Posts Tagged ‘Modernism’

Philip Hyde in “Ansel Adams: Before and After” at the Booth Western Art Museum

December 15th, 2015

Ansel Adams Before and After

Exhibition at the Booth Western Art Museum

Over 400 People Attended the SOLD OUT Opening Reception…

Aspens, San Miguel River, San Juan Rockies, Colorado, 1974 by Philip Hyde. One of the images Lumiere is showing as part of the Lumiere Holiday Collection. The other two Philip Hyde photographs shown as part of the online exhibition are "Virginia Creeper, Northern Sierra Nevada, California, 1977" and "Mt. Denali, Reflection Pond, Denali National Park, Alaska, 1971."

Aspens, San Miguel River, San Juan Rockies, Colorado, 1974 by Philip Hyde. Courtesy of Lumiere Gallery.

In 2010, the second largest museum in Georgia, the Booth Western Art Museum, hosted an exhibition called Ansel Adams: A Legacy. This show attained a new milestone in attendance and helped the Booth establish creative photography as an important part of its future with the associated creation of the Booth Photography Guild.

The Booth Western Art Museum, affiliated with the Smithsonian Institute Museums in Washington DC, now presents a new exhibition, Ansel Adams: Before and After, which has already set new precedents in several ways. The outside marketing and publicity by photographers, galleries and other associates for Ansel Adams: Before and After was dark for the first 30 days. The Booth wanted to see how its own community would respond to museum originated outreach.

From the show text:

Exhibition Opening Reception and Lecture SOLD OUT!
On Saturday, November 14, 2015, over 400 people sat in awe of Dr. Michael Adams, son of legendary photographer, Ansel Adams, as he gave the keynote speech for the opening of Ansel Adams: Before and After. Many of the attendees had the opportunity to hear from contemporary photographers Cara Weston and Bob Kolbrener, who are both highlighted in the exhibition.

The Booth Western Art Museum sold $10.00 tickets to the show opening and could not fit any more people into the facility. The Booth written materials also refer to Ansel Adams as the most recognized name in photography. Ansel Adams is not only the most recognized name in photography, but the most recognized western photographer in Georgia and other southern and eastern states. The new Booth show is helping to change that though because besides exhibiting more than 25 original photographs by Ansel Adams, the more than 100 total works in the show “represent 24 photographers who influenced Ansel Adams, worked at the same time as his peers, or are contemporary artists and professional image makers who have been influenced by his legacy.”

The Influence of Ansel Adams

Ansel Adam’s influence on the entire medium of photography continues to show up in imagery today. Furthermore, those who worked with him cite him as one of their most significant influences. Having co-founded with Beaumont Newhall the world’s first photography department in a major museum at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City and having founded the first photography department in an art school to teach creative photography as a full-time profession at the California School of Fine Art, now the San Francisco Art Institute, Ansel Adams with more students than any other photographer in history, has influenced photography more than any other single photographer.

The exhibition also shows how photographers influenced by Ansel Adams, such as Philip Hyde, have influenced others. Ansel Adams was a teacher of teachers. “Aspens, San Miguel River, Rocky Mountains, Colorado” by Philip Hyde shows Ansel Adams’ influence, while “Spot Lit Trees II, Yosemite, California” by Robert Weingarten is reminiscent of Philip Hyde’s aspen image. Considering that Philip Hyde led some of the earliest color Ansel Adams Workshops and Robert Weingarten participated as a student and a teacher in his own right with the Ansel Adams Workshops, these and other influences had plenty of fertile opportunities to develop.

How Modernism Began in Photography

Curators and art critics have called Edward Weston the father of modern photography. As co-founder of Group f64 with Ansel Adams, Imogen Cunningham and Dorothea Lange, also part of the current Booth exhibit Ansel Adams: Before and After, Edward Weston and Ansel Adams were the spiritual leaders of the group whose members found themselves all moving away from pictorialism around the same time in the early 1930s. In the early part of the 20th Century, photographers practicing pictorialism using various techniques in lighting and soft focus and other effects to make photographs look like paintings with the intent that photography would be accepted as art and shown in museums and galleries.

With the striking example of the clean, crisp, sharp focused throughout, naturally lit images of Paul Strand, Alfred Stieglitz vocally abandoned pictorialism and embraced realism. He had the financial resources and influence in the arts to support like-minded photographers like those in Group f64 in California. Group f64, Stieglitz and Strand pioneered the modernist aesthetic in photography. Nature, natural objects, simple nudes, scenes of everyday life and people portrayed as they were found became the subjects and these were given space to breathe in compositions. Photography trailed behind some of the other arts in transitioning to modernism, but Encyclopedia Britannica defines well the rise of this revolution in the arts overall:

Modernism in the arts is a radical break with the past and the concurrent search for new forms of expression. Modernism fostered a period of experimentation in the arts from the 19th to the mid-20th Century, particularly in the years following World War I. In an era characterized by industrialization, rapid social change, and advances in science and the social sciences, Modernists felt a growing alienation incompatible with Victorian morality, optimism, and convention. New ideas in psychology, philosophy and political theory kindled a search for new modes of expression.

Photographs on Display in the Show

Ansel Adams: Before and After progresses chronologically through the work of Paul Strand, Alfred Stieglitz, Group f64, then later contemporaries and early protégés of Ansel Adams such as Brett Weston, Cole Weston, Philip Hyde, Pirkle Jones, Al Weber, Bob Kolbrener and Brett Weston’s daughter Cara Weston, who knew Ansel Adams growing up. Finally, contemporary photographers in the show who were influenced by Ansel Adams include Robert Weingarten, Julieanne Kost, Rex Naden, Robert Glenn Ketchum, Peter Essick, John Mariana, Jay Dusard, Tim Barnwell and others. The exhibition contains two to four photographs by each photographer.

The three photographs in the show by Philip Hyde are “Aspens, San Miguel River, Rocky Mountains, Colorado,” “Great Overhang, Moqui Canyon, Glen Canyon, Utah” and “Marble Gorge, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona,” all by courtesy of Lumiere Gallery. Philip Hyde made “Great Overhang, Moqui Canyon” in 1964, the year Glen Canyon Dam began to back up “Lake” Powell. “Marble Gorge, Grand Canyon” appeared in the book Navajo Wildlands in the Sierra Club Exhibit Format Series, started by Ansel Adams, Nancy Newhall and David Brower, that popularized the coffee table photography book. This series more than any other photography books, exhibited the new look of modernism in photography and helped in the campaigns to make many of America’s national parks.

Welcome to the Booth Western Art Museum

The Booth Western Art Museum is the ideal venue for Ansel Adams: Before and After, offering plenty of space for such an overwhelmingly popular show and accompanying series of lectures. Besides the SOLD OUT Opening Reception and Lecture, on Saturday January 9, 2016, the Booth will host a Workshop and Evening Lecture with  on how Ansel Adams might have used Photoshop. On Saturday, January 23, 2016, contemporary photographers featured in the exhibition will participate in a Symposium with Scholars. Details of the four sessions of this event are below.

The Booth Western Art Museum, opened in August 2003, is the only museum of its kind in the Southeast. With its 120,000 square foot building, The Booth houses the largest permanent exhibition space for Western American art in the country. Permanent galleries include: American West Gallery, Cowboy Gallery, Face of the West, Heading West, The Modern West, Sagebrush Ranch, James and Carolyn Millar Presidential Gallery, War is Hell, and a two-story Sculpture Court. There is also a Temporary Exhibition Gallery, a Special Exhibition Gallery and the Bergman Theatre Lobby Gallery, as well as two theaters, a café, a ballroom, museum store, a reference library and one of only two glass elevators in the country with historical balance weights.

Ongoing Related Events and Activities

Exhibition Opening Reception and Lecture SOLD OUT! (Over 400 people attended.)
Saturday, November 14, 2015
Dr. Michael Adams, son of Ansel Adams

Workshop and Evening Lecture
Saturday, January 9, 2016
Ms. Julieanne Kost, Adobe Systems, Inc.

Symposium with Scholars and Photographers in the Exhibition
Saturday, January 23, 2016

Opening Session: The People Behind the Pictures
Bob Yellowlees, moderator and Meg Partridge, photography scholar and filmmaker

Second Session: Archiving Americana a Face at a Time
Seth Hopkins, moderator, photographers Jay Dusard and Tim Barnwell

Third Session: Landscape Photography and Public Policy
Seth Hopkins with photographers Bob Kolbrener, Peter Essick and Robert Glenn Ketchum

Fourth Session: Photography in the 21st Century
Bob Yellowlees with photographers Rex Naden and John Mariana

The Booth Western Art Museum
501 Museum Drive
Cartersville, Georgia  30120
770-387-1300
www.boothmuseum.org

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 2

February 4th, 2010

Photography’s Golden Era 2

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

Are We Currently in Another Golden Era of Photography?

HEY, THAT’S NOT ART!!!!!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photography’s Golden Era 1

January 22nd, 2010

San Francisco, California, 1948, by Philip Hyde, 5X7 Deardorf View Camera, made for one of Minor White's assignments at the California School of Fine Arts.

Photography’s Golden Era 1

(See the photograph full screen: Click here.)

With the digital revolution, photography is branching in many new exciting directions. Some of these trends feed creativity and enhance the medium, some cheapen it like a hollow, commercialized “waffle with too much syrup,” as expressed by master landscape photographer Carr Clifton. The divergence in photography today and its eventual implications can be better understood in the context of the recent history of photography in the 20th Century, in the differences between West Coast and East Coast photography. In particular, people with an interest in landscape photography, will find directly relevant and creatively illuminating, the history of the West Coast tradition, straight photography, Group f.64 and the community of fine artists of many persuasions that flourished on the Monterey Peninsula and in the San Francisco Bay Area after World War II.

The War brought California to power as a manufacturing center. Americans and Europeans came to the state for jobs. With the expanded economy, as the war ended, San Francisco especially, became a hub of creative energy, that combined the talents of artists who had escaped the destruction in Europe, with the enthusiasm of American Soldiers searching for new directions, now that they were released from the armed services and their interrupted lives could begin again. The 1940’s San Francisco art scene gave rise to many art movements and was the convergence for others. The San Francisco Renaissance in poetry and writing with Ralph Gleason, Alan Watts, and Kenneth Rexroth, was the precursor to the 1950s Beat Generation and its writers such as Neal Cassady, Allen Ginsberg, William S. Burroughs and Jack Kerouac. The Jazz age peaked in the 1940s and added juice to other art forms. Paris, France had been the world’s center of Modernist painting up until Hitler’s invasion in 1940. Thereafter, Paris Modernists dispersed and went underground until well after the War and many of them escaped to San Francisco and New York City. Both of these cities became centers for Abstract Impressionism, San Francisco became the focal point for the Asian Aesthetic that influenced primarily the visual arts and other forms of expression, while Dixieland Jazz originated in New Orleans, jumped to Chicago and New York and soon flourished in diverse San Francisco as well.

With the convergence of innovation in centers such as New York and San Francisco, it was the ideal time for photography to transform and become recognized as an art form. Photography had not been considered an art until the 1930s and was still rarely accepted as anything more than a rote recording of reality in 1945 when San Francisco native Ansel Adams, California School of Fine Arts Director Douglas MacAgy and San Francisco Art Association Board President Eldridge “Ted” Spencer, began to organize the world’s first fine art photography department. However the story of how photography changed into its own art form, began farther back, with Alfred Stieglitz in New York City and a few of his associates, who inspired certain photographers on the West Coast, who in turn became Group f.64, of whom Ansel Adams, Edward Weston and Imogen Cunningham taught at the California School of Fine Arts, now the San Francisco Art Institute, that Philip Hyde attended from 1946 to 1950. The blog posts in this series on the “Golden Era of Photography” will give a summarized history of the birth of straight photography, the West Coast tradition, the founding and cultivation of the photography department at the California School of Fine art, and the early foundations of landscape photography as a fine art.

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