Posts Tagged ‘Pirkle Jones’

Golden Decade Shows at Laguna Art Museum and Minnesota Street Project

February 22nd, 2017

Current Golden Decade Exhibits and Book Events

Smith Andersen North Gallery

Laguna Art Museum

Minnesota Street Project

San Francisco Art Institute

Bankhead Theater Gallery

The Golden Decade, San Francisco, Ansel Adams, Minor White and the California School of Fine Arts History

Piers, Waterfront, San Francisco, California, 1948 by Philip Hyde. An original vintage contact silver print of this photograph was the first to sell at the first Golden Decade Show in 2010 at Smith Andersen North, attended by over 500 people. (Click on image to see large.)

Art historians, critics, gallerists, curators and museum staff have taken to calling the 10 years after World War II, 1945-1955, The Golden Decade of photography on the West Coast and elsewhere around the nation. Not only did the arts bustle and surge with energy and popularity in San Francisco and elsewhere on the West Coast during this period, but a new department of photography founded by Ansel Adams would in time have world-wide influence as it helped to transform photography into art.

The photography department at the California School of Fine Arts, renamed the San Francisco Art Institute in 1961, was the first College level art program to teach creative photography as a full-time profession. At the recommendation of Beaumont Newhall, who had earlier co-founded with Ansel Adams the first museum photography department at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, Ansel Adams hired and transplanted Minor White from Princeton to San Francisco to lead instruction at the new photography program at CSFA. Read the never before published Philip Hyde notes on a number of Minor White’s lectures including the famous one on Space Analysis, the notes from the Space Analysis Lecture start a short portion of a series of blog posts based on Philip Hyde’s notes.

Minor White in turn invited to guest lecture some of the most influential photographers at the time including Dorothea Lange, Imogen Cunningham, Lisette Model, Nancy and Beaumont Newhall, Homer Page, Alma Lavenson and Bill Quandt. The early classes at the school also took field trips down to Carmel to visit the studio of Edward Weston, now considered by many the father of modern photography. Students also photographed with Edward Weston in the field at nearby Point Lobos State Natural Reserve.

Ansel Adams taught a number of classes beginning in 1945. By 1946, Ansel Adams offered the first full-time Summer Session. Philip Hyde first attended the school and Minor White first assisted in this class. By the Fall of 1946, Minor White took over teaching and by the Fall of 1947 Philip Hyde began the full-time program, which ran three years through 1950. Read more on “The Early Days of Ansel Adams’ Photography Program.” Eavesdrop on a conversation with “Philip Hyde and Benjamen Chinn talking about Ansel Adams’ Photography Department.” Discover why “The California School of Fine Arts Makes Art History.”

In subsequent years, students from the Golden Decade period put on a number of retrospective exhibitions, most of them located at the school, renamed the San Francisco Art Institute.

Contemporary Interest and Events

Interest in the photography of both students and teachers from the Golden Decade era stepped up significantly when Stephanie Comer, Deborah Klochko and Jeff Gunderson began interviewing and researching their 2006 book, “The Moment of Seeing: Minor White at the California School of Fine Art.” During the lead up to their book release, in December 2005, four months before Philip Hyde passed on, David Leland Hyde took his father to a reunion lunch in San Francisco organized by Ken and Victoria Whyte Ball. At the reunion lunch classmates who had not seen each other in many years, sometimes as long as 50 years or more, exchanged stories, signed each other’s prints, helped identify people in photographs, and talked of the years since photography school and the unforgettable times during photography school.

Victoria Whyte Ball is the daughter of Don Whyte, one of Philip Hyde’s classmates. After the reunion lunch, Ken and Victoria Whyte Ball began to help Bill Heick, Ira Latour and Cameron Macauley edit and complete their long-planned and only partly written book called “The Golden Decade: Photography at the California School of Fine Art 1945-1955.” The Golden Decade would be another retrospective volume, already many years in the making, though told more from the students’ perspective. All three of the original authors lived to see a self-published version of this book come out in 2010 in conjunction with a gallery show at Smith Andersen North in San Anselmo, Marin County, California. Over 500 people attended the Golden Decade show opening and a Philip Hyde vintage print of “Piers, Waterfront, San Francisco” was the first to sell. The show was extended for an extra month to include a new closing reception and book signing.

From 2010 to 2015, there were more Golden Decade Group Exhibits and a number of shows by the individual photographers at Smith Andersen North and elsewhere. At Mumm Winery in Napa, California, the holders of a large permanent collection of original Ansel Adams prints, Mumm Napa put on a Golden Decade show in February 2014. Stefan Kirkeby, gallery owner of Smith Andersen North, who had taken a special interest in representing and helping Golden Decade photographers, put on exhibitions of photographic prints by Golden Decade artists Benjamen Chinn, Ruth-Marion Baruch and Pirkle Jones, Leonard Zielaskiewicz, Charles Wong, Paul Caponigro, Philip Hyde and John Upton. The widely acclaimed and attended Smith Andersen North show This Land Is Our Land: Philip Hyde and the American Wilderness, put together by Stefan Kirkeby and David Leland Hyde, enjoyed a turnout larger than any other show at the gallery besides the 2010 Golden Decade show.

Redesigned New Golden Decade Book Published by Steidl

During this five-year period, Ken and Victoria Whyte Ball searched for a publisher for the Golden Decade. Finally in 2015, the internationally respected premier photography book publisher Gerhard Steidl of Göttingen, Germany, decided to publish a redesigned version of the Golden Decade book. Steidl published the book in April and shipped it to the US in May of 2016.

Book signings kicked off in the US at the famous Strand bookstore in New York City on Saturday, October 29. The Strand, one of the world’s most prominent English language bookstores, was established in 1927 and claims to contain 18 miles of books. From then on Steidl has kept Ken and Victoria Whyte Ball busy doing book signing events. Other Golden Decade photographers who are still alive, with us and have also attended and signed books at some signings include John Upton, Gerald Ratto, David Johnson, Stan Zrnich, Charles Wong, Stephen Goldstein and Zoe Lowenthal.

Following the book signing at the Strand in New York, the next major Golden Decade event was an opening and book signing at Smith Andersen North for Golden Decade photographer Gerald Ratto. Gerald Ratto’s photography exhibit was on view from November 12 thru December 23, 2016. Many Golden Decade fans bought books and had them signed at this gallery opening.

Golden Decade Gallery and Museum Shows

In case anyone missed this show and signing, an official Golden Decade Exhibition sponsored by Smith Andersen North and Casemore Kirkeby, housed at the Minnesota Street Project in San Francisco, opened February 4 and will run until February 28, 2017. At the opening for this Minnesota Street Project show, Stefan Kirkeby, owner of Smith Andersen North and co-owner of Casemore Kirkeby, made introductory remarks and introduced Jeff Gunderson, San Francisco Art Institute Librarian and Archivist and contributor to The Moment of Seeing. After Jeff Gunderson spoke, Jack Fulton, photographer and retired SFAI professor, talked further about the history of the photography program.

Also opening this month, on February 19, a Golden Decade museum show will run through May 29, 2017 at the Laguna Art Museum. Founded in 1918, the Laguna Art Museum is the premier museum of California Art created by California artists.

On March 1, 2017 back at the photography program campus at the San Francisco Art Institute, there will be another Golden Decade book signing and presentation. Specifics on the two shows currently up and ongoing and the upcoming signing at SFAI are listed below.

The Golden Decade Exhibit
February 4 thru 28, 2017
Smith Andersen North—Casemore Kirkeby
Minnesota Street Project
1275 Minnesota Street
San Francisco, California 94107
415-851-9808

The Golden Decade: Photography at the California School of Fine Arts, 1945-1955
February 19 thru May 29, 2017
Laguna Art Museum
307 Cliff Drive
Laguna Beach, California 92651
949-494-8971

The Golden Decade Book Signing and Panel Discussion
A Conversation with Ken and Victoria Whyte Ball, Jeff Gunderson, Stefan Kirkeby and Golden Decade Photographers John Upton, Stephen Goldstine, David Johnson, Charles Wong, Gerald Ratto and Stan Zrnich.
6 pm, March 1, 2017
San Francisco Art Institute
800 Chestnut Street
San Francisco, California 94133
415-771-7020

The Golden Decade Art Exhibition at the Bankhead Theater Gallery
March 4 thru March 10, 2017
Book signing March 10 at 6:30-8:30 pm
Bankhead Theater
Livermore Valley Performing Arts Center
2400 First Street
Livermore, CA 94551
925-373-6800

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

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?

Golden Decade Photography Exhibit At Mumm Napa Gallery

February 13th, 2014

The Golden Decade: Photography at the California School of Fine Arts, 1945-1955

Mumm Napa Gallery Exhibition

February 15 through July 13, 2014

EXTENDED TO AUGUST 17, 2014

With CLOSING RECEPTION AUGUST 8, 2014, 4 – 6 pm

Opening Reception February 15, 6:30 – 8:30 pm

Mumm Napa Gallery

Several artists featured in the exhibit will attend…

RSVP  707-967-7740

Glacial Granite, High Sierra Backcountry, Yosemite National Park, California, copyright 1950 Philip Hyde. A 1950 vintage silver gelatin 5X7 contact print and two other Philip Hyde photographs will participate in the Golden Decade Photography Exhibit at Mumms Napa, Main Gallery.

Glacial Granite, High Sierra Backcountry, Yosemite National Park, California, copyright 1950 Philip Hyde. A 1950 vintage silver gelatin 5X7 contact print and two other Philip Hyde photographs will participate in the Golden Decade Photography Exhibit at Mumms Napa, Main Gallery.

Smith Andersen North and Mumm Napa Gallery are pleased to present The Golden Decade: Photography at the California School of Fine Arts 1945-1955, featuring the work of over 30 artists who emerged from the first 10 years of the photography program founded by Ansel Adams and led by Minor White. The program was the first in the nation to teach creative photography as a profession.

Minor White became the primary influence on the development of the new department after he replaced Ansel Adams as director in 1946. The school’s guest instructors were among the most influential figures in photography, including Edward Weston, Dorothea Lange, Imogen Cunningham, and Lisette Model.

The department gave rise to photographers who became important contributors to visual culture and whose work was shown in important exhibits, such as The Family of Man (MoMA, 1955, New York and international venues) and Perceptions (San Francisco Museum of Art, 1954). Among the artists were Rose Mandel, William Heick, Pat Harris, Bob Hollingsworth, C. Cameron Macauley, Ira Latour, Benjamen Chinn, Gerald Ratto, David Johnson, Ruth-Marion Baruch, Pirkle Jones, Philip Hyde, and John Upton; the last three of whom had significant publishing careers. Many of them were prominently featured in Aperture magazine, in the early years while Minor White was the editor, and Philip Hyde was exhibited in the Smithsonian and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The California School of Fine Arts was renamed the San Francisco Art Institute in 1961, and the school continues to train and develop world-renowned artists.

The Golden Decade: Photography at the California School of Fine Arts 1945-1955 Mumm Napa Gallery exhibit consists of almost 100 prints, many of which have not been shown before. We look forward to seeing you at Mumm Napa.

Mumm Napa

8445 Silverado Trail

Rutherford, California.

For more information and directions to the exhibit visit < Mumm Napa > .

Sierra Club Books: Exhibit Format Series 2

October 4th, 2012

Sierra Club Books: Exhibit Format Series

Part Two: The Making of This Is The American Earth

(Continued from the blog post, “Sierra Club Books: Exhibit Format Series 1.”)

Aspens, East Side of the Sierra Nevada off the Tioga Road near Yosemite National Park, California, copyright 1949 by Philip Hyde. A close variation on the photograph of Philip Hyde’s that appears in “This Is the American Earth.” Made with an 8X10 Deardorff large format view camera.

“The Exhibit Format Series put the Sierra Club on the map,” Philip Hyde said in a 2004 interview. The Sierra Club Foundation, founded by David Brower, had the central purpose of operating the Sierra Club publishing program that published all Sierra Club Books and the Exhibit Format Series as it’s mainstay. For more on David Brower see the blog post, “David Brower: Photographer And Environmentalist 1.” The Sierra Club Books’ Exhibit Format Series not only popularized the coffee table photography book, but brought an awareness of land conservation, wilderness preservation and environmental ethics into the national and eventually worldwide limelight.

The oversize photography books in the Exhibit Format Series spearheaded conservation campaigns to create Redwood National Park, North Cascades National Park, to save the Grand Canyon from two dams, to expand Canyonlands and many others causes. Photographer Ansel Adams, Museum Curator, Writer and Art Critic Nancy Newhall and Sierra Club Executive Director David Brower invented the Sierra Club Books Exhibit Format Series.

Life Magazine Photographer, Joe Munroe, interviewed David Brower in 1967 for Infinity, the magazine of the American Society of Media Photographers or ASMP, regarding the new Exhibit Format Series. Joe Munroe asked David Brower, “You’ve called the Sierra Club’s Exhibit Format Series ‘Books with a bias.’ What is the central bias behind these books?”

David Brower answered:

We make it perfectly clear that we like this wild country we’re portraying in our books. We want it saved and we don’t want it paved, or logged, or dammed, or sprayed, or polluted. Our point is that there’s only 5 or 10 percent of the country left in its un-messed-up wildness. If our economy cannot operate on the 90 or 95 percent that has already been changed, that other 5 or 10 percent won’t save it; so our big effort must be in doing better with the land we’re already on. We say let’s pretend this 5 or 10 percent just doesn’t exist, so we can save it for itself for whatever answers there are to questions we haven’t learned how to ask yet. This has got to last for all the generations we expect to be aboard this planet. We’d like to have some of the wild spots left and we’ve been trying to stress this in several ways, one of which is through these books with an extra measure of physical size, the best of reproduction quality, and photographic and literary excellence.

This is the American Earth, the first book in the Sierra Club Books Exhibit Format Series, was a perfect example of just these attributes. This Is The American Earth offered text by Nancy Newhall and photographs primarily by Ansel Adams joined by some of his photographer friends such as Ray Atkeson, Werner Bischoff, Wynn Bullock, Henri Cartier-Bresson, William Garnett, Philip Hyde, Pirkle Jones, Eliot Porter, Edward Weston, Minor White, Cedric Wright and others. All in black and white, the book has both literary and visual eloquence unparalleled in books containing photographs.

The front flap of the Sierra Club Centennial edition published in 1992 said:

First published to acclaim in 1960, This Is The American Earth launched the Sierra Club Exhibit Format Series, creating a revolution in publishing and in conservation action and attitudes. “This Is The American Earth is one of the great statements in the history of conservation,” proclaimed Justice William O. Douglas… Called “terrifying and beautiful” by the New York Times, This Is The American Earth presents eighty-five powerful black and white photographs—fourty-four by Ansel Adams and others by such eminent American photographers as Eliot Porter, Philip Hyde, Edward Weston and Margaret Bourke-White. Accompanying the images is a luminous text in blank verse by Nancy Newhall. Reprinted in rich duotones from new prints supplied by the Ansel Adams Trust, the pictures exhibit the stark contrast between those spaces forever altered by the forces of development and those left unscarred by human presence. As Nancy Newhall explores the intricate threads that unite the earth as an ever-shifting whole, and Adams exults in Yosemite’s rocky peaks, and Porter reveres a single tern in flight, William Garnett despairs at waves of smog and frantic mazes of tract housing that forsake all of nature’s singularity. The images, so bold in their divergence, are an eloquent call for the preservation of wilderness. This Is The American Earth compels us to ask what is the value of solitude, the cost of freedom, the legacy of our ingenuity—and the peril of our unwavering march from nature.

Ansel Adams first conceived This Is The American Earth as an exhibit of photographs, in response to the Natioal Park Service suggestion that something more functional be done with the Joseph LeConte memorial building in Yosemite Valley.  Ansel Adams asked Nancy Newhall to bring in her skill with exhibits and text she gained as curator of the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. The exhibition that opened simultaneously at the LeConte Memorial in Yosemite Valley and at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco, gained a world-wide audience through the Smithsonian Institute, while a number of prominent publishers and foundations helped the show become a book. The idea of the project was to educate the public about conservation. Ansel Adams said in brainstorming sessions with his wife Virginia Adams and Nancy Newhall later quoted in Modern Photography Magazine:

What about a show on the whole of conservation?… Clear up the confusion in people’s minds, show them the issues at stake, and the dangers… Show the importance of the spiritual values as well as the material ones by making the most beautiful exhibition yet… A lot of people think Conservationists are a bunch of long-haired cranks and wild-eyed mystics. It’s about time they were given a chance to understand the broad principles and the full scope for which we’re fighting…

Ansel Adams raised the money to mount the exhibition himself. Nancy Newhall reviewed thousands of photographs, designed the overall concept and layout of the show and wrote the text. Beaumont and Christi Newhall’s new introduction to the Sierra Club Centennial edition described how the printing and organization of the show came together:

Six photographers made their own prints [including Philip Hyde] for the show, and Ansel Adams, with the help of his assistant Pirkle Jones, made the rest from the photographer’s own negatives. These images were attached to fourteen panels, each seven by four feet. Some of the photographs were mounted with spacers, making them stand out from the panels, and giving a certain visual liveliness to the show. Also displayed were natural objects and geological specimens such as butterflies, mushrooms coral, crystals, and shells, as well as small Egyptian and Greek artifacts. These objects added color, variety, a sense of life, and a sense of immediacy… Labels made from Nancy Newhall’s text were placed together with the photographs where they seemed appropriate, giving the exhibition an even broader scope. Immediately, the show received an overwhelming enthusiastic response.

An article in the November 1955 issue of Modern Photography Magazine stated:

This Is the American Earth is one of the most beautiful and remarkable photographic exhibitions ever put together… Various organizations have proposed to circulate it in reproduction to every community, to make it into a movie for TV and ordinary theater showings, to publish it as a book for distribution in this country and throughout the world. Why all the excitement? There are two answers, one is the theme of the show, the other its execution. The theme stresses the need, the history, the purpose of the conservation of America’s resources. The execution includes the display of some of the most penetrating and beautiful photographs ever made…

Nancy Newhall completely revised the text as the exhibition became a book, “to reflect new thinking and expansion of the original ideas.” Beaumont and Christi Newhall’s introduction explained:

The exhibit had focused on conservation and the “national park idea.” The theme of the book is avowedly ecological and environmental. It embraces an understanding of the interrelation of all resources including man, and the need for reverence and preservation of these resources. The impassioned, poetic text also deals with the tragic effects of man’s greed and ignorance throughout history upon this planet. The book was an instant success. It was chosen as one of the forty-six “Notable Books”  of 1960 by the nation’s librarians, and was selected Best Book of the Year by the American Institute of Graphic Arts. It was reviewed in newspapers and periodicals throughout the country, often accompanied by photographs from the book and large sections of the text.

In Ansel Adams’ last living interview by Art News in 1984, he said, “…It boils down to the fact that the world is in a state of potential destruction. There’s no use worrying about anything else.”

(Continued in the blog post, “Sierra Club Books: Exhibit Format Series 3.”)

How Color Came To Landscape Photography

April 19th, 2012

Photography For Art’s Sake, For Earth’s Sake Or Both?

Drake's Beach, Point Reyes National Seashore, California, 1972 by Philip Hyde. This photograph was first published in the revised second edition of Island In Time, 1972.

(See photograph full screen, CLICK HERE.)

Ansel Adams, Eliot Porter and Philip Hyde were the three primary landscape photographers of the Sierra Club Exhibit Format Series. The Series influenced a generation of landscape photographers as it redefined the photography book and brought international attention to the protection of wild places through photographs. While Ansel Adams and Eliot Porter were both Sierra Club Board Members and committed conservationists, Philip Hyde dedicated his life to the portrayal and protection of wilderness chiefly through landscape photography.

Both Ansel Adams and Eliot Porter considered the art of photography their foremost reason for making landscape photographs. Ansel Adams went so far as to say that he did not want people to view his photographs as propaganda for any cause. If his images were used in environmental campaigns that was all for the good, but he did not want that to be thought of as the motive for their creation. In contrast, Philip Hyde expressly stated that his reason for being a landscape photographer was to “share the beauty of nature and encourage people to preserve wild places.”

David Brower Sent Philip Hyde On The Projects That Made National Parks And Designated Wilderness

Though he had fine art training in Ansel Adam’s photography department at the California School of Fine Arts, now the San Francisco Art institute, a fair portion of Philip Hyde’s landscape photography was documentary. Dorothea Lange had a significant impact on Philip Hyde and his classmates. She spent significant time in classes at CSFA as a guest lecturer, assistant and advisor to Minor White and the students. Dorothea Lange showed the power of photography in affecting social awareness. Philip Hyde applied what he learned to conservation photography as it transformed into modern environmentalism in the 1950s and 1960s. He became the “go-to-guy” for Sierra Club Executive Director David Brower and at times for other leaders such as the Wilderness Society’s Howard Zahniser, primary author of the Wilderness Act.

Eliot Porter was a doctor early in his photography career and later he came to the Sierra Club with his own completed ideas. Ansel Adams was awarded two Guggenheim Fellowships to photograph the national parks. Meanwhile, Philip Hyde, young, motivated, talented, willing to work for little besides expenses, could take off on short notice wherever David Brower and other conservation leaders sent him to bring back images that would show them the beauty each place had to offer. Between the Exhibit Format Series and other photography books of the same era published by the Sierra Club, Philip Hyde had more photographs in more of the volumes than any other photographer.

This is the American Earth By Nancy Newhall and Ansel Adams Launched The Exhibit Format Series

The Exhibit Format Series was conceived in 1960 by Ansel Adams, Nancy Newhall and David Brower. The first book in the Series, This is the American Earth, mainly consisted of Ansel Adam’s landscape photographs and Nancy Newhall’s eloquent prose. The creators also invited a few other landscape photographers to participate such as Edward Weston, Minor White, Philip Hyde, Cedric Wright, William Garnett, Wynn Bullock, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Eliot Porter, Pirkle Jones and others. An accompanying exhibition of the photographs toured nationally and internationally.

In Island In Time Is The Preservation of The First Master of Black and White, and Color Landscape Photography

In 1962, the Sierra Club published Eliot Porter’s In Wildness is the Preservation of the World.  It outsold all of the other books in the Exhibit Format Series including This is the American Earth. Eliot Porter became known as the photographer who introduced color to landscape photography. However, the same year the Sierra Club also published Island In Time: the Point Reyes Peninsula text by Harold Gilliam and landscape photographs by Philip Hyde. Island In Time was not a well-planned art project like In Wildness Is The Preservation Of The World. Island In Time was rushed through to have a book to show in fund raising efforts to buy the ranches of Point Reyes before developers bought the land and began to build homes. It had a more documentary look and purpose, but it also showed the world the impact of color and helped establish color photography as the new trend in publishing and printing. Island In Time: the Point Reyes Peninsula contained beautiful color landscape photographs as well as black and white images together for the first time. While Philip Hyde became the first landscape photographer to master both mediums, Island In Time helped establish Point Reyes National Seashore and color photography. For more on Philip Hyde’s black and white printing and transition to color printing see the blog post, “Black And White Prints, Collectors And Philip Hyde.” To read more about today’s trends and concerns in color landscape photography see the blog post, “Is Landscape Photography Thriving Or Dying?” and “Did Velvia Film Change Landscape Photography?” To read about Color Magazine’s feature article about Philip Hyde see the blog post, “Color Magazine Feature Out Now.”

References:

Sierra Club Records at Bancroft Library, U.C. Berkeley, California

Taped Interviews of Philip Hyde by David Leland Hyde

Taped Interviews of Martin Litton by David Leland Hyde

Notes from Conversations with Ken Brower

The History of the Sierra Club 1892-1970 by Michael P. Cohen

This is the American Earth by Nancy Newhall and Ansel Adams

In Wildness is the Preservation of the World photographs by Eliot Porter with quotes by Henry David Thoreau

Island In Time: The Point Reyes Peninsula text by Harold Gilliam, photographs by Philip Hyde

Ansel Adams: An Autobiography

Ansel Adams: A Biography by Mary Street Alinder

For Earth’s Sake: The Life and Times of David Brower by David Brower

Work In Progress by David Brower

Originally posted August 16, 2010

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.”)

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.”

Over 500 People Attend Golden Decade Opening

September 9th, 2010

Over 500 People Attend Golden Decade Opening, Vintage Philip Hyde Print Is The First To Sell

Title Wall, Golden Decade Exhibition, Smith Andersen North Gallery, San Anselmo, California, 2010 by David Leland Hyde.

Over 500 people turned out for the Marin County opening reception of the Golden Decade Exhibition and Golden Decade pre-publication launch at Smith Andersen North Gallery in San Anselmo, California on Saturday, September 4th from 6 pm to 9 pm. The first prints from the show to sell in the morning before the opening were Philip Hyde’s 4X5 contact print “San Francisco Piers and Waterfront” and Stan Zrnich’s 5X7 contact print “South Pier, Bay Bridge.” Out of over 150 vintage black and white prints from 32 students at the California School of Fine Arts now the San Francisco Art Institute, over 30 prints sold the first night.

Front Room, Golden Decade Exhibition, Smith Andersen North Gallery, San Anselmo, California, 2010 by David Leland Hyde.

“There is currently a lot of energy around the work from this period,” said Scott Nichols, a downtown San Francisco photography gallery owner and collector of Scott Nichols Gallery. Scott Nichols has the largest collection of Brett Weston in the world. The 32 photographers featured in the Golden Decade Exhibition were students at the California School of Fine Arts after World War II, in the first decade of Ansel Adams‘ photography department when he hired Minor White as lead instructor, Dorothea Lange, Imogen Cunningham and Lisette Model as guest instructors and Edward Weston as field instructor. Former students John Upton, David Johnson and Stan Zrnich all spoke about their experiences at the school and their lives in photography.

Stefan Kirkeby, Smith Andersen North Gallery Owner, Sunday Morning After Golden Decade Opening, Smith Andersen North Gallery, San Anselmo, California, 2010 by David Leland Hyde. Stefan Kirkeby finally gets a chance to see a bit of the book. "I'm knocked out," Stefan said after hosting, curating, matting and framing the show in his in-house frame shop.

“I’ve never seen so many people at a gallery opening,” said Smith Andersen North proprietor Stefan Kirkeby. “There were people packed into the front and spilling out into the street, in the back and outside on the patio. They went through 250 oysters in two hours.” Smith Andersen North Gallery is equipped with large garage doors in front and most of the front of the building can open wide right onto the sidewalk. The Golden Decade Exhibition, scheduled to wrap up at 9 pm, raged on and finally closed down around 11:30 pm. At around 8:25 pm the surrounding neighborhoods looked as though a concert had just let out. Hundreds of people were moving toward their cars and traffic was snarled in surrounding streets. “It was sardine night,” said Stan Zrnich the next morning.

Smith Andersen North presented The Golden Decade Exhibition in conjunction with the release of the book The Golden Decade by former students Cameron Macaluley, William Heick and Ira Latour with Ken and Victoria Whyte Ball daughter of former student Don Whyte. (Website links and more information to come.)

Golden Decade photographers also include Pirkle JonesRuth Marion Baruch, Philip Hyde, William Heick, Pat Harris, Bob Hollingsworth, Cameron Macauley, Ira LatourBenjamen Chinn, Rose MandelGerald RattoJohn Upton and others. Their work has been represented in important photographic historical events such as The Family of Man Exhibition (1955, New York and international venues) and The Perceptions Exhibition (1954, San Francisco), and many of these photographers were prominently featured in the early issues of Aperture magazine when Minor White was editor.

Frame Selection Area, Smith Andersen North Gallery, San Anselmo, California, 2010 by David Leland Hyde. Besides developing a strong following of photography collectors, Smith Anderson North also is a leading framer for major museums in Northern California. Stefan Kirkeby just completed installation of the famous Fisher Collection at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. He mats on 8-ply Rising Board with archival hinge mats and hand-made paper corners. The frames are hand-made of poplar, ash and other hardwoods. Wooden frames have a much nicer feel than metal frames, don't catch on clothing or packing materials and are perfect for traveling shows because if they get dinged they can be sanded down and repainted. An 11X14 museum frame retails for $200.

The Golden Decade Exhibition runs through October 15, 2010. For more specifics see the blog post, “The Golden Decade: California School of Fine Arts Photography.” For an updated article on the ongoing show see the Fine Art Photography Collector’s Resource Blog post called, “500 People Attend Golden Decade Exhibition.” Also, more description and information about the Golden Decade Opening itself can be found on the Large Format Photography Forum. The Contra Costa Times and other papers announced the Golden Decade Exhibition and Stefan Kirkeby ran a full-page advertisement in Black and White Magazine for the show. To learn more about the Golden Decade of photography in San Francisco and the California School of Fine Arts see the blog posts, “Photography’s Golden Era 7” and “Photography’s Golden Era 6.”

Breaking New Ground With Digital Photography Creations

April 2nd, 2010

Art derives a considerable part of its beneficial exercise from flying in the face of presumptions.”    – Henry James, 1888

Calathea #2, 2003 from the Photo Synthesis Series by Huntington Witherill. Photoshop creation from a Canon 10D original made in Huntington Witherill's Studio in Monterey, California.

Though this blog is primarily about landscape photography, it will cover other forms of interest. Landscape photographers such as Ansel Adams, Edward Weston, Brett Weston, and Philip Hyde were known for their landscapes, yet it is well-known that they practiced other forms. Philip Hyde, like the others above made portraits and a significant portion of his work is considered documentary. He avoided commercial work for advertising but made a large body of architectural photographs for corporate and government clients. Today no genre of photography has more merit than any other, as long as the work is produced with the same artistic rigor as taught by the early masters. (For context, see the series of blog posts, “Photography’s Golden Era 3,” “Photography’s Golden Era 4” and others in the category “History of Photography.”)

Calathea #2, 2003, original digital capture with a Canon 10D by Huntington Witherill in his studio in Monterey, California. (Before Photoshop "Digital Transformation" process)

In the blog post “Photography’s Golden Era 2” I drew from several authorities to address a question asked in a comment on “Photography’s Golden Era 1” about the current time period and whether it is also a “Golden Era.” The discussion heated up, but several landscape photographers pointed out that because the current conditions are not conducive to making a living from photography, the period is not liable to incubate as much great art. However, even though photography is going in a million directions and what we see now is chaos, we may be in the beginnings of a new Golden Era. See the blog post “Man Ray On Art And Originality.” Also relevant to this discussion, are the words of discretion by Paul Strand in the blog post, “What Makes A Photograph Art?”

After some looking around, I found a few striking examples of fine art photographers that are doing truly new and innovative work. One of these is a young lady, Natalie Dybisz, who calls herself Miss Aniela. Her tastefully exotic digitally re-constructed self-portraits have reportedly developed a record-breaking following on Flicker. Another fine art photographer, Huntington Witherill, has practiced straight photography for 35 years but is now breaking new ground in creative digital photography with a series he calls Photo Synthesis.

“Absent the proper self-restraint,” Huntington Witherill said, “Working with Photoshop can be a bit like using a chainsaw to make Christmas tree ornaments. Photoshop is a marvelously powerful tool. But unlike a chainsaw, Photoshop is also capable of extremely intricate and detailed work when used with finesse.” Huntington Witherill has made some remarkable creations that measure up artistically to his earlier film photography.  The steps he takes in the process of one creation can be viewed in a video by Clicking Here.

“The perpetuation and validity of straight photography has already been well established,” Huntington Witherill said. “Edward Weston’s photographs remain every bit as valid as they were prior to the digital age. However, in my opinion, it is the aesthetic quality of the work itself which will tend to perpetuate and continue to validate the practice of straight photography.” Huntington Witherill and my father, Philip Hyde, both taught photography workshops at the University of California Santa Cruz Extension, along with other luminaries such as Ruth Bernhard, Cole Weston, Morley Baer, Wynn Bullock, Al Weber, Steve Crouch, Dave Bohn, Ralph Putzker, Glenn Wessels, Milton Halberstadt, Pirkle Jones, Dick Garrod, Henry Gilpin and others. Philip Hyde and Huntington Witherill were roommates once at a workshop teachers gathering and also spent time together at the Rendezvous, a meeting of photographers organized by Al Weber. Huntington Witherill recently had more to say about my dad’s landscape photography and how people see it today:

Were I to feel it necessary to argue the validity, importance or relevance of your father’s work, I would be doing so on the basis of the overall aesthetic quality and visually unique character and style of his photographs, and to a certain restrained extent, upon the context in which they were made. I would avoid the old “us” versus “them” argument which pits “straight” photography against all other types of photography (an argument which largely centers upon the chosen tools, materials, and methods, and the relative level of perceived manipulation used to produce the work). First, I think it’s beneath the dignity and importance of your father’s work to be forced into such a seemingly shallow argument. And second, I think the argument itself is completely unnecessary. Your father’s work was made at a time when few others were producing similar work. It could be superficially categorized as “straight” photography, yet aesthetically, it stands on its own even today, regardless of the specific kind of photographic characterization or classification one wishes to apply to it.

Your father used his heart and mind to produce images that met his own unique sensibilities. He saw the world in a way that others did not. Who cares how or in what style, or even when his photographs were made? To argue the “validity” or relative “importance” of a Philip Hyde photograph based upon the tools, materials and methods he used to produce that photograph, is beneath the dignity of the work. We’re all in the same photographic boat and we’re all working on differing forms of artistic self-expression. When your father’s work is considered in the context of photographic “art,” it must be compared with all other forms and manifestations of the art, not simply advocated because it happens to be “straight” photography. Edward Weston’s photographs are great because they are great photographs. It doesn’t matter to what style or method you compare them. Edward Weston’s photographs are not great simply because they are “straight” photographs. And… neither are your father’s.

All photographers and purveyors of photography working today are in the throws of negotiating the many changes in the medium brought on by digital cameras, Photoshop and other digital era methods. Everyone has a different approach. Some photographers have not only navigated the changes, they are thriving by leading the way. “Witherill has embraced the new technique and run with it,” Rick Deragon said in 1999. Rick Deragon is a painter of the natural scene, museum curator and art teacher. Rick Deragon also said of Huntington Witherill, “He’s run right into a new reality that he is able to define, unfettered by photography’s past, but still full of his reverence for the natural source.”

Railing, Fort Stevens, Washington, 2006 by Huntington Witherill. An example of his straight photography.

One look at Huntington Witherill’s photography and anyone can see it is not to be confused with much other photography today that suffers from heavy-handed Photoshop use that has somehow tainted and made the images look slightly overcooked. He himself describes the majority of the photography displayed on the internet today as low quality. The change to be feared is not the departure from straight photography through Photoshop. Nor is there harm in exploring new ways of making images that use methods or philosophies completely different from straight photography. The degrading of the medium lies in the vast quantities of aesthetically inferior work and the overuse of Photoshop to try to save otherwise tasteless images.

Photoshop is a wonder in the hands of talented creative artists such as Miss Aniela or Huntington Witherill. The problem lies not in new forms of photography, but in landscape photography that consists of what my father, Philip Hyde, called “pretty pictures for postcards.” In his artist statement he said, “Black and White is excellent experience for color work because it encourages sensitivity to form, texture, tonal gradations and the quality of light. Color photographs that lack these qualities and rely too much on the shock value of color alone will not sustain interest.”

In a 1979 letter to retired Outward Bound river guide and landscape photographer Chris Brown, Philip Hyde wrote that many landscape photographs tend to have too many elements in them and are “not tightly enough organized.” Philip Hyde went on to say:

Because it is big in scale does not mean that it can’t have impact as an intentional photograph. The camera only sees one frame at a time, and unless you get into some of the multiple-image techniques, you’ve got to rely on one image to make the impression. I tend to be careful in my own work, not to yield to the easy temptation to over-dramatize things just to make this impression—and as a corollary, I also tend to be less impressed with the group led by Ernst Haas, who make their point by highly romantic over-dramatics. They go too far, I think, but certainly something more than pointing the camera and making a snapshot is indicated. Snapshots have their place, but I assume at the outset that you want to make a deeper impression, create something that communicates a little more powerfully. The only recipe I know for it is a four-letter word: work (experience, practice).

Take a look at the following videos of Huntington Witherill, by Douglas Ethridge, posted on John Paul Caponigro’s blog. They show not only a new vision but also a depth of mastery of the medium, that developed through many years of experience and practice in straight photography, but that has now found a new direction through new methods and techniques that go way beyond those of the past. Welcome to the future, or at least one form of it…

To read more about cutting edge Photoshop methods see the blog post, “Monday Blog Blog: Photoshop For Pros.”