from the best marksmen in the world (See a YouTube video of the “Three Gun” type of shooting he does here). However, with photography he has been largely self-taught. He took one class online with master landscape photographer William Neill, but the rest of his training has been through trial and error in the field. He chooses photographs and guides his photography with the help of pre-visualization. In shooting competition, he made a sight picture, aligning the front and rear sight of his gun with the target. He also learned to fire between breaths, during what is called the respiratory pause. He sometimes uses this technique while photographing. As a result of his training, he can often defy the rules about when a tripod is necessary. He wrote about the parallels between both types of “shooting” in an excellent blog post appropriately called, “Sight Picture,” similar to the name of his highly visited blog My Sight Picture. Take a sight along his photo blog for yourself. You will see the work of a new voice in photography, traveling at a high velocity toward his target.

Interview of Gary Crabbe Part 3

July 12th, 2011

Landscape Photography Blogger Interviews Photographer Gary Crabbe

Last Part of A Three Part Series

(Continued from the blog post, “Interview Of Gary Crabbe Part 2.”)

On Photography For Books, Publishing, Rebuilding After An Injury And Stock Photography

Interview Conducted By Phone May 25, 2011

Cloud Rising Out Of The Owens Valley At Sunrise, Eastern Sierra Nevada, California, copyright 2009 by Gary Crabbe.

(See the photograph full size, “Cloud Rising Out Of The Owens Valley, Eastern Sierra Nevada.” For the story of Gary Crabbe’s transcendent experience making this photograph see his blog post, “Spirits In The Air.”)

DAVID LELAND HYDE: We continue with the conclusion of an in-depth interview of one of the leading landscape photographers working today, Gary Crabbe of Enlightened Images. Gary is also the author of an award-winning and highly acclaimed photo blog. In the first part of this series Gary and I talked about how the arts in general are relevant to landscape photography, his famous mentoring by the late landscape master Galen Rowell and the development of your own personal style. In the second part we developed the discussion about personal style, delved into the making of photography books, photo editing and selection and a bit more about Galen Rowell and how he worked. We are talking now about a few of Gary Crabbe’s photography books.

GARY CRABBE: The rest of the Voyageur Press books were in a pre-existing series. With Backroads of the California Coast: Your Guide to Scenic Getaways & Adventures, Voyageur Press put on a huge marketing campaign like they’ve done with other subjects like agriculture, trains, race cars and  basketball. If it’s kitsch, they’ve done it. They are a regional publisher so they’ve done books from Colorado to Chicago. They knew I was near San Francisco, so they asked if I wanted to do their San Francisco book and I said sure. They also said, “We’ve got this Back Roads series: Do you want to do Backroads of the California Wine Country: Your Guide to the Wine Country’s Most Scenic Backroad Adventures?” The writer that I had teamed up with on the first book project got together with me on four titles. She would say, “These are the places I’m going to be writing about.” I’d go out and photograph and the publisher would match my photos with her text.

HYDE: About your brand new release, Greetings from California: Legends, Landmarks & Lore of the Golden State: You wrote a blog post not long ago saying that when you told people your book was about history they were not enthused. You concluded that history is boring, but I find people are eating up the history. It may be the way history is presented. On my blog I’m mixing the history of conservation and the history of landscape photography. I find, to my dismay, that the history of conservation causes some yawns on a photo blog, but there aren’t as many dynamic leaders as in the history of photography. I’m finding that when history is presented with an emphasis on the interesting personalities, then people are interested. Although, I know your blog has much more traffic than mine because my traffic spiked significantly when you linked to my blog post, “Did Velvia Film Change Landscape Photography?” So what gave you the impression that history is boring?

GARY CRABBE: My blog post was more specific regarding the people I contacted to get permission or access to photograph. When they heard it was history, it didn’t mean much to them because they were thinking more about business and promotion. From the publisher’s perspective, this was to be part of a new series for which they had already published a few books they sent me like Twin Cities Then and Now (Minnesota) and Philadelphia Then and Now. My book was originally to be called, California: Then & Now comparing historical and modern photographs. That was the premise under which I did all my shooting though I didn’t need to be standing in the same spot as the historical photograph. Then someone did a book about Colorado using his grandfather’s photos. He took his modern photos in the exact same spot. He called it “Colorado: Then & Now.” After I turned in everything to Voyageur Press, they said, “We’re scrapping the series.”

HYDE: My father, pioneer landscape photographer Philip Hyde, had a lot more stories like that than like your other book where everything went smoothly. . .

GARY CRABBE: Yeah, you know it. I was sitting there with this huge knot in my stomach. Then they came back and said, “The publisher liked your work so much that we’re going to try to re-package this book as something a little bit more fun, like a scrapbook.” They still used all the same photographs and text, but instead of making it like the original layout, that even my mom had noticed from the sample copy was dry and stagnant, my book was to be the test guinea pig for repackaging. Three other photographers had their states’ Then & Now projects pulled. Whether their projects get repackaged will depend on how well my book goes over. One of the things you sign on the dotted line is that the publisher has complete and exclusive control over the design, layout and format of the book. When I saw the first layouts, I was blown away. They took this dry, dull and academic look and turned it into something that was exactly what they said: fun. They kept all the history, but they picked out pieces of my text and put in little scrapbook-like post-it notes to highlight the information instead of putting it all into one or two paragraphs of text. In my opinion it worked out perfectly, but I empathize with the three other photographers whose projects got shelved. I hope that my book does well and they can get their projects.

HYDE: Did your images cover the whole state?

GARY CRABBE: For the most part, yes. In fact I was scheduled to go off on my first shoot, down to Edwards Air force Base, when I fell off a cliff several years ago. I hadn’t even taken the first frame before I wound up in the hospital and shut down my business for half a year.

(See the photograph full size, “Morning Light, Badwater From Dantes View, Death Valley.”)

Morning Light And Clouds Over Saltpan At Badwater Basin From Dantes View, Death Valley National Park, California, copyright 2009 by Gary Crabbe.

HYDE: Wow. How did you fall off a cliff? What did you injure?

GARY CRABBE: I was going to meet someone to do a couple days of photography in Death Valley. I had bought a cheese burger, in the town of Ridgecrest, 100 miles away and I pulled off on the side of the road. I think I was going to go off-road somewhere, but I just climbed in the back of my Toyota 4-Runner, laid the back seat down and  went to sleep. On trips I have my sleeping bag and I lay down right behind the passenger seat. Behind the driver seat is all my gear, equipment, food containers and my backpack of film. I live like a turtle when I’m the road. I just as often sleep in the back of my truck as in a hotel. Apparently I woke up to answer nature’s call and in the darkness walked off a 40 foot cliff. I didn’t remember the fall at all. I woke up in the middle of the desert floor in the middle of the night. It took minutes for my brain to say uh, uh, where am I? Why am I lying in the dirt, face down in the middle of the night? Where’s my truck? Why am I at the bottom of the cliff? OK, now I know I hurt. I have no idea how long I was unconscious. At some point in the middle of the night I woke up again. I didn’t have my truck keys. The only thing I had was a lighter. I sat there and made myself a little camp fire in the middle of the night, in the desert, by myself. Maybe an hour, two hours later, I said, “Alright, I want to get back to my truck. I know the main road is that way. I know that my truck is up there.” I worked my way down this desert wash and then finally found a place on the hill where I could scramble up. I made it back to my truck and climbed back into my sleeping bag. The next morning I got checked out by the Park Ranger of Death Valley. I had a broken wrist, bruised ribs, a yanked nerve in my back, but I managed to get all the way home to the Bay Area. My wife Connie took me to the hospital that same evening. They put me in a cast, gave me medicine and sent me home. Two days later I was lying on the couch in the fetal position, barely coherent, throwing up. My wife took me back to the hospital and they found out I had a subdural hematoma, which is the same injury that killed the actress Natasha Richardson in just about the same window of time.

HYDE: So you hit your head, is that what that means?

GARY CRABBE: Yeah, bleeding was going on in the brain. One of the guys I have coffee with in the Bay Area is a retired surgeon from the Children’s Hospital in Oakland. When I told him this story he said, “You were lucky that you even woke up. Given your injury it was just as likely that you could have climbed back in your truck and never woke up again.” It is eye opening when someone who is a surgeon says something like that. I wound up spending a week in the hospital, recovering from the trauma and the next 3 months recovering from the physical injury. I couldn’t even hold a camera. As soon as I recovered, I had to start this book project, which was supposed to be done in a year. I had to do it in about four and a half months. It was challenging. It has taken me 18 to 24 months to get my business back up to speed because my business completely shut down.

HYDE: Wow. What does your wife do for a living?

GARY CRABBE: She’s part of the reason why I get to do what I do. She’s a senior business manager at AT&T. She has the full AT&T benefit package.

HYDE: That’s nice, yeah.

GARY CRABBE: I complain about big corporations, but I got to admit. You know… I originally thought she was the type of girl that working in the big corporation in the big city would chew her up and spit her out in no time flat. Instead, she’s now been there 10 years. They were so impressed by her work that they hired her during a hiring freeze. The benefits help make our family. She has been probably one of the biggest support factors I could ever imagine.

HYDE: How many kids do you have Gary?

GARY CRABBE: Two: a nine-year-old daughter named Alyssa and a 12-year-old son, Brandon. Both of them act like teenagers or four year olds, depending…

HYDE: I’m trying to piece the chronology together in my mind. Starting out, you didn’t know much about photography. Most of the time working for Galen Rowell you didn’t want to be a photographer. Was it while you were still working for Galen Rowell that you decided that you did want to be a photographer?

GARY CRABBE: Yeah, I knew nothing and was suddenly thrust into the top level of the industry. Trial by fire. All I had was a one week vacation for my first few years of working there. The first year’s vacation my wife and I went to Crater Lake. Wow. I had just switched to using color film and trying slides, as part of my job.

HYDE: Were you still using the same original camera?

GARY CRABBE: No, once I started working for Galen Rowell I bought my first Nikon 8008 S and some Nikon lenses. As part of my job at Mountain Light, I had to work with Galen in his workshops. Staff would help the students edit their work. We would be there while Galen was doing critiques and we’d be out in the field helping the photographers. It was like osmosis. Photography was coming at me even while I was asleep. One day I was out taking a photo at local Lafayette Reservoir when a guy walked right by me and said, “I’ll buy that.” I hadn’t even taken the photo yet. I had just put the tripod and camera in place. I said, “Do you want to at least look through the lens?” He said, “Why don’t you just call me when you get your film.” I didn’t think he was serious, but I called him when I got the film. He came over to my apartment and bought a 20X24 print. It was my first print sale. I made several hundred bucks and I thought, “Wow, this is pretty cool.” I established with Galen right away that I was completely up front. If something came up involving me doing photography, I always ran it by him first. I did not want to cross the line or create more stress than he already had. One day after I had been working for him for a number of years and been on several trips, as my photography was improving by the nature of being where I was, I don’t recall where he was, maybe the Himalayas, Galapagos Islands or South America. Forbes Magazine called the office and said they needed, “Ugly, trashy images of Yosemite Valley. They’re changing concessionaires and we want to show all the negative impact.” I said, “We don’t really have much of that.” They asked some question about what Yosemite Valley looked like right at that moment. By coincidence I was scheduled to go up with my wife to Yosemite Valley that weekend. So I said, “I’ll let you know on Monday.” They asked, “Can you shoot it for us?” They never even bothered to ask if I was a photographer. “I have to ask Galen.” Galen called the office and somehow he said OK. So I called the woman at Forbes back and said I could do it. I spent three days in Yosemite National Park for Forbes Magazine running around taking pictures of gas stations, garbage cans, lines of people at the hotel, the cafeteria, the messes. It was the first editorial assignment that gave me a chance. As I got further down the road and started making more images that were salable, it started to creep into my mind that I could be a photographer. I liked it, but I wasn’t going to step on Galen’s feet to do it. I could do my own print sales if I found my own clients without doing anything in conflict with Galen. What finally made me take the leap, was my wife getting pregnant. We knew we wanted one of us to stay home with the kid and she had all these major company benefits. If I stayed home maybe I could sell a few photos. I became a photographer by nature of choosing to be a stay at home dad.

HYDE: Is it a nice fit for that?

Morning Mist Along The Mendocino Coast Near Elk, California, copyright 2010 by Gary Crabbe.

(See the photograph full size, “Morning Mist, Mendocino Coast.”)

GARY CRABBE: Yeah, except I don’t get to spend weeks and months traveling. I do know people that sacrifice their family to follow their photographic passion. That wasn’t going to be part of my consideration. I stayed close to home and fortunately all of the subsequent book projects were in California. I can be anywhere in the state within 8 ½ hours. That’s a day there and a day back.

HYDE: Well, now that you’ve developed a little more success, do you think you’ll go a little further afield, maybe, for future books projects?

GARY CRABBE: My kids are getting older. As of January, they are now old enough to walk home on their own and spend a few hours on their own during the day. That’s freeing me up much more than when someone needed to be there to pick them up.

HYDE: When the stock photography industry imploded, how much did that affect you?

GARY CRABBE: That was about the time of my fall. The changes in stock did have an emotional pull on me, not so much in my business personally, but in the broader sense. I couldn’t believe that photographers themselves were devaluing their work to commodity status. That was the part that I’ll still continue to say was difficult to see. I know the market shifts, you can’t stop the market, supply and demand and all. Digital did make the world much more accessible. It used to be with slide film, you had to get it right. If you were more than ½ a stop off, it was a disaster. I was always a proponent for photographers valuing their own work. Watching people think it was no big deal to sell unlimited commercial use of their images for say 10 bucks. That was the sad part. I still don’t sell my work royalty free. I don’t have a negative reaction to the sales model of royalty free. My main objection is to the rate people charge. If a national company wants to use one of my images royalty free, I want to see at least four figures for that. I want them to pay what I think is an appropriate value.

HYDE: Royalty free means selling the rights to an image forever for any use at a one time fee, right? And it is becoming more and more prevalent, correct?

GARY CRABBE: Yes, correct. Originally royalty free first came on the scene in the mid-90s as a reaction to regular stock photography, which was value based on use. It became price based on file size. You turned your work into a widget. Then suddenly photographers were offering widgets for 1/10th the cost of what the widgets were originally selling for, which became micro stock.

HYDE: Did your income mix change like many other full-time photographers during that time period—that is, the mix between stock photography and fine print sales, what would you say the ratio is and was?

GARY CRABBE: The ratio has remained relatively consistent, maybe around 70/30, 60/40, sometimes 80/20, somewhere in that neighborhood. But in a down economy, I still sell my work as only rights managed, value based on use. I may have fewer sales, but I’m still insisting on what I consider is a fair value for the use of my work. In a down economy, the first budget to go is an arts budget. People will still buy jewelry before they’ll buy something to put on their walls. As the economy ebbs and flows, sales tend to ebb and flow in relation, but in a down economy, prints may relatively dry up for a while and  then come back as people think, “Oh I have a little more expendable income.”

HYDE: My business is nearly 100 percent prints and I noticed that I was starting at the wrong time, but it is starting to pick up again.

GARY CRABBE: I will say, since the beginning of the year, I’ve had a considerable number of print sales.

HYDE: Is there anything else that you feel people ought to know about you Gary that maybe they couldn’t read somewhere else?

GARY CRABBE: All I can say is that I chose my company name, Enlightened Images, because I consider myself spiritual, especially in terms of nature and the universe. I have this big interconnected picture of how we as a species on a planet are in the universe.

HYDE: I really like the name. Thank you so much for your time Gary.

GARY CRABBE: My pleasure. David, have yourself a wonderful day and thank you.

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?

Is Landscape Photography Thriving Or Dying?

October 7th, 2010

Leaf Drop, Big Basin Redwoods State Park, Santa Cruz Mountains, California, 2009 by David Leland Hyde. Nikon D90.

It is a typical modern conceit to demand the maximum dimension and maximum power in any aspect of the world—whether men or mountains. The American mode of appreciation is dominantly theatrical—often oblivious of the subtle beauty in quiet, simple things.

—Ansel Adams

A landscape photography master’s commentary on our culture and our art…

Recently a comment on Guy Tal’s blog post, “Non-traditional Answers Part II, Pricing and Editioning” caused me to stop and think about the direction of landscape photography today. Is it degenerating or flourishing or both? In the comment by Mary Kay, first she quoted Guy Tal then followed with her comment:

“I want my work to promote an appreciation for the places and subjects I photograph, and I want it to further the acceptance of nature photography as a form of visual art.”

I’m keeping this among many other treasured words from you. Being such a novice in nature photography I’ve been blissfully ignorant about the opinion our “enlightened scholars” here in Greece hold about landscape photography. Until recently that is. I’ve been meaning to make a summary of most of those opinions and send them to you just to give you “food for journal” and I will at some point do it if you don’t mind. Just let me tell you that this kind of photography is not just ignored but heavily scorned and laughed at. And if someone dares to refer to it as “art” he becomes a target for heavy irony.

Has American landscape photography fallen so far that it is now the object of derision in other countries? On one hand it could be argued that in many ways landscape photography never gained the respect it deserves, but it could also be said that it did have a golden era in the mid 20th Century and has gone downhill since. Some people say it is better now than ever. For more on the controversy over the current era’s merits see the blog post, “Photography’s Golden Era 2” and comments on the blog post “Photography’s Golden Era 1.” Today I see a large quantity of what I would call in a judgmental moment, “derivative schlock,” but I also feel that the best images are getting better and better. For more on making images today that are unique see the blog posts, “Moving Past The Repertoire by Greg Russell” and “Make Your Own Tripod Tracks.” It is difficult in some ways to stack my father’s sometimes documentary, natural, straight photographs against photographs made now of natural wonders, wildlife, unusual weather, dramatic lighting, raging wild colors and other combinations, often highly enhanced in Photoshop. For more on the effects of Photoshop and the techniques of Photoshop see the blog post, “Monday Blog Blog: Photoshop For Pros.” For more on the history of “over-saturation” in landscape photography see the blog post, “Did Velvia Film Change Landscape Photography?” Sometimes I wonder if people will even notice Dad’s quiet, subtlety under the deafening din of the bright, powerful landscape photographs made today. For some reassurance on that score I just read an excellent re-post on Jim M. Goldstein’s Blog called, “The Subtlety of Greatness and Today’s Loss of Appreciation” that refutes the claim made somewhere else that the old masters’ landscape photography is not as good as even today’s amateurs’ work.

How does Ansel Adam’s assertion above apply today to the nature of landscape photographs being made? Are Americans able to learn a new way of being through landscape photography, either through making images or appreciating them? Are Europeans, Australians or Indonesians different?

Does the statement above relate to the nature of images we see in the stock photography market? Galleries? The media?

Does what Ansel Adams said have relevance to the way you select your own photographs?

Please share your thoughts…

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