Posts Tagged ‘John Rogers’

The Golden Decade Book To Be Published By Gerhard Steidl

June 17th, 2015

The Golden Decade Book in Pre-Production at Steidl in Germany

Original limited edition printing design of The Golden Decade. Gerhard Steidl already redesigned the book, fonts and colors with a more contemporary art look.

Original limited edition printing design of The Golden Decade. Gerhard Steidl already redesigned the book, fonts and colors with a more contemporary art book layout and look.

The Golden Decade: California School of Fine Arts Photography 1945-55 by Ira Latour, Cameron Macauley and Bill Heick, edited by Ken Ball and Victoria Whyte Ball, sold out in two special oversize limited editions of 100 books each in 2010. In conjunction with the release of the book, Smith Andersen North Gallery held a two-month exhibit of original darkroom silver prints by 36 students of Ansel Adams and Minor White.

Now The Golden Decade will be published by world-premier art book publisher Steidl of Germany and is in pre-production. Ken and Victoria Whyte Ball recently traveled to Gottingen, Germany for the beginning of pre-production to work with Gerhard Steidl on the layout and design of the book. The production process with a master art publisher such as Steidl, Ken and Victoria said has been fascinating, besides, the Balls had fun in Steidlville getting to know the other photographer teams and curators also putting books together including Joshua Chuang from the Center for Creative Photography in Tucson, Arizona and Anna Davidson, daughter of New York Magnum photographer Bruce Davidson. Follow the Ball’s adventures in Germany and the Golden Decade journey into print at a delightful blog Victoria has been writing called the Golden Decade Blog, supplemented by Victoria Whyte Ball’s Facebook page.

Steidl redesigned new cover and inside layout of The Golden Decade book. (Click on image to see large.)

During the first 10 years of the photography program founded by Ansel Adams at the California School of Fine Arts, now called the San Francisco Art Institute, Minor White was lead instructor. He invited Imogen Cunningham, Dorothea Lange, Edward Weston, Lisette Model and other definers of 20th Century photography to be guest instructors.

The Golden Decade Book author Ira Latour was in the first full-time class of the photography department, while Bill Heick was in the second class with Victoria Whyte Ball’s father Don Whyte, Philip Hyde and 12 other students. Cameron Macauley was in a later class. The authors and a large number of other contributors including David Leland Hyde share stories and biographical sketches from the early days of West Coast Photography when the earliest students of straight photography started journeys in the medium, many of which went on to notable publishing and exhibiting achievements of their own.

All Golden Decade photographers are:

Ruth-Marion Baruch

John Bertolino

Lee Blodget

Benjamen Chinn

Eliot Finkels

Oliver Gagliani

Stephen Goldstine

Muriel Green

Pat Harris

William Heick

Frederick H. Hill

Robert Hollingsworth

Helen Howell

Joe Humphreys

Philip Hyde

David Johnson

Pirkle Jones

Fritz Kaeser

Ira H. Latour

Zoe Lowenthal Brown

C. Cameron Macauley

Rose Mandel

Nata Piaskowski

William Quandt

Gerald Ratto

Alfred Richter

John Rogers

Walter Stoy

John Upton

George Wallace

Don Whyte

Charles Wong

Harold Zegart

Leonard Zielaskiewicz

Stan Zrnich

For more about the Golden Decade of photography in San Francisco and the California School of Fine Arts see the blog post, “Photography’s Golden Era 6.” For more about the Golden Decade show see the blog post, “Over 500 People Attend Golden Decade Opening.”

Update: You can now pre-order the Golden Decade from Amazon with a guaranteed savings of $24.09 off the regular retail of $75. The pre-order guaranteed price is 33 percent off at $50.09. To pre-order click The Golden Decade.

Have you ever met any of the students of Ansel Adams?

San Francisco Art Institute Photography History 13

December 5th, 2011

Summer School 1946 With Ansel Adams

Description And Outline

(Continued from the blog post, “San Francisco Art Institute Photography History, Part 12.”)

Cumulus Clouds Over Indian Valley, Northern Sierra Nevada, copyright 1948 Philip Hyde.

Summer School, as Ansel Adams referred to it, first started in 1946. The course ran for six weeks of intensive instruction based on the regular day school in photography at the California School of Fine Arts now the San Francisco Art Institute. Minor White first taught with Ansel Adams in the Summer of 1946 with students including Philip Hyde, Benjamen Chinn, William Heick, Ira Latour, Pirkle Jones, Ruth-Marion Baruch, Don Whyte, Pat Harris, David Johnson, John Rogers, Al Richter, Bob Hollingsworth, Walter Stoy, Helen Howell and others.

In preliminary descriptions of the course for the CSFA School Board, Ansel Adams suggested: “It should be considered as part of the full day school year rather than… supplementary…” The Summer Session became what Ansel Adams described as “a ‘screening course’ for the main student body of the day school.”

Ansel Adams further described the proposed course:

It should be made very intensive and should reveal within its six weeks span the abilities – or lack of them – of the students. Only those should be admitted who have definite intention to take at least the first year of the main school sessions. The exact topics to be considered in the summer school will be basic but of course should not be too extensive. The first summer school period in 1946 will enable us to clear up various ‘bugs’ in the studio, lab, and general operation. The summer school of 1947 should be designed, I believe, as a buffer course to enable the regular day students to perfect their work and to round out missing or weak aspects of their knowledge.

Outline Of Ansel Adams’ Summer Session 1946

Department of Photography

California School of Fine Arts

Day School:

Week 1

Period:

1:            Organization, outline of study and general assignments, etc.

2:            Functions of the Camera and Lens

3:            Demonstration of above

4:            Photographic Visualization

5:            Demonstration

6:            Basic Photographic Esthetics

Week 2

Period:

1:            Resume of Photographic History and Esthetics

2:            Philosophy of Exposure and Development of the Negative

3:            Demonstration Including Darkroom Mechanics

4:            Demonstration Including Orthochromatics

5:            Problem: demonstration-Visualization through execution

6:            General Discussion

Week 3

Period:

1:            Presentation of a photographic problem  (1st assignment)

2:            Execution of the problem – exposure and development of the negative

3:            Printing

4:            Demonstration

5:            Printing of the negatives of the above problem

6:            Discussion and criticism of problem-assignment results

Week 4

Period:

1:            Elements of photographic Composition

2:            Presentation of 2nd Photographic Problem (2nd assignment)

3:            Field or Studio work under direction

4:            Printing under direction

5:            Toning of prints

6:            Discussion and criticism of second assignment

Week 5

Period:

1:            Expressive fields of photography

2:            Presentation of the 3rd Photographic Problem (assignment)

3:            Field or Studio work under direction

4:            Mounting and spotting of prints (presentation)

5:            Philosophy of Artificial light in photography

6:            General Discussion and criticism of assignment 3

Week 6

Period:

1:            Assignment using artificial light and analysis (4th assignment)

2:            Assignment: Three interpretations of the same subject (5th assignment)

3:            Minor darkroom techniques (reduction, intensification, bleaching, etc.)

4:            Survey of contemporary directions in photography, Critical basis.

5:            Resume of philosophy of technique

6:            General discussion, exhibit work and criticism.

Four periods devoted to work in addition to the six periods outlined above are required. The exact assignments will be worked out well in advance. An emphasis on regional subject material to be maintained throughout. Full demonstration of all work required. Laboratory assistants will be on constant duty five or six periods out of the total of 10 periods per week.

(Continued in the blog post, “San Francisco Art Institute Photography History 14.”)

San Francisco Art Institute Photography History, Part 12

July 26th, 2011

Minor White Meets Alfred Stieglitz, Edward Weston, Paul Strand And Other Photography Greats All In One Year

Continued from the blog post, “Photography’s Golden Era 11.” The title of this series of blog posts has been changed from “Photography’s Golden Era” to “San Francisco Art Institute Photography History.” The next post in the series following this will be called, “San Francisco Art Institute Photography History, Part 13.”

Rock Formations Detail, Weston Beach, Point Lobos State Reserve, California, copyright 1949 by Philip Hyde. Many of Philip Hyde's early close-ups and landscape photographs showed the influence of Edward Weston. Edward Weston and Minor White may have been present when this original large format 5X7 black and white photograph was made. Widely published and exhibited with Group f.64. Planned to appear in the forthcoming book: "The Golden Decade: Photography at the California School of Fine Arts, 1945-55."

See the photograph large, “Rock Formations Detail, Weston Beach, Point Lobos.”

In January 1946, the same year he began teaching at the California School of Fine Arts, now the San Francisco Art Institute, Minor White met Alfred Stieglitz and in December he met Edward Weston. Alfred Stieglitz had a profound effect on Minor White and his photography and other photographers impacted Minor White’s thinking, but the influence of Edward Weston became the greatest of all.

As a member of Beaumont Newhall and Nancy Newhall’s social circle on the East Coast, that year Minor White also met Berenice Abbott, Harry Callahan, Edward Steichen, Paul Strand, Todd Webb, and Brett Weston.

Then in July 1946, with the help of Beaumont and Nancy Newhall, Minor White accepted a teaching position on the West Coast under Ansel Adams at the California School of Fine Arts, now the San Francisco Art Institute in California. Minor White started by teaching the Summer Session as Ansel Adams’ assistant, but Ansel Adams recognized right away that Minor White had teaching talent and knowledge, besides he related to the students well. Within a few weeks, Ansel Adams left Minor White in charge and within a few months his job title changed to lead instructor. Arriving on the West Coast for the first time, Minor White moved from Princeton, New Jersey to a house owned by Ansel Adams at 129 24th Avenue in San Francisco, where Ansel Adams had his darkroom. Minor White would soon be as impacted by Edward Weston on the West Coast as he was by Alfred Stieglitz in New York City.

Parallels Between Minor White And Alfred Stieglitz

James Baker Hall wrote in his biographical essay in Minor White: Rites And Passages (Aperture Monograph):

Some of the parallels between Alfred Stieglitz and Minor White are more apparent than others. Much of White’s best work, both as a photographer and as an editor, came directly and consciously out of Stieglitz’s idea of the Equivalent, the photographic image as a metaphor, as an objective correlative for a particular feeling or state of being associated with something other than the ostensible subject. Each man in his day embodied and promulgated that controlling idea by editing journals of comparable impact, Stieglitz with Camera Work, White with Aperture. Just as Stieglitz and Edward Weston—the other principle influence on White—fairly dominated a significant portion of the photography world during the second quarter of the century, so White, along with Henri Cartier-Bresson, Ansel Adams and Robert Frank, dominated it during the third. Ideas play a role in the influence of Weston, Cartier-Bresson, Adams and Frank, but not nearly as important a role as they do with Stieglitz and White. Their work as teachers and editors has reached far fewer people than their photographs, and it has been less well understood, but both men’s lives testify in no uncertain way to the fact that it was every bit as important to them as their camera work.

Minor White’s Most Profound Influence, Edward Weston

In December 1946, Minor White traveled south from his living quarters in one of Ansel Adams’ houses next to Ansel Adams’ darkroom near Baker Beach in San Francisco to Carmel and Point Lobos to meet Edward Weston for the first time. Edward Weston also lived in a cottage with his darkroom in Carmel Highlands on Wildcat Hill. Peter C. Bunnell, in the biographical chronology accompanying the exhibition The Temptation of St. Anthony Is Mirrors, wrote that Minor White began “a profound attachment to the man, his ideals, and the place.” For the next few years Minor White took his students from the California School of Fine Arts, now the San Francisco Art Institute, on field trips to Point Lobos where they observed Edward Weston photographing with his large format view camera. The classes would then proceed to Edward Weston’s home on Wildcat Hill where they reviewed Edward Weston prints and student’s portfolios.

In Jeff Gunderson’s essay in The Moment of Seeing: Minor White at the California School of Fine Arts, he wrote regarding Minor White’s meeting with Edward Weston for the first time in December 1946:

This proved to be not only a personal, creative, and photographically significant milestone in his life, but it would also be of immense importance to the future of the school’s photography program and its students. Over the next couple of years, White and his students took numerous field trips to Point Lobos, where they met with Edward Weston.

Peter C. Bunnell, in Minor White: The Eye That Shapes, wrote:

Edward Weston, who will have the most profound influence on White of any artist, develops a rapport with the younger photographer, and they meet many times before Weston’s death in 1958. Based on White’s deep admiration for Edward Weston and his work, Point Lobos will become for him a kind of quintessential photographic site, and it is in relation to his understanding of how Edward Weston gained his inspiration here that White will approach Point Lobos and other landscape sites for his own creative purposes.

Minor White And In Turn Philip Hyde, Both Mentored By Edward Weston

Philip Hyde also kept up a correspondence and regular visits to Wildcat Hill to see Edward Weston until his passing in 1958. Philip Hyde and four other California School of Fine Arts classmates, Bob Hollingsworth, Bill Heick, Al Richter and John Rogers, originally became more acquainted with Edward Weston than their other classmates by camping on his lawn in tents when the class visited Wildcat Hill on field trips. The tent campers would talk and review prints with Edward Weston into the night, but not too late as Edward Weston was an early riser. Then with Edward Weston’s blessing, they would sleep a short time, wake up very early and lie awake waiting for signs of life in the house, whereupon they would rush inside and resume their discussion of photography with Edward Weston. This practice begun in 1947 continued for Philip Hyde for a number of years before Edward Weston’s health failed. Ardis and Philip Hyde camped on Edward Weston’s lawn and arose to show Edward Weston a new batch of prints, a number of times after Philp Hyde earned his certificate of completion from photography school in 1950. Read more on interactions between Edward Weston and Philip Hyde in future blog posts. For more on interactions between Minor White and Philip Hyde see the blog post, “Minor White Letters 1.”

California School Of Fine Arts Field Trips, With Edward Weston On Point Lobos And At Edward Weston’s Home In Carmel, Boosted Class Intensity

Minor White looked forward to his visits to see Edward Weston with great enthusiasm. Jeff Gunderson wrote that Minor White sent a letter in 1948 to Beaumont and Nancy Newhall just before his July 25 return to see the master:

Minor White considered the pilgrimage to Point Lobos “the climax of every year,” so important that at one point he made the “generous proposal” to “forgo his own salary in favor of Mr. Weston.” He waxed that “on this trip the intensity rose like a thermometer held over a match flame.” He wanted to make sure that students had the opportunity “to study the working methods of artists” on the week-long trip with Weston “in his home territory.” Weston and the students roamed “over Point Lobos for an afternoon without cameras.” Only then would they photograph, while Weston would “climb around to each student and discuss what is on the ground glass.” They would sit on the rocks at Point Lobos, gathered around Edward Weston, “all trying to figure out what makes an artist tick.” After hiking and taking pictures, the students would drive to Carmel for dinner, then regroup at “Weston’s cottage to see the man and his photographs.” Weston “selected carefully, put them one at a time, on a spot-lighted easel. He talked quietly or not at all,…purred to his cats and kittens…He never belittled his work, never boasted, but let each picture speak for itself…And we looked. With the sound of the sea,…the smell of a log fire around, many of the seeds, planted during the year, sprouted.” White, as well as the California School of Fine Arts students, benefited from the trek to Carmel. White was effusive about what he learned at Point Lobos in correspondence to Edward Weston. The students were familiar with Edward Weston by the time of the field trip to Carmel. His books were in the school library, his work talked about in classes, and one student, Ruth-Marion Baruch, had written Edward Weston: The Man, The Artist, and the Photograph as her master’s thesis while a student at Ohio University…the cachet of Edward Weston’s name on the roster of instructors would increase the schools profile.

All of it arranged by Minor White and to his credit as lead instructor of Ansel Adam’s new photography program.

This series was to continue in a blog post called, “Photography’s Golden Era 13,” but the series will take the new title “San Francisco Art Institute Photography History.” The next post in the series can therefore be found under the name, “San Francisco Art Institute Photography History 13.”

References:

Minor White: The Eye That Shapes by Peter C. Bunnell

The Moment of Seeing: Minor White at the California School of Fine Arts by Jeff Gunderson, Stephanie Comer and Deborah Klochko

Minor White: Rites And Passages (Aperture Monograph)

Photography’s Golden Era 11

May 26th, 2011

California School of Fine Arts Fall 1947 Photography Class

(Continued from the blog post, “Photography’s Golden Era 10,” about the California School of Fine Arts Photography Department application questions.)

Windswept Pass And Clouds, Yosemite High Country, Yosemite National Park, Sierra Nevada, California, copyright 1949 by Philip Hyde.

(See the photograph full screen Click Here.)

“In the early classes with Ansel Adams, we were with him all the time, day and night,” said Ira Latour, photographer and a co-author of “The Golden Decade: Photography at the California School of Fine Arts 1945-1955.” Ira Latour enrolled at the California School of Fine Arts, now the San Francisco Art Institute, in the first classes Ansel Adams offered in 1945. Ira Latour also took the first full-time class that started in the Fall of 1946.

“We were in class with Ansel and in the field with him,” Said Ira Latour. “In the evenings we either printed in the darkroom or got together at Ansel’s house in San Francisco.” The Summer Session 1946, besides being an intensive round-the-clock photography experience, was also an opportunity for students to either show they were ready for the full-time professional training classes or were to continue in the evening classes for amateurs that served as a basis for a semi-professional training.

By September 1947 there were 20 full-time students for the new fall professional class. Nearly all of the students in the Fall 1947 photography class were World War II veterans enrolled using their G.I. Benefits. Ansel Adam’s photography department at the California School of Fine Arts had been inundated with applications from soldiers recently discharged from the armed services. The 20 full-time students selected out of hundreds that applied were as Minor White described them, “Full of plans after the long futility of no planning; older, most of them experienced in photography… and in school because they chose to be.”

The Class Of 1947’s Major Names In Photography

In his book “The Moment of Seeing: Minor White at the California School of Fine Arts,” Jeff Gunderson wrote that the majority of these students had learned photography in the armed services. He added that the Fall 1947 Class included an African American student, David S. Johnson, later famous for his Jazz era photographs of San Francisco’s Fillmore District, two Chinese American students, Charles Wong and Benjamen Chinn, who both became noted photographers. The class also included celebrated documentary and portrait photographer Pirkle Jones, who worked with Dorothea Lange, as well as Pirkle Jones’ future wife who also became a well-known photographer Ruth-Marion Baruch. In letters to Ansel Adams, Minor White praised the work of a number of students, in particular the nature photographs of Philip Hyde and the portraits and natural scenes by Bill Heick. Don Whyte, Ira Latour, Bob Hollingsworth, Helen Howell, Pat Harris, Walter Stoy, John Rogers, and Al Richter all started at the California School of Fine Arts in the Fall 1947 photography class and went on to become prominent photographers in the West Coast tradition.

Who Were The Advanced Students And When Did The Students Socialize?

Philip Hyde later said that some of the students started the class with more advanced photography skills than he did. He said that the more advanced students headed out into the field right away. “Some were more interested in taking pictures of people and some more interested in the outdoors,” Philip Hyde said. “Each student’s preferences were indulged fully. Ben Chinn and many others were independent types. Ben had been photographing since he was 10 years old.”

Benjamen Chinn concurred that many students were more advanced, but did not include himself in that group. He said that Philip Hyde had taken photography classes since high school. He pointed out that Philip Hyde went to Polytechnic High School, a technically oriented high school. Benjamen Chinn also said that Philip Hyde took photography classes at San Francisco City College. The student-instructor Bill Quandt and Benjamen Chinn had both been photographers at Gabriel High School and at San Francisco City College as well. Benjamen Chinn gave more background and explained why he did not get as much feedback as some of the other students:

The rest of the students sometimes would gather around and B. S. about photography and what they photographed. I had my own darkroom. Usually I attended class then came home and did my own work. So, I never knew, I never had any feedback on my own photography from Minor or Ansel until after I turned my work in. I never did know how I was doing. Philip, your dad, only lately told me, maybe 10 years ago, that the people in class would talk about me and wonder what I would come up with for my assignment. I did everything at home. They never knew what I was going to do. They were always interested. They were surprised when I turned in my assignments or they saw my prints at the print exchange parties. The print exchanges were the only times when Minor and Ansel and some of the other instructors saw my work.

Benjamen Chinn explained further about student efforts to understand Ansel Adams’ concepts and how it brought them together:

Maybe I would just skip and go home. Another classmate, George Wallace, and I became friends when Ansel was giving the zone system. It was very, very complicated. George and I and anther guy by the name of Jerry Seward had engineering training. George Wallace was an engineer for US Steel. The way he got into photography was that his family owned US Pipe and it went down after World War II. George made a deal with his brother to sell him his share of the company. George offered his brother $500/month plus his brother would also pay for tuition for him at photography school. Because of his technical and engineering background George sort of understood what Ansel was talking about. Ansel talked about graphs and exposure care, exposure relationship with density, and a lot of people didn’t know what he was talking about. Somehow George Wallace knew, I don’t know how he knew that I could not understand it. I invited him home to my darkroom and we discussed it among the three of us, including Jerry Seward. We talked about the problem of how to explain it to other students. We also used to get together with other students at homes. The student-teacher Bill Quandt used to get the students to go down to North Beach to a cafe called Vesuvio. It was right across from the Save Right Book Shop. We used to get five cent beers and hang out. Now we have all known each other for 60 years or more.

Vesuvio Cafe And The Rise Of North Beach As  A Hip Artist’s Hangout

Benjamen Chinn held that the lifetime friendships that developed in photography school started with discussions about photography, efforts to solve homework problems for class and otherwise just enjoying each other’s company down at Vesuvio. At Vesuvio they sometimes drank beer or other alcoholic beverages, but just as often they had sodas or something to eat. North Beach in the late 1940s and early 1950s already had become an interesting part of town with artists, musicians and the beginnings of what would become the epicenter of the beat generation on the West Coast.

By the mid to late 1950s, just down off Russian Hill where the California School of Fine Arts would soon become the San Francisco Art Institute, many beat generation writers such as William S. Burroughs, Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg made their homes in North Beach. Today the North Beach neighborhood “overflows with independent literature cafes, old-world delicatessens, jazz clubs and gelato parlors,” reads the San Francisco Art Institute website. Besides the cultural experience of North Beach that developed after World War II and is still thriving today, “Close enough to hear the sea lions barking at Pier 39” is Fisherman’s Wharf, San Francisco’s most visited neighborhood.

As far as developing a vibrant art culture like New York City, San Francisco was just starting to blossom after World War II. The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, SFMoMA, did not have much space. “They were located on the third and fourth floors of the Veterans Hall,” Benjamen Chinn said. “They didn’t do much for photography then yet.”

To read more about the forthcoming book, Golden Decade: Photography at the California School of Fine Arts, 1945-1955, and the special exhibition to honor Golden Decade photographers see the blog post, “The Golden Decade: California School of Fine Arts Photography.”

This series was to continue in a blog post called, “Photography’s Golden Era 12,” but the series will take the new title “San Francisco Art Institute Photography History.” The next post in the series can therefore be found under the name, “San Francisco Art Institute Photography History, Part 12.”

Photography’s Golden Era 7

September 4th, 2010

Classmates Philip Hyde And Benjamen Chinn Talk About Ansel Adam’s Photography Department At The California School of Fine Arts

(Continued from the blog post, “Photography’s Golden Era 6.”)

San Francisco Emerges As Post-War Art And Industrial Center Of The West

Locomotive Drive Gear Parts, Tiberon Northwest Pacific Railroad Yards, Marin County, California, 1948 by Philip Hyde. This photograph among others in the Black and White I and Photography School Portfolios will appear in the new book, "The Golden Decade: Photography at the California School of Fine Arts, 1945-1955" to be released Tonight, September 4, 2010 at the opening reception at Smith Andersen North Gallery. Also this evening will be a preview screening of the short documentary film, "Looking For My Father Through Ansel Adam's Lens."

(See the photograph full screen Click Here.)

San Francisco flourished coming out of World War II and grew into the financial capitol of the Western United States. In 1945 Bank of America became the largest bank in the world. Bechtel built Glen Canyon Dam on the Colorado River in the early 1960s, and by the 1970s developed into the largest privately held corporation in the world.

Just up the hill from Kaiser, Bank of America, Bechtel, Utah Mining and Construction and others in San Francisco’s financial district, stood the Mill Towers headquarters of what developers called the “enemies of progress,” the Sierra Club. Before the 1950s the Club had only a few thousand members, but in just two decades its numbers soared into the hundreds of thousands.

While industrialists and environmentalists squared off, San Francisco also became the West Coast’s creative center. After World War II, discharged veterans were armed with a new domestic weapon, the G. I. Bill, that promised to pay for their education in the trade school or college of their choice. The Jazz age brought a vibrant night life and music scene to the streets and night clubs of San Francisco. Artists from war-torn Europe and elsewhere settled in the Bay Area. The many military bases funneled young men into industrial development and provided labor for an expanding city.

Writers and artists took over cheap rentals in Marin County from what had been shipyard housing. Abandoned barges in Sausalito were converted into homes with roofs and plumbing. The mingling of painters, sculptors, print makers, photographers, potters, graphic artists, metalworkers and other artists transformed Northern California and the world. It was a great time to be a photographer in San Francisco.

The Legacy And Optimism Of California School Of Fine Arts Photography

At the California School of Fine Arts now the San Francisco Art Institute, painters and sculptors, many who later became famous, taught or attended classes. At the time the California School of Fine Arts was among a handful of institutions in the nation that offered an extensive full-time program in photography. Ansel Adams had founded the first academic department in the country to teach photography as a profession at the California School of Fine Arts in 1945. The importance of the school and its influence on all of photography has lasted well into the 21st Century. Ansel Adams and his lead instructor Minor White from Princeton, hired on recommendation from Beaumont Newhall, helped transformed the dialog around photographic practice to a serious study. Students were trained to be not only technically proficient but thoughtful and intentional about how they approached the world with a camera. To learn more about Minor White’s classroom and his letters to Beaumont and Nancy Newhall and his student Philip Hyde about one of his questions, see the blog post, “Minor White Letters 1.”

Their education delayed by the War, many of the photography students were at least three years older than the typical college freshmen. “Most of us were in the service where our lives were on hold,” said San Francisco born student Philip Hyde. “The War taught us a lot that grew us up fast.” Though Philip Hyde’s 15-20 classmates got along well, he said they never talked about the War. “We were enthusiastic about our new lives and wanted to leave the past behind.” They were serious, yet “happy to be free” and enthusiastic to pursue such an outstanding opportunity in San Francisco, the post-war hotbed for the incubation of young artists. The photography students were all highly dedicated. One student, Al Richter, always carried his camera, even at the parties. Al Richter took pictures of each class member and gave them prints.

“The times were amazing because optimism permeated the country,” Philip Hyde said. “Those were some of the happiest days of my life. I was newly married and pursuing something that I thought was important to do. There was a lot of lightheartedness in class. A few of the guys were wags, you know, they often cracked jokes.”

Who Made The Jokes In Class

“That was John Rogers cracking the jokes,” said another classmate Benjamen Chinn. “I know how to Joke but I don’t talk as much as John Rogers. John was the one that always teased Minor White. Al Richter was quiet but had a dry sense of humor.” With the humor, positive outlook and time spent together, many of the class members became life-long friends. Al Richter and Benjamen Chinn called Philip Hyde after he moved to the mountains for the rest of their lives. They drove the five hours from San Francisco to Philip Hyde’s home in the wilderness in 1958, 1959 and 1961.

“Al took his vacation and my vacation didn’t matter, I could take it any time,” Ben Chinn said. “Two or three years in a row he wanted to go up and visit Philip. He did the driving and I just rode along. Al might have had a plan, but I never knew it. He never told me where we were going. It was for the best.” They traveled equipped with 4X5 Baby Deardorffs on wooden tripods. They had a rule that if either one of them saw a picture they would stop and photograph for a while before going on. “Paul Caponigro went with us one of those trips,” Ben said. Paul Caponigro was a photographer friend of Ben’s that he introduced to Ansel Adams, and who subsequently became renowned in his own right.

Ansel Adam’s Approach To Teaching

As founder of the school and teacher of the classes from time to time, Ansel Adams had to find the best way to harness the student’s enthusiasm. He said in his autobiography, “The teacher must guide the student carefully asking if his image says what he wanted it to say and what he tried to visualize as the completed print before the exposure was made. It must be the student’s image, not one imposed upon him.”

“He talked to us in class in such a way, especially when we were out in the field,” Philip Hyde said. Though Ansel did not get into the field with us as much as Minor White or Edward Weston. People have said Ansel’s books are essentially the material he taught in class. Both Ansel and Minor devoted a lot of time talking to us about photography. For Ansel ‘Seeing’ was very important.”

Seeing, Looking, Minor White’s Space Analysis And Other Discoveries

“To me seeing is a process that involves much more than just looking at something.” Philip Hyde said. “It involves analyzing what you are looking at and thinking about what you are going to do, what you are doing it for. When you look at something casually you are not really seeing it. You have to look pretty hard and you have to let your eyes go over it and size it up.”

Benjamen Chinn had been a photographer since age 10. He did aerial reconnaissance photography during the War. Ben started in September 1947 just like Philip Hyde, but left in the middle of 1949 to go to art school in Paris. Benjamen Chinn attended the famous Art School at Sorbonne, University of Paris. He also hitch-hiked all over Europe and in time traveled the world. For many years he worked for the U. S. Department of Defense establishing and overseeing its color photo lab in San Francisco for many years.

Neither Philip Hyde nor Benjamen Chinn seemed to have a firm grasp of Minor White’s famous Space Analysis. Ben said it was one thing he never knew. “On the assignment I did what I thought he wanted. I did a far and near subject. You either had to have the far and near all in focus or focus on the background then focus on the foreground. This identified the space. That is what I thought it was. I am not sure.”

“I don’t have a specific definition of it,” Philip Hyde said. “It is roughly as I say, looking at what is there and deciding what you will include. In doing that you have to look over the space you are pointing at with the camera. The camera and lens are going to select something to capture. We learned to operate the camera to select what we wanted. We learned to take in the whole scene and see what is really there. With some subjects in some photographs my process of seeing was almost instantaneous. The average passer-by doesn’t see everything, not because their eye missed it, but because they didn’t notice it, their brain edited it out.”

This emphasis on careful seeing was a key component of what Ansel Adams, Minor White and Edward Weston taught at the California School of Fine Arts. Philip Hyde explained that some of it was verbalized and some of it he received “largely by osmosis.” He said he learned many of his life-long tools of perception through immersion. “I learned by looking at photographs, talking about them and being totally involved with being a photographer,” Philip Hyde said. “Certain details of a scene capture my attention. With some photographs I experienced a recognition that there was something I ought to photograph. Sometimes seeing can be very quick. After the decision to make a photograph, then you can go back over it and analyze and make sure everything is right about your adjustments: how you framed it and so on. After you see the photograph the process continues with deciding exposure and lens settings. When I’m out looking for photographs it is like I am setting up my own interior camera.”

Pre-Visualization, Photography Exhibitions And Student Assignments

Ansel Adams taught students to make a rectangular black cardboard frame cut out to compose pictures at first. The student could put that special film over the opening and even end up with a black and white image. Philip Hyde said this was only the initial phase in working with the camera. “I wanted to use my eyes rather than an artificial piece of cardboard.”

Philip Hyde said Ansel Adams and Minor White generally had no trouble motivating the students. “All they had to do was say, ‘we are going to do this’ and everybody would be ready to do it. If there was a show at the school or at the San Francisco Museum of Art, Minor would send us on assignment to report on the show.” Sometimes these reports were written and sometimes they were given in verbal form, one student at a time to the rest of the class. “With the verbal reports, we were to describe the show and say something about what impressed us and what we looked for and what we thought the show meant. Sometimes we would describe a picture we particularly liked and explain what about it interested us. There was a lot of that kind of analysis. That was one of the ways we learned.”

For information on a unique exhibition opening tonight of the CSFA photographers from this era go to the blog post, “The Golden Decade: California School of Fine Arts Photography.” For more on the landscape photography of Edward Weston see the blog post, “Edward Weston’s Landscape Philosophy Part 1.”

Continued in the next blog post in the series, “Photography’s Golden Era 8.”

References:

Taped Interviews with Philip Hyde

Taped Interviews with Benjamen Chinn

Community of Creatives Website

Smith Andersen North Gallery Website

The Moment of Seeing: Minor White at the California School of Fine Arts by Stephanie Comer, Deborah Klochko and Jeff Gunderson