Posts Tagged ‘Great Depression’

Tribute to Uncle Clinton Samuel King, Jr., Self-Made Man

April 29th, 2016

In Celebration of the Life of My Uncle, Clinton Samuel King, Jr., May 4, 1928 to November 2, 2012

Written at home at Rough Rock, March 6, 2016

The Story of the Life and Love of a Self-Made Man and How to Die at Peace

Dawn, American River From Fair Oaks Bluffs, Fair Oaks, California, 2012 by David Leland Hyde. This photograph was made at Uncle Clint's House the day of his Celebration of Life.

Dawn, American River From Fair Oaks Bluffs, Fair Oaks, California, 2012 by David Leland Hyde. This photograph was made at Uncle Clint’s House the day of his Celebration of Life. (Click Image to See Large.)

My mother, Ardis King Hyde, descended from early Northern California pioneer families. Her parents, Clinton S. King and Elsie Van Maren King both had grandparents who owned large ranches in the Sacramento area. The Van Maren ranch consisted of 640 acres of what is now Citrus Heights. Van Maren Boulevard is a familiar Sacramento thoroughfare.

During the Great Depression, my great, great grandfather named Greenback Lane, another major artery in that part of Sacramento. Greenback Lane originally was the ranch road into the main house, which stood where a shopping mall does now. My great, great grandfather said at the time that because his paper dollars were worth so little he might as well use them to pave the lane. “I could just as well call it my Greenback Lane,” he said, and the name stuck.

Mom’s Dad was actually Clinton Samuel King the second, or Junior, but he never went by Junior. Mom was the oldest of four children, three of which were boys. Mom’s oldest brother, Clinton S. King, truly was the third, but he went by Junior. Clinton S. King, Jr. was three years younger than mom, Nick was five years younger and Van was 13 years younger. My mother passed on at age 74 in 2002, which was a surprise. We all expected her to live much longer. Same goes for two out three of my uncles who both passed on in 2012: Nick in April and Clint in November. Van King is my mother’s only sibling left, my only living uncle.

I wrote a tribute to my Uncle Nick in 2012, but I have not had a chance to write one for my Uncle Clint. For a while it did not fit into the flow of blog posts. For longer I was not sure what I wanted to say. We all had a family disagreement over the family cabin at Lake Tahoe and Uncle Clint and my parents were on opposite sides of it. Grandma left the cabin to her four children to keep in the family and enjoy in perpetuity. However, two of the four siblings, Uncle Nick and my mother never used the cabin and paid part of the expenses. Eventually we all agreed Uncle Clint would buy out his three siblings.

After Grandma, Grandpa and my mother passed on, Uncle Nick and Dad needed the money from selling the cabin. Uncle Van was torn on whether to sell his portion or not, but finally did. Uncle Clint was irate with us for wanting to sell and for forcing him to buy us out. From our perspective, paying for even a small portion of the expenses and having the extra headache was draining. Dad and I were looking at possibly spending $4,000 to $6,000 a month for a live-in caregiver or to place him in a home.

In the end, it turns out that Uncle Clinton S. King, Jr. was the “bigger man” of all of us. He also could fortunately afford to be the bigger man. He worked extremely hard his entire life so as to have enough money to pay for what was important. To him, family was everything, as was the shared family cabin with so much family history. Even after the dispute over the cabin, we kept in touch with Uncle Clint precisely because family was important to all of us. In the end, Uncle Clint was right not just about the importance of family, but about the cabin as a meeting place for the family. The ownership of the meetup space now no longer shared, the family has dispersed.

This has been the saddest outcome of the dispute. Uncle Clint was angry about the cabin for some time, but he never quit treating us like family if we called him on the phone or otherwise needed to communicate with him. Some people in our family and others profess to rate family as a high priority, but at the same time seem to be almost looking for a reason not to keep in touch. Some people dislike their families, or rather, they are put off by the traits in themselves they do not like that run in the family. Some people mistakenly believe they can leave behind their own flaws in common with others of the same blood by cutting all ties. Some people may need to do this in some families to avoid further wounding, but many only make wounds deeper by disavowing their families rather than looking inward to work on themselves. Every flaw I have seen in family members, when I look closely, I have found in myself. Similarly every character trait other family members find unattractive in me, I notice they have in themselves, sometimes in a more severe form. The goal in life is not to change family members or even ultimately the world, but for each of us individually to improve the world by changing ourselves. When I change the world changes.

Cousin Gwenn and Uncle Clint, Fair Oaks, California, 2012 by David Leland Hyde. I made this photograph about six months before Uncle Clint passed on.

Cousin Gwenn and Uncle Clint, Fair Oaks, California, 2012 by David Leland Hyde. I made this photograph about six months before Uncle Clint passed on. (Click Image to see Large.)

After my father passed on and I was the last on my side of the family, the wounds were slow to heal, but in time Uncle Clint and I became nearly as close, if not just as close, and in some ways closer than ever. I remember my Uncle Clint, on the whole throughout his life, being supportive, wise, fun and inspirational, more than anything else. He had a strong personality, a powerful will and was a formidable opponent, but he also had a big, soft, generous heart that held a special place for any of his blood kin and for people in general.

Uncle Clint, like my mother and my other two uncles, was hard on his own children, my cousins. He could be critical, and though this was sometimes cutting and hard to take, it was never meant to be malicious or to tear people down, but was motivated by him wanting his offspring and the rest of us cousins to be better people. He was just as hard or harder on himself. Self-discipline was one of his strengths. He was a self-starter and a self-educated man. He was an expert witness for the State of California and in other cases that needed a solid professional engineering opinion. He had a reputation as a pillar of his profession and as a community leader and philanthropist in Northern California.

He graduated from the University of California, Berkeley in civil engineering and served as an officer in the Korean War. As a registered engineer in both California and Nevada, he led studies and construction planning for drainage and flood control that continue to operate and set precedent today. He worked beyond California and Nevada throughout the West in planning military installations and military bases. He was a founding partner of Spink Corporation and later spent 22 years in private practice.

He was always physically active with presidential and other leading roles in such organizations as the South Hills Racquet Club, the Bing Maloney Golf Club, Kiwanis, the Sacramento Swimming and Diving League, Sacramento Pioneer Association, Del Paso Country Club, the Crocker Art Museum, the University of California Alumni Association and the Arden Hills Swimming and Tennis Club.

Uncle Clint started from humble beginnings as we all did, but he became a self-made man. When Sacramento was still a small city, with the old downtown fairly run-down and a little rough as neighborhoods go, my uncle, out of sheer love for old buildings, bought a historic Victorian mansion at a low price. He began to tear out walls, refurbish and refinish the old Victorian that he called “Vickie.” He did all of the work himself, nearly always by himself. He sanded floors, rebuilt historical banisters, moved doorways and remodeled the mansion into seven beautifully appointed, contemporary, yet historically interesting apartments.

At the same time, others began to renovate buildings in downtown Sacramento. Uncle Clint gradually bought a few more Victorian mansions to remodel into apartments. Sacramento was one of the earlier economic turnarounds of a downtown city. Rebuilding downtowns became a trend and then a nationwide phenomenon that continues today. Over the years my uncle gradually moved from middle-class neighborhoods into upper-middle class neighborhoods, until eventually, the last 20 years of his life he lived with his third wife Aunt Charla in a tasteful villa in Fair Oaks on the bluffs overlooking the American River Parkway. He had outlived two other wives: Aunt Shirley, the mother of my cousins, and Aunt Lou. All three of these great ladies were good aunts to us cousins.

Uncle Clint and Aunt Shirley often hosted our Thanksgiving gatherings of the whole family including my mother’s three brothers, spouses and my 10 cousins, later 14 cousins. When Uncle Clint was married to Aunt Lou, the tradition continued. Each of my uncles and my mother took turns hosting the big Thanksgiving gathering, but Uncle Clint and Aunt Lou hosted it the most often. Later when Uncle Clint and Aunt Charla lived on the bluffs in Fair Oaks, we did not have the large family Thanksgiving gatherings as often, but they hosted more than one family get together including a smaller family reunion. When we had big family reunions with all of my second cousins and relatives, we had to rent larger venues because the numbers attending were in the 100s. We went to one big family reunion at the Lewelling Ranch in St. Helena. The Lewellings are semi-distant relatives of the Van Marens and thus the Kings and Hydes.

Uncle Clint told stories at these events and was often in charge of the BBQ or other key aspects of meal preparation. He worked the hardest on any collaborative project. He and Aunt Lou invited us to visit a number of different golf resorts he had shares in. Later he and Aunt Charla bought a golf home on the big island of Hawaii on the Kona Coast where my parents visited them. I remember Uncle Clint most as a good life coach. He always had the best advice and moral perspective on many situations. His business savvy and street smarts made him the kind of man any young man would feel proud to have as an uncle and be happy to spend time with having some of the self-sufficient mindset rub off.

As a boy and as a young man, I was most fortunate to have Uncle Clint for guidance. I remember him talking to me about how to choose a college. He asked a lot of questions before giving suggestions. I remember him being highly interested in my experiences while I was away at boarding school from 10th through 12th grades. I did not see him often during this time period, but he wanted to know all about it when I did see him. He always took an interest in people and his own nieces and nephews in particular. He would ask us questions that nobody else would ever think of that made us understand how much he cared. He would then offer some wisdom regarding his own experience that related to ours. He knew how to laugh and have fun, especially in a gathering of people. All my uncles were fun when we all came together. We cousins had a special bond because during our younger years we saw each other much more than most cousins do. This was good for me as an only child growing up in the mountains.

Cousin Clint Speaking at Uncle Clint's Celebration of Life, Del Paso Country Club, Sacramento, California, 2012 by David Leland Hyde.

Cousin Clint Speaking at Uncle Clint’s Celebration of Life, Del Paso Country Club, Sacramento, California, 2012 by David Leland Hyde. (Click Image to See Large.)

Growing up my parents chose not to have television in our home. I could not wait to get down to Sacramento to visit Grandma or one of my uncles to watch TV. Uncle Clint was generally not much for TV, but he sure liked his sports. He would talk about football, basketball or baseball, whichever was in season with his sons and daughters and our other cousins. Uncle Clint’s son, Clinton Samuel King IV was the oldest cousin, eight years older than me. He also mentored me a lot in life, as well as wrestling me down a few times when I was a bit too much of a smart aleck. Uncle Clint passed his wisdom down to me and to the other younger cousins through his son too. All of us who knew Uncle Clint have a bit we learned from him that we pass along to the world. Uncle Clint helped me learn to be stronger, warmer and more forgiving to people.

Uncle Clint died of cancer. When he became ill, he “mellowed out,” took fewer things personally, forgave people easier and let go of most situations that he did not feel right about. He lived the end of his life surrounded by love and family. This was his greatest wisdom and made it easier to take the pain he endured at times before he passed on. He was not peaceful about dying, he resisted dying until the end, but he was at peace about the people in his life. Now I miss him and think about so many more times I wish I had spent time with him, but I also am grateful we had the good times we did. We could have lost that time if we had not let our differences go. Many families lose each other completely through selfish disputes and arguments over who is right and who has done something wrong. Holding onto grudges ruins lives in many ways, not least of which is making the grudge holder miserable at least subconsciously where it does the most damage to health. Staying angry at a relative is like taking poison and hoping the relative will suffer.

Living The Good Life 5: Agricultural Influences

March 18th, 2016

Living the Good Life with Ardis and Philip Hyde

Part Five: Agricultural Influences

(Continued from the blog post, “Living the Good Life 4: Failure in Carmel.”)

“There are two spiritual dangers in not owning a farm. One is the danger of supposing that breakfast comes from the grocery, and the other that heat comes from the furnace.”

~ Aldo Leopold from A Sand County Almanac

About This Series: “Living The Good Life”

Fall Maples, Aspens, Black Oaks and Fresh Snow on Grizzly Ridge From the Garden at Rough Rock, Northern Sierra, California, copyright 2015 David Leland Hyde.

Fall Maples, Aspens, Apple Trees, Black Oaks and Last Sun on Fresh Snow on Grizzly Ridge From the Garden at Rough Rock, Northern Sierra, California, copyright 2015 David Leland Hyde. Scene when I arrived home from the #Heartland. (To see large click on image)

In 2002, two months before my mother passed on, I asked to interview her about her locally popular organic gardening, homemade preserves and all natural cuisine. I also wanted to capture the essence of my parent’s philosophy of living, their low impact lifestyle and long-term sustainability way before the word “sustainability” existed or the philosophy became a trend.

While the tape recorder ran, my mother joyfully began to answer my questions about more than 56 years of vegetable gardening, flower cultivation, ornamental breeding, gardening for butterflies and birds, natural pest control, fruit tree pruning, grafting and much more.

Unfortunately, we only made one tape. She died suddenly while I was 3,000 miles away on the East Coast before the interviews could continue. The afternoon after that fated first taping, she handed me her personal copy of Living the Good Life: How to Live Sanely and Simply in a Troubled World by Helen and Scott Nearing. She first paused to hold the book and look at it for moment, put it in my hands with gravity and said, “This was our Bible.”

The Nearings and their methods as professed in Living the Good Life, spiritually led and inspired the 1950s “Back to the Land” movement. The Hydes were at the early edge of this movement, leaving the Bay Area in 1950 to settle first in Indian Valley among the remote mountains of the Northern Sierra, then on a rocky flat bench of land on a branch of the Feather River Canyon, looking down on Indian Creek and up at Grizzly Ridge towering more than 4,000 feet straight up above the house they carved out of the wilderness.

This series of blog posts examines how Ardis and Philip Hyde, while not on the road or on the trail in pursuit of flora, fauna and photographs, adapted and invented their own version of “The Good Life.”  Part One serves as an introduction, citing sections of the book and how the Hydes applied them. Part Two reviews Ardis and Philip Hyde’s respective childhoods and how their influences brought them together and eventually to their own land in the country. In the third episode of “Living the Good Life with Ardis and Philip Hyde” I reflected on the changing seasons and passing years as their dream home and their way of life continue here. Part four of Living the Good Life, came from my interviews of Dad about defeated attempts to establish a home in Carmel near the photography market as he and my mother were advised to do by his mentors and friends Ansel Adams, David Brower and others. Failure in Carmel surprisingly took them overseas to Morocco in Northern Africa and eventually back to California where they built their dream home in the Sierra. More on Morocco in future articles and blog posts.

Part Five: Agricultural Influences

Before continuing the more or less chronological story of the Hyde’s “Living The Good Life” dream with the construction of their home to include passive solar and other green or passive energy features in Part Six of this series, in this Part Five I will share how my mother’s ancestors helped found part of Sacramento and through their ranch contribute to the agrarian lore of the Great Central Valley. My mother orchestrated at least a start in agricultural knowledge during my childhood.

My father, born and raised in San Francisco, sought out nature all over the Bay Area. His father was an artist, draftsman and furniture designer and maker who also loved nature and loved the Sierra. He descended from a long line of schoolteachers. For more on my grandfather Leland Hyde and Dad’s other early influences, see the blog post, “Photography’s Golden Era 4.”

In contrast my mother’s ancestors were early pioneer families of the California Central Valley. My mother grew up in the greater Sacramento area, spending most of her childhood in the rural outskirts away from the town that is now downtown Sacramento. My mother’s maiden name was King. Ardis King Hyde’s father, Clinton Samuel King, Jr. grew up on the King ranch outside Sacramento. Mom’s mother, Elsie Van Maren King grew up on the Van Maren Ranch. The King’s sold their ranch when my mother was too young to remember. However, my entire life, until my mother passed on, she talked about her vivid memories of the Van Maren Ranch.

The Van Maren Ranch was located in the part of Sacramento that is now called Citrus Heights. The Van Marens were one of Citrus Heights founding families. Van Maren Boulevard was named after the family. The main ranch house, roughly in the center of the 1,000-acre ranch, stood on a hill that has now been removed where a shopping mall now sprawls.

One Van Maren family myth had it that during the Great Depression, my great grandfather Nicholas Van Maren exclaimed one day in exasperation that his greenbacks were worth so little that he might as well pave the lane into the ranch house with them.

“I’ll call it my Greenback Lane,” he cried out. From then on the family and their friends called the road Greenback Lane. This was how the familiar Citrus Heights thoroughfare received its name.

The main crops on the Van Maren Ranch were wheat, oats and barley, with a secondary production of grapes, almonds, apples and olives. There were also a number of milk cows, horses, chickens, goats, lambs and pigs to supply the family pantry. My grandmother Elsie had three sisters and no brothers. The four girls grew up doing the farm chores that in those days were usually done by boys, in addition to the household chores as well. My grandmother was a superb cook, who could easily feed a few dozen people. My mother, who had three brothers and no sisters, as the only girl in her generation, was constantly in the kitchen with her mother. Some of my mother’s best recipes were handed down from generation to generation.

My mom remembered trips out from the suburbs to the rural area that is now Citrus Heights to the Van Maren Ranch on weekends one or two times a month. She learned to ride a horse on the ranch as a little girl, milked cows and helped out with all of the tasks on the ranch that her mother had grown up doing. Mom loved visits to the ranch and did not mind pitching in and working with her grandfather around the ranch and grandmother in the kitchen. Mom was quite capable and hard working, even as a child. Her grandparents in turn enjoyed the companionship and help of their eager, inquisitive suburban granddaughter each time she visited. She remembered hauling water from the hand-dug well to the house by bucket the old-fashioned way and making everything in the kitchen by hand.

Both my mother and grandmother were tough as nails. They could out work and out rough-and-tumble any boy or man their whole lives. Part of what attracted Dad to Mom years later was how comfortable and fearless she was in the outdoors, yet how she also carried herself with grace indoors.

Besides being an artist in the kitchen, my mother was what gardeners call a “green thumb.” She could make flowers grow from rocks, which is essentially what she did for close to 60 years at our home in the Sierra Nevada. She had not had her hands in the soil much at all though for many years when my parents finally bought the property in December 1955.

Soon after, Mom and Dad walked the property with their friends Cornell and Pat Kurtz from nearby Lake Almanor, who also were accompanied by their four-year-old daughter Kit. A tangle of branches, decimated small trees and bulldozed piles of dirt and rock, the house site had been a logging staging area. Not much dirt mixed in with the Grizzly Formation igneous andesite rock. Indian Creek over geological time cut down through a giant rockslide that came down off of Grizzly Ridge and dammed up the creek. The bench a few hundred yards above the present riverbed consisted mainly of angular fracturing Grizzly Formation rock with some dirt in between to further wedge in the rock and make it hard to move.

This was more than 15 years before the publishing of Dad’s renowned book, Slickrock with Edward Abbey, but Dad and Mom had traveled much in the Southwest where the name “Slickrock” was common as were other names with “rock” in them such as “Smooth Rock” or “Balanced Rock.” For more about Slickrock see the blog post, “Who Was Edward Abbey?”

Recently Pat Kurtz described that she and Cornell had visited the Hydes in 1956 while they were still living in one of the neighbor, Bill Burford’s houses, before Mom and Dad started building our home in 1957.

“I remember picking up the sharp, pointy rocks on your land,” Kit Kurtz added. “The rocks I were used to at Lake Almanor were rounded. I was already thinking, ‘this is rough rock.’” While showing the Kurtzes the land, Dad mentioned that they could not think of a name for the place.

“Your Dad looked down at Kit,” Pat Kurtz said. “He asked, ‘What do you think?’ and Kit said, ‘Rough Rock.’” Dad and Mom looked at each other and at Kit with smiles of acknowledgement and agreement.

“That’s it,”Dad said. “That’s the name.” Our home has been Rough Rock ever since. I will say with great assurance that to this day it lives up to its name in spades, or despite and intensely in spite of spades, or any other digging implement.

Dad even had to blast or chip a few giant rocks. Tons more he removed to pour the foundation. The rocks taken out of the trenches for the foundation were distributed along the hillside to make terraces. My parents filled in behind them to build the soil for a garden. I was not born until 1965, but the pickup truck hauling program was far from over when I got old enough to wield a shovel or pitchfork. I remember a childhood filled with trips to nearby ranches and farms to clear manure, used hay or combinations of the two out of horse stalls. We made those trips in an old 1952 Chevy Pickup we called the Covered Wagon when it still had a corrugated steel camper shell-like canopy on the back. For more on the adventures of Covered Wagon all over the West see the blog post, “Covered Wagon Journal 1.” We also hauled dirt, sand, grass clippings, straw, wood chips and just about anything else that would make soil. I will write more about the gardens and gardening in future blog posts.

Besides being a laborer and off and on participant in Mom’s gardening efforts, thanks to my mother I was exposed to other agrarian influences. As a very small boy, probably around age three, my mother took me to a nearby dairy farm, introduced me to the farmer and to his dairy cows up close. Mom and I watched while the farmer milked his cows. We tasted the milk and I even took a turn at milking. When I was young we had milk delivered by a milk truck as part of a regular milk route. Later, I would go with my mother to pick up whole milk directly from the dairy farms that sold it. Mom skimmed the cream off the top and used it to make butter or to whip cream. We also made homemade ice cream from local whole milk.

My mother raised me on unpasteurized milk. I lived a highly active, sports-filled life and never broke a bone until I was in my 40s far away from my childhood home. I have never had any allergy problems either. A substantial body of scientific evidence links pasteurization, hormone supplementation and genetic modification of milk and dairy cows to food and pollen allergies.

My mother and my mother’s brother, Nick King, taught me how to care for, prune and organically fertilize our apple trees. For more on my uncle’s nursery, apple farm and beekeeping, see the blog post, “Actor, Photographer, Apple Farmer and 1960s Activist Nicholas King’s Memorial.” Every year Dad and I helped Mom pick apples in our mini orchard of three trees. Mom tried many other types of fruit trees, but few of them bore much fruit in our mountain climate and elevation of 3600 feet above sea level. Just before she passed on in 2002, Mom planted a plum tree in front of the house that just started bearing fruit four years ago. It produced a heavy limb-bending crop of plums one year, but unfortunately the raccoons ate most of them.

Another agricultural, small farm activity Mom instigated at Rough Rock when I was a kid was raising chickens. They were bantam hens named Henny Penny and Peg Leg. They laid a slightly smaller egg than most chickens, but they each produced one to three a day, which was all we needed. Dad built them a chicken wire cage inside our garden shed. They would go in at night and out during the day. I fed them around the same time each day as I fed Pad, our German Shorthaired Pointer dog.

Pad was our primary domesticated animal. Pat Kurtz originally found her for us and named her P. – A. – D. after Philip, Ardis and David. The Kurtzes had a long line of their own German Shorthaired Pointers for many years. Pad would stay with them when we traveled. Pad was also good with the chickens. She hardly even went near them. She ignored them with disdain and distaste. We never knew why. After a few years Peg was taken out one day by what must have been a raccoon, or possibly a Bobcat or even Mountain Lion. All we found were a few feathers. Penny lasted a few months longer before suffering a similar fate.

I am grateful to my mother for introducing me in small ways to farming and ranching. While I did not grow up on an actual working farm or ranch, I had at least enough taste of it to understand what the lifestyle was like and what producing your own food is like. Farming is hard, but highly rewarding work.

(The passive solar, energy efficient, ahead-of-it’s-time construction of Rough Rock will be featured in “Living the Good Life 6.”)

Living The Good Life 3

February 21st, 2013

Living the Good Life, Part Three

The Change Of Seasons

(Continued from the blog post, “Living The Good Life 2.”)

“When I hear people say they have not found the world, or life so interesting as to be in love with it, I am apt to think they have never seen with clear vision the world they think so meanly of, nor anything in it, not even a blade of grass.”  –W. H. Hudson

“I have moments, in these days of national gloom, financial depression, ‘hard times’, when I feel it my duty to be sad, or at least cynical—but cannot be—not in spring.”  –David Grayson, 1936, from The Countryman’s Year.

Looking Back

Oak Trunks, Maples, Fall Snow On Ardis Hyde's "Ornamentals" Garden, Northern Sierra, California, copyright 2012 by David Leland Hyde. Nikon D90. Featured in the upcoming David Leland Hyde Sierra Portfolio.

Oak Trunks, Maples, Fall Snow On Ardis Hyde’s “Ornamentals” Garden, Northern Sierra, California, copyright 2012 by David Leland Hyde. Nikon D90. Featured in the upcoming David Leland Hyde Sierra Portfolio.

Helen and Scott Nearing, authors of Living the Good Life: How to Live Sanely and Simply in a Troubled World, provided much of the basis for how Ardis and Philip Hyde lived at home. In the blog post, “Living the Good Life 1,” guest blogger Nancy Presser and I introduced Helen and Scott Nearing and looked at how they led the back to the land movement of the 1950s. We also looked at how my parents, Ardis and Philip Hyde, while not on the road or on the trail of a photography project, in their own quiet way adapted and invented their own version of “The Good Life.” In the blog post, “Living The Good Life 2,” we reviewed Ardis and Philip Hyde’s upbringing and how this brought them eventually to the country and to their own land. In the following third episode, I write about the seasons on that land and unravel how my parents ensured they would have freedom in life.

Ardis Hyde’s Bookshelves

Besides what she once called “our Bible,” Helen and Scott Nearing’s Living the Good Life: How to Live Sanely and Simply in a Troubled World, Ardis Hyde had many other books on gardening, living on the land and country living philosophy on her bookshelves. One of them of particular inspirational content was The Countryman’s Year by David Grayson.

In The Countryman’s Year, David Grayson, while placing his experiences and observations within “the magic circle of the seasons” described his own “Good Life”:

Many years ago I came to the hillside in the town of Amherst where I now live. I bought a few acres of land and built a house. I planted trees and cultivated my garden. I kept bees. I made good friends among my neighbors. Here I have known the best, I think, that comes to any man—times of sight that is also insight.

The Change of Seasons As A Rite of Passage

My mother Ardis reveled in the change of seasons. I learned from her and my father to joyfully anticipate the subtle indicators of change in nature. My mother kept a written log of our family experiences and events, which could easily also be organized around the four seasons. When living close to the land, the seasons are telltale mile markers to keep you awake and aware of your progress or lack thereof, and to remind you that your progress or lack thereof is only fleeting, eventually immaterial in the big scheme of all life. Your own work and life are kept in perspective and relevance to the life around you by the disappearing and returning of life with the time of year.

This Year The Seasons Are All Mixed Up

This year, 2012 into 2013, summer lingered long with Indian summer blue skies and white, puffy unicorn-rainbow-dreamy clouds flitting and skidding merrily around the heavens. Autumn or fall, as we always called it, took a long time to arrive and segued out of summer without much effort. It was hard to distinguish summer from fall and they both carried on much longer than usual. Some tree leaves such as those from the Maples and Aspens turned yellow, orange and red on schedule, while the Black Oaks were late and the Alders, Willows and Cottonwoods hardly changed yellow or orange, but way behind schedule mainly went straight to brown. Finally in November, fall acquired a little of its usual bite and the leaves, having taken a long time to shed their green for brighter colors on many species of trees, suddenly began to blow free in the gusts of wind and drift to the ground.

Just as the leaves started to fall, while the fall color show was still in full swing, suddenly winter blasted in from the Arctic and the Gulf of Alaska with over a foot of snow. We had been swimming in Indian Creek two weeks before the snow began to fly. I had been feverishly photographing the fall color because I had almost completely missed fall in 2011. As a result, my portfolio was a bit thin on fall color photographs. I made up for it fall of 2012. I had been photographing four to five hours a day for months. The arrival of snow brought, I thought, an anticipated break. However, I discovered that snow over the top of fall colors offered a whole new range of possibilities that screamed to be photographed thoroughly. I set to work on this, but found that snow while adding great glory to the cloak of fall, also stripped the cloak away and hastened the march into the barren days of dead winter.

Winter And Spring March On

Last year and the year before, winter seemed to drag on forever, but this year though it hit hard early and stung deep with unusual cold and ice, it seems now to be flying right by. After all, we are just a few weeks away from the first flowers, the snowdrops, which are regularly scheduled to appear within the first week of March. In the early 1960s my mother wrote that the snowdrops were appearing in early April, but for the last 10 years I have observed them arriving in early March. In The Countryman’s Year, David Grayson began his narrative “with the first shy touches of spring” on April 1, when the land is locked in “Endless winter, raw and cold.” New England loosens its grip on winter less easily than the Northern Sierra of California.

For my mother February meant fertilizing. March began preparation for the planting of vegetable starts. This year in February we were doing fall’s leaf raking because fall offered no time to rake the fallen leaves before the snow buried them. The first original snow stayed on the ground for three months until mid February because it froze in place and turned to pure ice while more snow piled on top.

The Nearings’ Philosophy On Seasons And Livelihood

The only mention of seasons by Helen and Scott Nearing in Living The Good Life is in regard to the maple syrup season:

People brought up on a money economy are taught to believe in the importance of getting and keeping money. Time and again folk told us, “You can’t afford to make syrup. You won’t make any money that way.” One year a neighbor, Harold Field, kept a careful record of the labor he put in during the syrup season and of the sale price of his product, and figured that he got only 67 cents an hour for his time. In view of these figures, the next year he did not tap out because sugaring paid less than wage labor. But, during that syrup season he found no chance to work for wages, so he didn’t even make the 67 cents an hour. Our attitude was quite different. We kept careful cost figures, but we never used them to determine whether we should or should not make syrup. We tapped our trees as each tap season came along. Our figures showed us what the syrup had cost. When the season was over and the syrup on hand, we wrote to various correspondents in California or Florida, told them what our syrup had cost, and exchanged our product for equal value of their citrus, walnuts, olive oil or raisins. As a result of these transactions, we laid in a supply of items at no cash outlay, which we could not ourselves produce. Our livelihood base was broadened as the result of our efforts in the sugar bush and the sap house.

The Nearings were interested in self-reliance and setting up their own “self-contained household unit,” independent from the money economy around them:

The Great Depression had brought millions of bread-winners face to face with the perils which lurked for those who, in a commodity economy based on wage-paid labor, purchase their livelihood in the open market. The wage and salary workers did not own their own jobs, nor did they have any part in deciding economic policy, nor in selecting those who carried policy into effect. The many unemployed in 1932 did not lose their jobs through any fault of their own, yet they found themselves workless, in an economy based on cash payment for the necessities, necessaries and decencies. Though their incomes had ceased, their outgo for food, shelter and clothing ate up their accumulated savings and threw them into debt. Since we were proposing to go on living in this profit-price economy, we had to accept its dread implications or find a workable alternative. We saw this alternative in a semi-subsistence livelihood.

Self-Reliance Versus Making Money

The Nearings raised their own food, bartered for what they did not produce, used wood for fuel, built their own buildings from materials gathered from their land, made their own tools as much as possible and kept down their use and acquisition of tools and gadgets made by “the assembly lines of big business.” If they had to have any of these, they rented them for short periods of time. They did not focus on making money, but produced enough cash crop each year for their livelihood and then beyond that turned their efforts “toward social activities, toward avocations such as reading, writing, music making, toward repairs or replacement of our equipment.” They kept all of their operations on a cash and carry basis, incurring no debts or mortgages. The Hydes applied much this same philosophy. They agreed with the Nearings stance on money:

Ideas of “making money” or “getting rich” have given people a perverted view of economic principles. The object of economic effort is not money, but livelihood. Money cannot feed, clothe or shelter. Money is a medium of exchange, a means of securing the items that make up livelihood.

Employing this outlook toward making money did not bring Philip Hyde fame in the traditional sense. He became known for defending wilderness, but he spent more of his time working on conservation campaigns than approaching photography galleries or arranging large exhibitions with major museums, unless they came to him. He and my mother lived life on their own terms, beholden to no one. They were not slaves to tight schedules for workshops, speaking engagements, touring exhibitions and book signings. A few of these events went a long way. Mom and Dad were then free to sit out on their deck and observe the birds arriving in the spring, or to enjoy the dropping of the air temperatures in the evening that signals the approach of fall.

What Is Freedom? Who Is Free?

Walt Whitman offered some guidance:

After you have exhausted what there is in business, politics, conviviality, love, and so on—have found that none of these finally satisfy, or permanently wear—what remains? Nature remains: to bring out from their torpid recesses the affinities of a man or woman with the open air—the sun by day and the stars of heaven by night.

While I’m here and not at my place in Colorado, I often look out at the same scene that my parents looked at most of their lives, living here in their paradise on earth. I realize that I have become too much a slave to the dollar, too much a cog in the machine. I see that the internet has in some ways given me freedom, but in others has made me much more dependent on the system and stolen my time. I would much rather read a good classic than yet another article on why I need to “maximize my social media presence.” At least I have the seasons and nature to remind me of what is real, to help me recall who I am and why I am here. Livelihood and economic issues make up an important component of change toward a more earth-friendly society. For a lively discussion on creating a sustainable world and related issues see the blog post, “Art, Earth And Ethics 1.”

Recommended Reading (Please Show Your Appreciation And Help Us Out By Ordering Through These Links)

Busting Loose From the Money Game: Mind-Blowing Strategies for Changing the Rules of a Game You Can’t Win by Robert Scheinfeld

Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism by Chogyam Trungpa

The Crash Course: The Unsustainable Future Of Our Economy, Energy And Environment by Chris Martenson

The Green Collar Economy: How One Solution Can Fix Our Two Biggest Problems by Van Jones

Money: Understanding and Creating Alternatives to Legal Tender by Thomas H. Greco

The Wealth of Nature: Economics as if Survival Mattered by John Michael Greer

The Transition Handbook: From Oil Dependency to Local Resilience by Rob Hopkins

Love Is the New Currency by Linda Commito

The End of Growth: Adapting to Our New Economic Reality by Richard Heinberg

The Growth Illu$ion: How Economic Growth Has Enriched the Few, Impoverished the Many and Endangered the Planet by Richard Douthwaite

(Continued in the blog post, “Living The Good Life 4.”)

Does nature help you remember who you are? How do you celebrate or observe the change of seasons?

Economic Immunity And Freedom 1: Trash Your Television

August 22nd, 2011

Grasses, Clouds Reflected, Tuolumne Meadows, Yosemite National Park, copyright 2009 by David Leland Hyde. Nikon D90. This photograph and a select group of others will be available soon as limited edition archival fine art digital prints. A friend, who already acquired a 16X20 print of this photograph, said it helps remind her clients of tranquility.

Something fascinating happened to me over the last few months. I have not listened to the Radio or watched TV. This has created a strange, yet significantly measurable positive effect. I know, I know, it is best to stay informed, to be aware of what is going on. Or is it? Is the news a good representative cross-section of events in the world, or does it have a sensationalized negative slant? Could you miss something critical by Trashing Your Television? Probably not. I have discovered that the most significant events seem to get relayed to me by people I run across during the day anyway.

I tuned into NPR for the first time in many months around the beginning of August, just in time to hear about a week-long plummet of European stock markets. Just as I did in October 2008, I sat down in shock and fear. Then I gathered myself out of a knee-jerk response and opened my heart as big as I could and first said yes to the fear, then let it gradually leave and dissipate.

Ever since I have been keeping Radio Silence and Trashing Television. I find that I have a much more positive outlook than many others I talk to, and guess what? Remaining News Media Free isn’t just a Pollyanna perspective either. It produces a measurable difference in the world. Staying positive has produced positive results. I have sold six prints this week including one of Dad’s vintage black and white prints. I also developed a pending situation that will bring as many as 20 more print sales in the near future.

Remember that what began all of this was the bank policy of giving loans to under qualified people. Where does bank policy come from? There is no conspiracy, just follow the money. Look to who is making policy. The Great Depression in the 1920s was the largest transfer of wealth in history away from the middle and lower classes to the richest corporate shareholders. A whole new brand of transfer is on again now.

There is another reason the economy has to take a dive this century. And I do mean a whole century long “managed collapse.” Get used to it. The maximum number of clean energy sources available can provide only about 30 percent of the energy on which the current oil based economy runs. To make the transition to a clean energy society, we have to operate the world economy on 30 percent of the energy we do now. That means we have to trim 70 percent of the fat.

Through it all, Photography will survive.

Will you survive in photography?

Will your photography survive?

Some photographers will thrive and some will fail.

Will you thrive?

Oregon Cascades Conservation: Mount Jefferson Wilderness Area

August 15th, 2011

The Cascade Mountain Range, National Parks and Wilderness Areas Of The Northwestern U.S.

Mount Jefferson, Jefferson Wilderness Area, Oregon Cascades, Oregon, copyright 1959 by Philip Hyde.

(See the photograph large: “Mount Jefferson, Jefferson Wilderness Area, Oregon Cascades.”)

The Cascade Mountain Range, a string of volcanic peaks and vertically thrust rocky crags, runs from Northern California through Oregon and Washington and into Canada. Land battles in the 1950s and 1960s over the lush forests of the Cascade Mountains in the Northwestern United States, helped shape future strategy for wilderness conservation campaigns across the nation.

As the U. S. Forest Service and the timber industry, on one side, grabbed for more trees to mill, recreationists and environmentalists, on the other side, attempted to save their beloved woodlands, river valleys and rainforests from destruction. When enough public outcry supported the protection of an area, it became a National Park such as North Cascades or Olympic National Park. However, just obtaining wilderness status for many wild areas engendered a terrific political and often legal war.

The Mount Jefferson Wilderness Area became one of the many controversies of the 1960s. Mount Jefferson is Oregon’s second highest peak (10,249 feet) behind Mount Hood (11,497) and not to be confused with the Mount Jefferson in Montana, or in Utah, or the mountain bearing Thomas Jefferson’s carved likeness in North Dakota. Mount Jefferson of the Central Oregon Cascades is surrounded by plentiful lakes, steep raging rivers and lush river valleys riddled with gold and silver mining claims, cattle grazing and thick stands of mixed conifer trees.

In 1959, after conferring on strategy and partial funding with David Brower, Executive Director of the Sierra Club, Philip Hyde hired mountaineer and wilderness guide Fred Behm as a horse packing guide. Fred Behm led Ardis and Philip Hyde by horseback pack trip into the Mount Jefferson Wilderness Area. Philip Hyde made photographs for use by the Sierra Club and local Oregon environmental groups working to attain permanent wilderness designation or national park status for the Jefferson Wilderness Area.

U.S. Forest Service’s Controversial Redrawing Of Cascades Wilderness Area Boundaries In The 1960s

Mount Jefferson Primitive Area, one of the largest in Oregon, formed in 1930. It stretched across the Deschutes, Mount Hood, and Willamette National Forests. Each of these National Forests helped manage the primitive area. Lumbering slowed significantly during the Great Depression, but took off again during and after World War II. In the Willamette National Forest, the volume of logs cut more than quadrupled between 1945 and 1955 and continued to increase for decades. The Forest Service began to reclassify many primitive areas as either multiple use or permanent wilderness without any input from locals. Frequented by hikers, fishers and small boaters, Mount Jefferson Primitive Area had some of the highest recreation levels of any wilderness in the Northwest, second in Oregon only to the Three Sisters Wilderness to the south.

In his autobiography, In The Thick of It: My Life In The Sierra Club, Michael McCloskey wrote:

In the early 1960s, the Forest Service was using its administrative powers to decide how much land it wanted to put into its new wilderness system. Wilderness areas in this system would have carefully considered boundaries and would be permanently managed as wilderness, without roads or logging. In contrast, primitive areas, which had been set aside earlier under regulations of the 1920s, allowed some roads, had boundaries drawn with little study, and were only provisional in nature. In response to pressures to better protect primitive areas, the Forest Service had decided to either reclassify them as wilderness areas or to drop the provisional protection it had accorded them.

When reclassifying the Three Sisters Wilderness, the Forest Service dropped 53,000 acres from the wilderness area. After a 25 year struggle from grass roots activist groups and conservationists, Congress finally added 45,000 of these acres back into the Three Sisters Wilderness in 1978, part of which consisted of the west side of beautiful Waldo Lake.

U.S. Forest Service Preserves ‘Everything But The Trees’ In The Mount Jefferson Wilderness

The Mount Jefferson Primitive Area ran in a long, narrow strip along the spine of the Oregon Cascade Mountains with Mount Jefferson on the north end and a peak called Three Fingered Jack on the south. In the Oregon Cascade Mountains, most of the largest and thickest timber stands in the 1960s were below 3,500 feet in elevation. Unlike the Three Sisters Wilderness Area, the Mount Jefferson Primitive Area was mainly above 3,500 feet and did not contain as much valuable timber. Kevin R. Marsh explained in Drawing Lines In The Forest: Creating Wilderness Areas In the Pacific Northwest:

Since the crux of wilderness debates in the Northwest focused mainly on valleys below 3,500 feet, the creation of the Mount Jefferson Wilderness Area out of the old primitive area focused on whether to protect from logging some of the lower forests outside the original boundaries…. In 1963, the Forest Service agreed to expand the boundaries outward east and south, adding more acreage to the protected area, but it stopped short of including the forests of the western valleys. In fact, the new boundaries would reduce the protection offered… lower-elevation forests contained in the existing primitive area and open them up to the timber sale program. By 1962, as the debate over proposed new wilderness boundaries continued, the Forest Service built a road and sold timber deep into the Whitewater Valley, close to the boundary of the primitive area…. Increasingly, the attention from all sides focused on Wildlands outside the existing boundaries of formally protected areas: the “de facto wilderness.” The Mount Jefferson debates reflected this changing aspect of wilderness debates throughout the country after passage of the Wilderness Act in 1964. The Mount Jefferson Wilderness Area has not garnered much attention from historians and others concerned with wilderness in the United States, but the Mount Jefferson debates are important because they demonstrate a new emphasis on de facto wilderness lands and on struggles over the definition of ‘wilderness.’… The Obsidians, a Eugene, Oregon hiking club, joined five other groups, including the Oregon Cascades Conservation Council, to submit a proposal to increase the size of the area…

Leapfrog Logging Keeps Old Growth Timber Wilderness In Reach Of Lumber Companies

Michael McCloskey acted as legal council and Sierra Club adviser to those working to prevent land from being cut out and removed from within the final wilderness area boundaries. In the process he carefully explored the periphery of the primitive area to see how suitable the old boundaries were. He identified the practice of “leapfrog logging,” the Forest Service tactic of trying to define future boundaries by building access roads right up to the original primitive area boundary while passing by large sections of untouched timber. The presence of the road and logging at the end of it, blocked the land from potentially being designated as wilderness. Environmentalists led by Michael McCloskey applied their own techniques to build a case for expanding the existing wilderness. Michael McCloskey described the method himself:

The technique involved sampling the core values of the area (via a backpacking trip, a horse pack trip, or an overflight); driving every road to the edge of the wilderness area; looking at every peripheral development; evaluating competing values and alternative uses of the resources found there…. People valued these areas for many reasons: to experience wild country, to see mountain scenery, to walk through old-growth forests, to hunt and fish in less crowded areas, and to simply get away from civilization.

Local Citizens Lead Grassroots Environmental Campaigns To Preserve Cascade Mountain Wilderness

People were willing to fight for these wilderness values. Kevin R. Marsh explained one reason why:

The Forest Service roads and clear cuts deep in the Whitewater Creek valley were powerful examples of why wilderness activists focused so much energy on codifying a wilderness system created and maintained by Congress. In the long run… the Wilderness Act resulted in a massive increase in the acreage of land protected as wilderness in the United States…. Following that mandate, the Forest Service reexamined the Mount Jefferson area, the first primitive area in the Cascades to undergo review under the requirements of the Wilderness Act. Expanding wilderness protection into more valuable, lower-elevation forests, however, carried too much additional cost to the industry…. The conservationists proposal would reduce the available timber supply to the local economy by eleven million board feet annually, Oregon Senator Mark Hatfield claimed, and ‘serious economic hardship  could result….’ To add the forested areas proposed by conservationists would result in the loss of six hundred jobs in the local economy, regional forester Herbert Stone claimed. As a result, the Mount Jefferson Wilderness Area, as approved by Congress in 1968, did not include the Whitewater Valley.

Even though the final boundaries of the Mount Jefferson Wilderness Area did not include the Whitewater Valley, conservationists did succeed in persuading Congress to include other expansion areas such as Marion Lake and a few other tracts of undisturbed forest.

To learn about how conservation strategy in the Cascade Mountains had national impact and to discover more on how Cascade Mountain wilderness battles helped environmentalists refine their message into the Wilderness Act see the blog post, “The Oregon Cascades’ Impact On Conservation.” Also, discover more about the protection of the Cascades Mountains in blog posts to come, particularly the creation of North Cascades National Park and the protection of Glacier Peak Wilderness, both in the state of Washington.

Ansel Adams And Paul Strand On Self-Promotion and Exhibitions

July 7th, 2011

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

(To see the photograph full screen Click Here.)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photography’s Golden Era 4

March 15th, 2010

(CONTINUED FROM BLOG POST, “Photography’s Golden Era 3.”

Early Influences on Philip Hyde Before Photography School: Leland Hyde, Modernism, Rural Europe, Alfred Stieglitz, Paul Strand, Group f.64, Ansel Adams and Western National Parks.

Tomales Bay, Point Reyes, Marin County, California, Oil on Canvas, circa 1925 by Leland Hyde.

In the first third of the 20th Century, Modernist Painting came into prominence. It had swept from Paris across the Atlantic in 1913 with the Armory Show in New York. However, the Beaux Arts classical approach that had influenced architecture and art across the US, remained the dominant form and the preferred way of teaching until the student uprisings of 1932. Student activism at the University of California, Berkeley and on other college campuses, led to a shift away from the traditional Beaux Arts methods of teaching. At UC Berkeley in particular, the uprisings instigated a search for a Modernist architect to take over the design program. Modernism waxed and waned but eventually took hold.

In the visual arts, the Modernist movements—Dadaism, Cubism, Fauvism, and Surrealism had faded from public notice and moved into private drawing rooms in the late 1920s and early 1930s. For a time, the new forms were of less interest to the American people. Isolationism and concern over domestic issues brought on the development of American Regionalism, whose proponents often painted the rural countryside. Philip Hyde, age 11 in 1932, had yet to use a camera, but his father Leland Hyde’s favorite subject to paint was nature. He took his family camping in a lean-to tent in the National Parks of the West such as Yosemite, Sequoia, Grand Canyon, Zion, Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef, Arches, Grand Tetons, and Yellowstone. In 1932, Leland and Jessie’s children, Betty, Davey and Philip, first looked down from the South Rim of the Grand Canyon and Philip in particular began to dream of some way he could spend his life in the outdoors.

Photography at the time until 1932 and after, was dominated by pictorialism, based on special effects and techniques that altered photographs to resemble paintings. However, straight photography as led by Alfred Stieglitz, Paul Strand, Ansel Adams, Edward Weston and others eventually took over the medium and became the core of Modernism. Ansel Adams, Edward Weston and five other talented California photographers founded Group f.64 in protest to the pictorialist photography that was then broadly exhibited by museums, galleries and camera clubs, as well as widely published in periodicals because it resembled paintings. Academic painters and the art establishment, thought their livelihood might be lost to photography and therefore had for years refused to consider any form of photography art, but in time they for the most part tentatively accepted pictorialism.

Alfred Stieglitz first founded the Photo-Secession society as a pictorialist group. Alfred Stieglitz circulated in the heart of the modern art scene in New York City and followed the European Impressionist Art movement. Many of his most famous photographs were in the pictorialist tradition. They were blurry, atmospheric and employed at least partial soft focus. He usually did not soften the focus in his whole image, but subscribed to the “naturalist” theory that emphasized a photograph’s primary elements by letting background or less important elements remain out of focus, as it was thought the natural human eye did.

European Impressionists painted the steam engine as a symbol of the Industrial Revolution and of the modern city. Alfred Stieglitz in turn photographed steam engines. Alfred Stieglitz never used a special soft focus lens, but used snow or other weather conditions to soften his images and add atmosphere. All along Alfred Stieglitz used real world conditions to create pictorialist effects, rather than the manipulations that were typical of most pictorialist photography. He was the master of capturing real life moments. In the early 1920s, Alfred Stieglitz began to leave behind the idea that photographs need to look like paintings to be art. He had led the movement to have photographs exhibited besides paintings, but his photographs looked more and more like camera work than brush work. He did not cover up that he had changed his outlook. He instead instigated a revolt against pictorialism.

Even before West Coast photographers formed Group f.64, Alfred Stieglitz had started promoting what he called Straight Photography. More on Straight Photography and Group f.64 in the next blog post. Also see the previous blog post, “Photography’s Golden Era 3” for more on Alfred Stieglitz. Beaumont Newhall wrote in the Foreward to Seeing Straight: The F.64 Revolution in Photography that by the time of the founding of Group f.64, pictorialism “had long been abandoned by Alfred Stieglitz, Edward Steichen, and other members of the Photo-Secession society.”

Photographs such as Alfred Stieglitz’s “Steerage,” of working class people on board a ship, marked a new direction for Alfred Stieglitz’s and brought in what became known as the Modernist vision. Edward Weston, who had begun as a pictorialist, destroyed all of his early negatives. Modernist photography discarded the romanticism of the pictorialists and looked deeply into commonplace subjects for hidden beauty. Straight photography and the Photo-Secession decried soft-focus and sought sharpness and precise detail. The Modernists minimized darkroom manipulation, though even Edward Weston, who primarily printed contact prints, was known on occasion to dodge and burn prints, thereby lightening shadows and darkening highlights.

Most agreed with Beaumont Newhall when he named Edward Weston as the spritual leader of Group f.64, even though the independent Edward Weston did not found Group f.64, or pay much attention to its operation. Edward Weston lived a simple, unadorned lifestyle and made fundamental, elegant photographs of common and natural subjects such as garden vegetables, nude poses of his wives and lovers, and western landscapes, particularly those in California and around his home in Carmel. Point Lobos State Reserve was Edward Weston’s favorite outdoor place to photograph. Point Lobos is the perfect example of a straight photography location. Its scenery is not dramatic, not colorful or spectacularly beautiful. Point Lobos has a subtle, hard to define beauty that can only be discovered by looking closely, by getting to know the place, and by creatively framing common appearing rocks, trees, grasslands and beaches.

As Edward Weston did with photographs, Leland Hyde, in the same era and before, depicted the natural scene with oil paintings and pastel sketches. Leland Hyde’s painting style had elements of rural regionalism but he clearly disagreed with one of the primary representatives of the movement, Thomas Hart Benton, once a student in Paris, who wanted to rid America of what he called “the dirt of European influence.” However, Leland Hyde did agree with the social activism and politics of the New Deal that sought a public and useful art. In America, as the 1930’s opened, the merits of  Modernism versus more traditional figure painting became a heated debate. Leland Hyde dreamed of studying in Paris at one of the world’s most famous and selective art schools, L’Ecole des Beaux Arts. He wanted to explore the various forms more deeply, knowing that his course of study would primarily be rooted in classical training but would also incorporate elements and whole courses on the Modernism that flourished in pre-war Paris.

When Jessie Hyde’s favorite uncle passed away, with the family’s sorrow came a blessing: Uncle George Hair left the Hydes a small inheritance. At the height of the depression, Jessie wanted to be practical and buy a house, but Leland Hyde saw it as his chance to go to art school in Paris. L’Ecole des Beaux Arts had offered free tuition since the 17th Century but the application process had always been extremely difficult and competitive. Leland Hyde quietly applied and when he was accepted, Jessie quit arguing for more conservative uses of the money. She told him to go to Paris and enjoy. She would stay in San Francisco and keep the children in school. However, Leland Hyde would not hear of it and insisted that the entire family come with him to Europe. Philip Hyde was 11, his brother Davey only five years old and his sister Betty was 15.

European Countryside, Alps, Pastel Sketch, 1933 by Leland Hyde.

Paris, the capital of Modernism, had a profound impact on the young Hydes and affected Philip Hyde’s photography later. They learned French and listened and watched their father work and talk about his assignments in the evenings at home in their rented artist’s studio-flat. Modernism became a part of Leland Hyde’s work and he incorporated classical training with the new directions in art just as he had imagined. Philip Hyde watched his father paint in the field and listened to him expound at the dinner table about the lectures and class projects from L’Ecole. After school let out, the Hydes bought a car and drove around the European countryside while Leland Hyde painted. They spent three days of the trip on the celebrated French Riviera, where even during the Great Depression, August was the peak tourism month and crowds overran the coast. This was Philip Hyde’s first realization that he preferred wilder places such as the French and German rural countryside and the Austrian Alps where his father also found the most joy and more opportunities to paint what he liked.

When Leland Hyde took his family back to San Francisco, he took fine art painting commissions, hung art exhibitions, entered contests, designed and painted furniture, drew plans and perspective drawings of government buildings and huge factories. He developed a fine reputation as a furniture designer, builder and finisher, a fine art painter and industrial designer. Dad said that his father was gainfully employed the entire Great Depression and the family of five never went hungry. Dad said there were a few slim dinners of perhaps a can or two of food, but they never went hungry, even though Leland Hyde worked solely as an artist. This example of success in following an artistic calling during the worst of times, kept Philip Hyde going in tough times later and gave him the faith and work ethic to become a full-time landscape photographer, a choice even Ansel Adams thought economically unsound for even the most talented photographer in the 1950s.

While the Hyde family was in Europe, a meeting and an exhibition that would change photography forever was taking place back in New York City. On their way home from Europe to San Francisco, the Hydes passed through New York City at about the same time that Ansel Adams traveled there for his first New York exhibition at the Delphic Studios. Philip Hyde and Ansel Adams did not cross paths until over a decade later, when they met at the California School of Fine Arts in San Francisco in 1946. Philip Hyde first saw Ansel Adams’ prints at the 1939 World’s Fair on Treasure Island just before the War. However, earlier in 1933, a meeting that would affect all of photography occurred when Ansel Adams came to New York on a pilgrimage to meet Alfred Stieglitz, the photographer whose life and work Ansel Adams most admired. Ansel Adams said that when he told Alfred Stieglitz of his concept of visualization, Alfred Stieglitz “responded with his explanation of creative photography.”

Ansel Adams’ definition of visualization became one of the cornerstones of the training in photography that Philip Hyde would participate in later. Ansel Adams wrote in Modern Photography magazine, “The photographer visualizes his conception of the subject as presented in the final print. He achieves the expression of his visualization through his technique—aesthetic, intellectual, and mechanical.”

Alfred Stieglitz’ replied to Ansel Adams’ statement on visualization with the same explanation he had given someone questioning the validity of art produced by a camera. A patron asked Alfred Stieglitz whether a “machine could be creative?” Alfred Stieglitz replied, “I have the desire to photograph. I go out with my camera. I come across something that excites me emotionally, spiritually, aesthetically. I see the photograph in my mind’s eye and I compose and expose the negative. I give you the print as the equivalent of what I saw and felt.”

This process as described by these two primary teachers of photography, turned out to be vaguely familiar and readily understandable by Philip Hyde a dozen years later. Perhaps this had to do with a similar process that he watched over and over throughout his upbringing and in extended duration and repetition, during his boyhood months in Paris, the World’s hub of Modern Art, and throughout his travels in the countryside of Europe, with his family, watching Leland Hyde paint the natural scene. Thus, in the early 1930s, while Alfred Stieglitz and Group f.64 transformed photography and the west coast tradition was born, Philip Hyde started his training in composition and seeing, and began forming his early feelings about wild places that became the heart of his life and work. Ultimately, all of these influences and others we will explore in this blog, helped shape landscape photography. What influences do you know of? What are your feelings and thoughts about the beginnings of straight photography?

References:
Interviews of Philip Hyde by David Leland Hyde 2002-2005
Seeing Straight: The F.64 Revolution in Photography by Mary Street Alinder, Therese Thau Heyman, and Naomi Rosenblum
Ansel Adams: A Biography by Mary Street Alinder
Get the Picture” at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts
Art Across the Ages DVD Series by Ori Z. Soltes, The Teaching Company

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

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