Posts Tagged ‘World War II’

San Francisco Art Institute Photography History 16

June 19th, 2014

Reciprocity Failure

Lecture By Ansel Adams

Introduction And Philip Hyde Lecture Notes

(Continued from the blog post, “San Francisco Art Institute Photography History 15.”)

Sunken Car, Sausalito, Marin County, Alcatraz In Distance, San Francisco Bay, California, copyright 1948 by Philip Hyde. Made during photography school.

Sunken Car, Sausalito, Marin County, Alcatraz In Distance, San Francisco Bay, California, copyright 1948 by Philip Hyde. Made during photography school.

No other known set exists of complete student lecture notes from the first ten years of the California School of Fine Arts, now the San Francisco Art Institute. During the “Golden Decade,” directly after World War II, while Minor White was lead instructor, beginning in the Summer Session 1947, Philip Hyde took detailed class notes. These notes are what make up the core of a good number of entries in this series of blog articles on the history of the San Francisco Art Institute’s photography department.

Background And Founding Of The World’s First Professional Creative Photography Training

Minor White and Philip Hyde both attended their first Ansel Adams lecture on the same day at the start of the California School of Fine Arts Summer Session 1946. Ansel Adams brought in Minor White with the idea he would take Ansel Adams’ place as lead instructor. Minor White came directly from Columbia University on Beaumont and Nancy Newhall’s recommendation. In the 1946 Summer Session Minor White quickly proved himself as a coach of the young students and as a guest lecturer. Within a few weeks Ansel Adams felt confident enough in Minor White’s teaching abilities to leave him in charge of the class and set out on the road to photograph the national parks for his recently awarded Guggenheim Fellowship.

That Fall, Minor White also led the first class of full-time students in the world’s first academic full-time creative photography program. By Fall of 1947, a new crop of first year students began learning from Minor White at the California School of Fine Arts, renamed the San Francisco Art Institute in 1961. The San Francisco Art Institute still has one of the world’s most innovative photography departments, but the first ten years of the program, now called the Golden Decade, are the stuff of legend with guest lectures arranged by Minor White that included such photographic luminaries as Imogen Cunningham, Lissette Model, Dorothea Lange, and many others; as well as the highlight of each semester: a field trip to Wildcat Hill in Carmel to visit Edward Weston, complete with a field walk with him out on Point Lobos State Natural Reserve.

Ansel Adams first taught the photography Summer Session in 1945. Minor White joined him teaching in 1946. Philip Hyde started as a student at the same time, but due to an office paperwork error, did not make the list to attend the first full-time class in Fall 1946, but began photography school in the second full-time class in Fall 1947. The Summer Session 1947 featured lectures by both Adams and White. Philip Hyde’s lecture notes begin in the Summer Session 1947. Philip Hyde proved to be one of the most eager students, despite his full personal life.

On June 29, 1947, Philip Hyde married Ardis King in Berkeley. Ardis King’s family was from Sacramento, but her parents owned a house in Berkeley, where she and her brother Clint King lived while attending the University of California Berkeley. Philip and Ardis got to know each other while attending classes at UC Berkeley, where Ardis earned her teaching credential. They took a number of classes together, including a course in Calligraphy and Japanese Painting by the famous Japanese-American artist Chiura Obata. More on these classes and their influence on the Hydes in future blog posts.

Reciprocity Failure Defined

Following Minor White’s lecture on The Technical Aspects of Visualization on August 19, 1947, Ansel Adams came before the class and held forth on Reciprocity Failure for the next two days. Most of the lecture contents were too technical to reproduce here, with many graphs depicting film densities and sensitometry readings.

Reciprocity failure oversimplified, results in the failure of film to show accurate and unflawed detail in shadows. While the subject may seem dry in some ways, it is an important concept in straight photography where the values of clarity, sharpness and clean rendering without artifacts and film noise are considered of utmost importance. Many photographers today in the digital age don’t care about the technical aspects of photography because they don’t need to in order to produce high fidelity photography. Camera technology today, if used according to the manual and a few simple rules and guidelines, does much of the work automatically, when the correct settings are chosen. However, with large format film cameras, everything had to be done manually. Ansel Adams was a stickler for all technical aspects of photography and developing a solid base of knowledge and aptitude in his students. The results speak for themselves, evident in his negatives and black and white prints, as well as the negatives and fine art prints of his students. It is precisely because of their perfection that Ansel Adams prints are some of the most sought after by collectors and considered some of the most valuable in the history of the medium.

The Film Photography Project blog gives an excellent explanation of reciprocity failure:

Whether you’re using a lower speed film in daylight, trying to maximize your depth of field in a landscape, or just setting up the camera for an exposure at night, sooner or later you’re going to start pushing the limits of your film’s light gathering ability. As light becomes more scarce, the silver halide grains residing in your film will be less uniformly struck by photons, causing a steep drop in density after a few seconds of needed exposure. This exponentially diminishing response to low light levels is more popularly known as a film’s reciprocity failure.

The Film Photography Project goes on to give examples of how different films exhibit reciprocity failure. For example, with black and white film, exposures of one or two seconds or longer will result in reduced density, that is, thin or non-existent shadow detail. With color negative film, exposures over 20 seconds cause color-shifting as different color dye layers in the film absorb light at different rates during prolonged exposure. With color slide film, exposures over five seconds result in color shifts similar to color negative film, while high color saturation slide films such as Fuji Velvia color shift to an even greater degree than lower color density films.

Ansel Adams’ two-day lecture on reciprocity failure gave his students the tools to avoid reciprocity failure. Some of the technical terms and information implies previous knowledge from earlier lectures of various photographic subjects such as the Zone System. Stay tuned for a simple explanation of the Zone System in future posts in this series. These notes are presented primarily for the historical record.

Philip Hyde’s Lecture Notes, August 19, 1947

Reciprocity failure—inertia of film in low intensity light—film doesn’t respond to slight illumination.

Visualization and light metering—Use a long tube for the light meter to explore light readings of distant objects.

A Wratten 90 filter (tan color) for viewing—neutralizes color

Example: Greens on Kodak Verichrome Pan film drop nearly a full zone in value due to lack of green sensitivity.

All measurements for density should be above film base plus fog.

[Film base plus fog refers to the inherent density of any film before exposure. It consists of the film base plus any fog that has accumulated on the film due to subtle light exposure in handling]

For the sake of measurement and calculations, film base plus fog should not be less than 0.1 in density.

Pre-Exposure Exercise

Expose a white card for Zone II or Zone I depending on amount of exposure added. Then expose the scene normally. The units added will equal the numeric relation between zones. That is:

Zone I = 1 unit

Zone II = 2 units

Zone III = 4 units

Zone IV = 8 units

Zone V = 16 units

Zone VI = 32 units

…and so on up to Zone X

More on reciprocity failure and the Zone System in upcoming posts…

(Continued in the blog post, “San Francisco Art Institute Photography History 17.”)

My impressions from this lecture and other sources, as well as my own experiences, leads me to believe that it was complicated to make good photographs with large format film cameras. When photographers take for granted how easy photography is now, I often think of my father, Philip Hyde’s notes and his early training with Ansel Adams. What are your thoughts?

Art, Earth And Ethics 1

May 22nd, 2014

Art, Earth And Ethics, Part One

National Forests, Spotted Owls, Environmentalism, The Abuse Of Nature And Our Future

The Earth will survive, but will man survive on the Earth? – Philip Hyde
Secret Cove, Ponderosa Pine Trees, Lake Tahoe, Sierra Nevada of California in the distance, copyright 2014 David Leland Hyde. The water quality that gives Lake Tahoe its natural clarity and deep blue color were declining until environmental reforms in the Tahoe Basin turned the situation around. Lake Tahoe is clearer today than it was five years ago.

Secret Cove, Ponderosa Pine Trees, Lake Tahoe, Sierra Nevada of California in the distance, copyright 2014 David Leland Hyde. New Addition to David Leland Hyde’s Sierra Portfolio. The water quality that gives Lake Tahoe its natural clarity and azure blue color were declining until environmental reforms in the Tahoe Basin turned the situation around. Lake Tahoe is clearer today than it was five years ago.

(See the photograph large here in David Leland Hyde Sierra Portfolio.)

My father, American landscape photographer Philip Hyde, and my mother Ardis bought 18 acres in 1956 for a few thousands dollars in Plumas County in the Northern Sierra Nevada of California. Plumas National Forest borders this land where I grew up, on two sides. Plumas National Forest also happens to be the top lumber producing national forest in the Lower 48 United States.

While my father was an artist and my mother a schoolteacher, my childhood friends were sons and daughters of loggers in Plumas National Forest and farmers in nearby Indian Valley. I remember conversations on both sides of the environmental equation. A good example of the nature of these discussions occurred recently. It was more of a one-sided rant than a dialog. A retired logger, who I consider a friend, and one of his friends, a claim gold miner, were raving about “those damn enviro’s.” Their comments were vaguely directed toward me, though also more general, offered in protest of all the injustices in the world and their own lives.

“I can’t believe the Feather River Land Trust won’t let us hunt ducks on the Heart K Ranch in Genesee Valley any more. We’ve been hunting ducks there for 50 years. Rich city people come up here and they don’t know anything about our way of life.” They were on a roll, fueled by beer and who knows what else. I did not intervene at first.

“There are no jobs left because of the enviro’s,” One of them said. “Yeah, and the damn Spotted Owl,” the other said. “Just because of one tiny bird, whole forests are closed to logging. What’s more important: one stupid little bird, or the economy? I’d like to take every one of those damn Spotted Owls and strangle them. People are the endangered species.”

I started to respond, but the old logger interrupted me, “We know what you’re going to say. You’re in cahoots with the wealthy Bay Area crowd. Don’t talk any of that rubbish in this house. I’ll throw you out.”

I rode my bike home and pondered how the above conversation has not changed for 50 or even hundreds of years either. What these hard working old guys fail to understand is that the Spotted Owl is only a symptom, just the tip of a very large iceberg. The ecosystems are breaking down and these few species that are dying are like advance warnings. Depending on your perspective, a few bees are not so important. “We can just get beehives to pollinate the crops,” another local said. Neither is it vital whether the local frogs can still reproduce, or whether any other single species, or single population of a species lives or dies. However, when you stop and think about how many human fertility clinics there were 30 years ago and how many there are now in every town, when you start to connect the dots, you begin to get the bigger picture.

The Earth is a web of all life. Everything is connected to everything else. You destroy one part of the web of life and you eventually destroy yourself. People reading this blog perhaps will say this is a “no-brainer,” that I’m not pointing out anything new here. True, but why are we as a collective not getting it? Not doing enough to change our perspective and our ways? Greed? Corruption? Selfishness? Lack of vision? Denial? Laziness? Pessimism? Resignation? What is your excuse for still driving a traditional car? …For burning fossil fuel? …For using plastic products? …For not recycling? Even hybrid and electric automobiles have a tremendous impact on the environment just through their manufacture and the mining extraction of the materials that go into them.

Is it really the environment that we need to save, or ourselves? When we act in ways that have less impact, carpool, ride a bike, is it truly on behalf of the environment? Is that the primary concern? Or is environmentalism really self-preservation? My father used to say that we do not need to worry about the Earth. It will be here long after we are gone. It is our own survival for which we need to be concerned. Therefore, are environmentalists in reality interested in protecting the environment at the expense of people, or precisely because it is our own future that is in jeopardy.

This paradox still escapes the majority of people in our culture. What do we do about it? I was lucky to grow up with both an environmental ethic and an art aesthetic. Care for the planet and beauty as a telltale of balanced health are ingrained in my psyche. Unfortunately, most people do not grow up as fortunately. To put in perspective how blindly oblivious and unaware some can be, take for instance one extreme case: this video of former Boy Scout leaders destroying an ancient rock formation in Goblin Valley State Park in Utah.

When I first saw this video of young men responsible for leading others into nature having no respect for nature, I was dismayed, not only about those committing the crime and their kind, but also about whether there is any hope for our civilization. What we fail to realize is that we are all taking actions much like these ignorant young men. Not only are there just enough clueless people like them running around that it is easy to fall into thinking we are doomed, but we are all clueless to a much greater degree than we understand. In the realm of photography, even many nature and landscape photographers seem to have no respect for nature or other photographers, as landscape photographer Sarah Marino reported in her photoblog post, in which she suggested a field etiquette for landscape photographers.

Regardless of misguided deeds and a destructive approach to nature by our whole civilization, I believe there is still hope. I am writing this new series of blog posts precisely because I believe there is something we may not yet know, something we have not yet discovered, some new information or new action that will save us. This does not mean we can sit back, relax, watch TV, play video games, surf Facebook and not worry. It means that we need to put all of our synergistic efforts and pooled resources into finding a solution. But are we likely to do that? That is the question.

A New Yorker article, Scientific American and Grist Magazine report that even many leading scientists believe it is already too late to do anything about Climate Change. Wow, that went fast. Many people still doubt and wonder whether it is reality or myth, truth or fiction. Those of us who have been reading the science know that it is based on much more than mere computer modeling. We know that the science of Global Warming is based on mountains of hard evidence and real measurements that are hard to misread.

The abuse of nature has gone on for thousands of years. It is even sanctioned in the Bible. Genesis says our role is to conquer and have dominion over the Earth. Fortunately, today large numbers of Christians are not taking the Bible literally. More moderate Christians are in favor of applying the passages in the good book that tout taking care of Earth.

In the recent winner of the Colorado Book Award, Dam Nation: How Water Shaped the West and Will Determine Its Future, author Stephen Grace covers the devastating state of water and drought in the Western US today. Water laws, originally developed in the much wetter East, protect the use of water channeled away from rivers and streams at the expense of in-stream ecological, aesthetic and recreational values.

As economies across the West surged, streams were dammed, ditched, and diverted until their beds were nearly bare. Many rivers became toxic trickles because they didn’t carry enough volume to dilute poisons and flush themselves clean. And each diversion for an offstream use, whether to grow crops, make steel or send drinking water to city taps, reduced the amount of instream flow available for supporting fish and wildlife populations, nourishing riparian vegetation, and promoting recreational pursuits such as boating, camping, fishing, and bird watching… To some, especially those profiting from raising beef on irrigated pasture—these uses seemed ridiculous at best, a threat to their way of life at worst.

Hoover Dam on the Colorado River helped supply the power to win World War II. After the War Hoover Dam was one of the underpinnings of the US rise to world power. Damming and diverting rivers has become as American as apple pie and as loved as baseball in the political arena, but the effects on watersheds, the durability of our limited fresh water supply and ultimately the health of the arteries of life on Earth is at stake.

On a larger scale, we are treating nature with the same abusive disdain across the globe. Are we lacking ethics or taste? Is it simply in our nature to be a parasite on the face of the Earth? Can we change? These and other questions, answers and ways out of the trap we have set for ourselves will be the subject of this new blog series.

(Continued in the blog post, “Art, Earth And Ethics 2.”)

Please comment, email or write me through the Contact Form above what environmental issues, ecological concerns and related psychology and philosophy you would like to read more about.

Inherited Nature: Father And Son Exhibit At The Capitol Arts Gallery

April 25th, 2013

Inherited Nature: Photography by Philip Hyde & David Leland Hyde

(Following is a variation of the press release for the show.)

Graffiti, Street Art, Wall, San Francisco, California, copyright 2010 David Leland Hyde. Nikon D90.

Graffiti, Street Art, Wall, San Francisco, California, copyright 2010 David Leland Hyde. Nikon D90. One of the images on display in “Inherited Nature.”

(See the photograph large, “Graffiti, Street Art, Wall, San Francisco, California.”)

Plumas Arts will exhibit the historically significant photographs by Philip Hyde that helped to make many of our national parks at the Capitol Art Gallery at 525 Main Street in Quincy, California from May 3 through June 1. An opening reception Friday, May 3, 5-7 pm launches the show.  A special presentation by David Leland Hyde, Philip Hyde’s son, will also be held at the Capitol Arts Gallery on Tuesday, May 14, at 6 pm.

During his 60-year full-time large format film photography career Philip Hyde lived with his wife Ardis in Plumas County for 56 years. His photographs that are part of permanent collections and were shown in venues such as the Smithsonian, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, George Eastman House and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, now come home for a rare showing in Plumas County. The Plumas Arts show will be the first local exhibition of its kind since Hyde’s passing in 2006.

Why “Inherited Nature”?

The exhibition, titled “Inherited Nature” will also be unique because it introduces the digital photography of David Leland Hyde, who walked many wilderness miles with his parents and now works to preserve and perpetuate his father’s archives. David Leland Hyde not only inherited his father’s collection, but also his father’s love of nature, art and activism that helped shape his own photography and view of the world. Part of the show naming process included consideration of the double meaning of “nature,” as well as a third double meaning of the phrase which refers to all of us inheriting nature and passing it down as well. One title kicked around was “Nature Passed Down.” The inherited aspect of nature and landscape does not apply only to David Leland Hyde. As far as his photography is concerned, he photographs the landscape because he grew up on the land. However, having lived in cities as well as Plumas County where he was born, David also enjoys architectural, portrait and street photography.

Philip Hyde first made images of the Sierra Nevada at age 16 in 1937 on a Boy Scout backpack in Yosemite National Park with a camera he borrowed from his sister. By 1942 he was making photographs of artistic merit in black and white, and much more rare at the time, in color. In 1945, as he was about to be honorably discharged from the Army Air Corp of World War II, Hyde wrote to Ansel Adams asking for recommendations for photography schools. Adams happened at the time to be finalizing plans for a new photography department at the California School of Fine Art, now the San Francisco Art Institute. The new photography school was the first ever to teach creative photography as a profession. Adams hired Minor White as lead instructor and he brought on teachers who were luminaries and definers of the medium such as Edward Weston, Dorothea Lange and Imogen Cunningham.

Living The Understatement Style

Referred to as a quiet and humble giantby prominent landscape photographer QT Luong, Hyde chose to live in the wilderness of Plumas County, sacrificing the greater monetary success of living close to the marketplace of the Bay Area for values more important to him. He set an example of living a simple, close to nature, low-impact lifestyle that becomes more relevant as a model all the time. QT Luong wrote of Philip Hyde:

Living a simple life out of the spotlight, he always felt that his own art was secondary to nature’s beauty and fragility… As an artist, this belief was reflected in his direct style, which appears deceptively descriptive, favoring truthfulness and understatement rather than dramatization.

Philip Hyde spent over one quarter of each year of his career on the back roads, trails, rails, rivers, lakes and ocean coasts of North America making the photographs that influenced a generation of photographers. Today some find it easy to take his compositions for granted, but this mainly happens because they have been emulated countless times. Much of landscape photography today applies principles and techniques developed by Philip Hyde.

Philip Hyde’s Influence On Landscape Photographers

Philip Hyde’s wide sweeping impact started with his role as the primary illustrator of the Sierra Club Books Exhibit Format Series, the series that popularized the large coffee table photography book. The series also contained popular titles by Ansel Adams and color photographer Eliot Porter. Eliot Porter, along with Philip Hyde is credited with introducing color to landscape photography. Well known photographer William Neill said, I have little doubt that every published nature photographer of my generation has been inspired by Philip’s efforts.” To read William Neill’s tribute to Philip Hyde in full, originally published in Outdoor Photographer magazine, see the guest blog post, “Celebrating Wilderness By William Neill.”

Just as Philip Hyde inspired photographers, his wife Ardis inspired him and traveled as his companion throughout his life and after most would have retired. With Ardis, he built his home near Indian Creek surrounded by woods. Over a two-year period, Philip designed, drew the plans and constructed not only the home with Ardis’ help, but also gathered local river rock for a large fireplace.

Ardis And Philip Hyde At Home

The Hydes first came to Plumas County in 1948 through a chance meeting on a train with Ardis’ friend from college then living at Lake Almanor, who helped Philip Hyde land a summer job in Greenville at the Cheney Mill. Having a young college kid from the city endlessly amused the other workers at the sawmill. One time young Philip even fell into the stinky millpond, which drew great laughter and a ticket home for the day to photograph. Ardis taught kindergarten and first grade for 12 years to help supplement Philip’s photography efforts beginning in 1950 when the Hydes settled in Plumas County.

While living in Plumas County for 56 years, Philip Hyde also actively contributed to the community. He was a founding artist member of Plumas Arts and contributed funds to provide lighting in the gallery. He was also one of the founders of the Plumas County Museum. He hired the architect Zach Stewart, whose famous architectural firm had hired both Hyde and Adams as photographers. Stewart charged the Plumas County Museum much less than usual for his architectural services and as a result the Plumas County Museum had money left over for a small investment fund that has helped it perpetuate for the many years since.

A portion of all proceeds from the exhibition will go directly to the Feather River Land Trust and Plumas Arts, continuing Philip Hyde’s tradition of contribution to the community.

Gallery Hours for the exhibition are Wednesday, Thursday and Friday from 11am to 5:30pm and Saturdays form 11am to 3pm.  Arrangements may also be made for viewings outside these times by calling Plumas Arts at 530-283-3402.

Oregon Cascades Conservation: Mount Jefferson Wilderness Area

August 15th, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Local Citizens Lead Grassroots Environmental Campaigns To Preserve Cascade Mountain Wilderness

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

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

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

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

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.”

The Battle Over Dinosaur: Birth Of Modern Environmentalism 8

May 20th, 2011

Glen Canyon, Grand Canyon, The Escalante Wilderness And Other Regional Repercussions Of The Battle Over Dinosaur National Monument

(FROM THE CATEGORY, “Excerpts Of New Book,” CONTINUED FROM THE BLOG POST, “The Battle Over Dinosaur: Birth of Modern Environmentalism 7.”)

Anasazi Grain Storage In The Sandstone, Dinosaur National Monument, copyright 1951 by Philip Hyde.

The reservoirs on the Colorado River are currently at all-time lows because they lose more water annually to evaporation and seepage than they conserve, especially in drought years. Water and its management will increase in political prominence in the future as populations grow and the supply of water as a resource declines. The Glen Canyon Institute today is campaigning to have Glen Canyon Dam bypassed. As water in the Western United States grows more and more scarce, this idea is destined to gain momentum.

Immediately after the dams in Dinosaur National Monument were dropped from the Upper Colorado River Storage Project and the corresponding bill passed both houses of Congress, David Brower, still in Washington, spoke by telephone to a group of Sierra Club Board Members back in San Francisco, urging them to continue the fight and remain in opposition to Glen Canyon Dam. Unfortunately, in The History of The Sierra Club, Michael Cohen explained, “Bestor Robinson felt that such a purist stand would result in defeat, since the Club had made a compromise, saying in effect that the Bureau of Reclamation could have Glen Canyon. Bestor Robinson later said that ‘if you didn’t have the Grand Canyon then Glen Canyon should be preserved’; but, he argued, ‘the trade-off was necessary.’” For more about how long it took to fill Glen Canyon and other Glen Canyon miscalculations and mistakes, see the blog post, “Glen Canyon Lament By Philip Hyde 1.”

The Virtues And Vices Of Compromise

“Bestor Robinson was worse than a compromiser,” Martin Litton said. “It was as if he were on the other side. The point is, no matter how hard you fight, you are going to end up with a compromise. If you start with a compromise, you have lost. Richard Leonard, Sierra Club President, believed the compromise had to be kept if the Sierra Club was to maintain credibility.”

Martin Litton said that Richard Leonard expressed concern in Sierra Club Board Meetings that Congress would be convinced the ‘preservationists’ were unreasonable.

“Richard Leonard was afraid we would be accused of suggesting the waste of the ‘entire Colorado River,'” Martin Litton said. “He thought Congressmen would say conservationists intended the Colorado River to be ‘unused’ and allowed to flood away into Mexico and the Gulf of California, as if that would have been so bad.” Studies now show that the Gulf of California, also known as the Sea of Cortez, is dying because its salt content has increased to unnatural levels with less and less fresh water from the Colorado River reaching it.

“Richard Leonard believed that the Sierra Club would not have been able to keep dams out of the Grand Canyon if Glen Canyon Dam had not been built,” said Martin Litton. “I disagreed with him. We had the public’s confidence in us, and we had the nation on our side as a result of Dinosaur. We could have carried that momentum right through the whole Colorado River system. I don’t mean there never would have been any pressures, but there wouldn’t have been any dam or reservoir once we got the great Escalante National Park.”

The Proposed Escalante National Park

Escalante National Park had been discussed by some members of Congress and President Franklin D. Roosevelt much earlier before World War II. It would have surrounded the entire area of Glen Canyon, the Escalante Wilderness and thousands of additional acres in the region. With the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the entry of the US into World War II, Congress turned its attention to more pressing matters and Escalante National Park never materialized beyond the idea stage, not even as a proposal. Escalante National Park would have saved Glen Canyon. The Escalante Wilderness finally became officially part of the National Park System in 2000. President Bill Clinton signed Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument into existence on his last day in office. An act that enranged off-road vehicle users and local Utah anti-wilderness conservatives. The main drawback to President Bill Clinton’s National Monument is that under political pressure, he designated the new Monument under Bureau of Land Management care rather than the National Park service. The two agencies have significantly differing policies regarding their care and preservation of wilderness lands. President Bill Clinton compromised.

David Brower wrote in his autobiography about Glen Canyon, “My own bitter lesson there was that you don’t give away something that you haven’t seen; you don’t suggest alternatives until you’ve been there.”

The Green River, Yampa River And This Is Dinosaur

In 2005, the runoff was again higher than normal after years of drought, helping the reservoirs of the Upper and Lower Colorado River Storage Projects to recover from severe depletion. On the Green River below Steamboat Rock in Echo Park, Dinosaur National Monument, a river crew lifted a white three-pontoon river raft up the beach to the truck. The side of the boat’s inflatable outer pontoon said, “Outward Bound.”

The Outward Bound crew was one of hundreds of groups that float through the Dinosaur National Monument river canyons now every summer. Back when Philip Hyde ran the Green River and Yampa River, the Sierra Club had just overcome the myths of unknown danger and begun to prove to the American people that rafting through Dinosaur National Monument was safely possible.

Ardis and Philip Hyde ran the Yampa River in 1955 with a Sierra Club group. By then, many Sierra Club and other groups had run the Yampa River and the Green River since the first Sierra Club trip braved the canyons in the summer of 1951. That same year, 1951, Philip Hyde covered Dinosaur National Monument by land. It was the first photography assignment on behalf of an environmental cause. The Sierra Club sent Philip Hyde to see what Dinosaur National Monument had to offer and whether it was worth saving. Philip Hyde’s assignment and a group of essays by prominent river guides and naturalists of the time became the book This Is Dinosaur: Echo Park Country And Its Magic Rivers with introduction and a first chapter by Wallace Stegner and documentary and landscape photographs by Philip Hyde and Martin Litton.

(CONTINUED IN THE FINAL BLOG POST OF THE SERIES, “The Battle Over Dinosaur: Birth Of Modern Environmentalism 9.”)

Photography’s Golden Era 7

September 4th, 2010

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

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

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

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

(See the photograph full screen Click Here.)

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

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

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

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

The Legacy And Optimism Of California School Of Fine Arts Photography

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

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

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

Who Made The Jokes In Class

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

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

Ansel Adam’s Approach To Teaching

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pre-Visualization, Photography Exhibitions And Student Assignments

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

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

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

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

References:

Taped Interviews with Philip Hyde

Taped Interviews with Benjamen Chinn

Community of Creatives Website

Smith Andersen North Gallery Website

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

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“)