Posts Tagged ‘San Francisco Bay Area’

Minor White-Philip Hyde Letters 2

October 25th, 2011

Minor White Letters To Philip Hyde 2

(Continued from the blog post, “Minor White-Philip Hyde Letters 1.”)

Minor White’s Letters And The San Francisco Art Institute

Piers, San Francisco Waterfront, Bay Bridge, San Francisco Bay, City of San Francisco, California, copyright 1948 by Philip Hyde.

(See the photograph large: “Piers, San Francisco Waterfront, California.”)

Philip Hyde first met Minor White in the 1946 Photography Summer Session taught by Ansel Adams at the world-renowned California School of Fine Arts, now the San Francisco Art Institute. Ansel Adams soon after made Minor White lead instructor of his photography program at the San Francisco Art Institute. Ansel Adams’ photography program was the first of all photography schools to teach creative photography as a full-time profession. Philip Hyde enrolled in the full time day student photography course taught by Minor White in 1947 and earned his certificate of completion in the Spring of 1950. The letter correspondence between Philip Hyde and Minor White began shortly after in May 1950. The letters of Minor White to Philip Hyde are clearly responses to letters from Philip Hyde to Minor White. However, the first three letters from Philip Hyde to Minor White appear to be missing. For more related background on Minor White, Alfred Stieglitz, Philip Hyde, Ansel Adams and other points in the history of photography see the blog post, “Minor White–Philip Hyde Letters.”

 

Minor White’s Letter To Philip Hyde

(From Philip Hyde’s correspondence file with Minor White. Permissions in process from the Princeton University Art Museum, Princeton, New Jersey, copyright by the Trustees of Princeton University?)

 

13  July  1950

Dear EXTATIC Youse Both,

The voice of the Junipers

Articulate the stars

You the words and the wisdom of the moon over sleeping bags

OH BROTHER

You sure have it bad.

And so I shall leave it to youth and vinegar – the whole outdoors. Otherwise I should enjoy a night or two contemplating nature – I think some of the the sting of camping out is slowly going away – not so much that I plan on doing anything about it, but it is going. And I trust that is of great comfort to you.

Your letters to Duggins – great stuff. I was feeling mean the other morning so wrote a letter to above twerp also. And my answer was interesting – he wanted to know what I meant by “creative photography” and who the big names of the state were and who ought to be nominated for judges. And he mentioned that a couple of other SFers [People attending or graduated from photography schools in San Francisco, in those days essentially California School of Fine Arts students.] gave him the impression that Salon stuff was considered the rankest of amateurism. Not bad – in fact I loved it. So you were one of the SFers. Whoops!

The wording and quiet tone of explanation is just plain good. Keep it up.

I expect to answer the required info very soon. Judges is a hard one. In fact outside of some class mates I don’t know of any competent ones in town.

Summer Session is in the midst of utmost confusion. I am shooting five days a week – though only a few hours each day, running film at night and letting the negs pile up unprinted till it scares me. All over town, landscapes, fog, industry, people – anything that gets in the way that I can get. Even the cable car on Market Street. And incidentally I am feeling much better.

But hardly EXTATIC.

 

Minor [Hand written signature]

Do you agree with or apply Minor White’s approach to photographing, “All over town, landscapes, fog, industry, people – anything that gets in the way…”?

(Continued in the blog post, “Minor White-Philip Hyde Letters 3.”)

Interview of Gary Crabbe Part 3

July 12th, 2011

Landscape Photography Blogger Interviews Photographer Gary Crabbe

Last Part of A Three Part Series

(Continued from the blog post, “Interview Of Gary Crabbe Part 2.”)

On Photography For Books, Publishing, Rebuilding After An Injury And Stock Photography

Interview Conducted By Phone May 25, 2011

Cloud Rising Out Of The Owens Valley At Sunrise, Eastern Sierra Nevada, California, copyright 2009 by Gary Crabbe.

(See the photograph full size, “Cloud Rising Out Of The Owens Valley, Eastern Sierra Nevada.” For the story of Gary Crabbe’s transcendent experience making this photograph see his blog post, “Spirits In The Air.”)

DAVID LELAND HYDE: We continue with the conclusion of an in-depth interview of one of the leading landscape photographers working today, Gary Crabbe of Enlightened Images. Gary is also the author of an award-winning and highly acclaimed photo blog. In the first part of this series Gary and I talked about how the arts in general are relevant to landscape photography, his famous mentoring by the late landscape master Galen Rowell and the development of your own personal style. In the second part we developed the discussion about personal style, delved into the making of photography books, photo editing and selection and a bit more about Galen Rowell and how he worked. We are talking now about a few of Gary Crabbe’s photography books.

GARY CRABBE: The rest of the Voyageur Press books were in a pre-existing series. With Backroads of the California Coast: Your Guide to Scenic Getaways & Adventures, Voyageur Press put on a huge marketing campaign like they’ve done with other subjects like agriculture, trains, race cars and  basketball. If it’s kitsch, they’ve done it. They are a regional publisher so they’ve done books from Colorado to Chicago. They knew I was near San Francisco, so they asked if I wanted to do their San Francisco book and I said sure. They also said, “We’ve got this Back Roads series: Do you want to do Backroads of the California Wine Country: Your Guide to the Wine Country’s Most Scenic Backroad Adventures?” The writer that I had teamed up with on the first book project got together with me on four titles. She would say, “These are the places I’m going to be writing about.” I’d go out and photograph and the publisher would match my photos with her text.

HYDE: About your brand new release, Greetings from California: Legends, Landmarks & Lore of the Golden State: You wrote a blog post not long ago saying that when you told people your book was about history they were not enthused. You concluded that history is boring, but I find people are eating up the history. It may be the way history is presented. On my blog I’m mixing the history of conservation and the history of landscape photography. I find, to my dismay, that the history of conservation causes some yawns on a photo blog, but there aren’t as many dynamic leaders as in the history of photography. I’m finding that when history is presented with an emphasis on the interesting personalities, then people are interested. Although, I know your blog has much more traffic than mine because my traffic spiked significantly when you linked to my blog post, “Did Velvia Film Change Landscape Photography?” So what gave you the impression that history is boring?

GARY CRABBE: My blog post was more specific regarding the people I contacted to get permission or access to photograph. When they heard it was history, it didn’t mean much to them because they were thinking more about business and promotion. From the publisher’s perspective, this was to be part of a new series for which they had already published a few books they sent me like Twin Cities Then and Now (Minnesota) and Philadelphia Then and Now. My book was originally to be called, California: Then & Now comparing historical and modern photographs. That was the premise under which I did all my shooting though I didn’t need to be standing in the same spot as the historical photograph. Then someone did a book about Colorado using his grandfather’s photos. He took his modern photos in the exact same spot. He called it “Colorado: Then & Now.” After I turned in everything to Voyageur Press, they said, “We’re scrapping the series.”

HYDE: My father, pioneer landscape photographer Philip Hyde, had a lot more stories like that than like your other book where everything went smoothly. . .

GARY CRABBE: Yeah, you know it. I was sitting there with this huge knot in my stomach. Then they came back and said, “The publisher liked your work so much that we’re going to try to re-package this book as something a little bit more fun, like a scrapbook.” They still used all the same photographs and text, but instead of making it like the original layout, that even my mom had noticed from the sample copy was dry and stagnant, my book was to be the test guinea pig for repackaging. Three other photographers had their states’ Then & Now projects pulled. Whether their projects get repackaged will depend on how well my book goes over. One of the things you sign on the dotted line is that the publisher has complete and exclusive control over the design, layout and format of the book. When I saw the first layouts, I was blown away. They took this dry, dull and academic look and turned it into something that was exactly what they said: fun. They kept all the history, but they picked out pieces of my text and put in little scrapbook-like post-it notes to highlight the information instead of putting it all into one or two paragraphs of text. In my opinion it worked out perfectly, but I empathize with the three other photographers whose projects got shelved. I hope that my book does well and they can get their projects.

HYDE: Did your images cover the whole state?

GARY CRABBE: For the most part, yes. In fact I was scheduled to go off on my first shoot, down to Edwards Air force Base, when I fell off a cliff several years ago. I hadn’t even taken the first frame before I wound up in the hospital and shut down my business for half a year.

(See the photograph full size, “Morning Light, Badwater From Dantes View, Death Valley.”)

Morning Light And Clouds Over Saltpan At Badwater Basin From Dantes View, Death Valley National Park, California, copyright 2009 by Gary Crabbe.

HYDE: Wow. How did you fall off a cliff? What did you injure?

GARY CRABBE: I was going to meet someone to do a couple days of photography in Death Valley. I had bought a cheese burger, in the town of Ridgecrest, 100 miles away and I pulled off on the side of the road. I think I was going to go off-road somewhere, but I just climbed in the back of my Toyota 4-Runner, laid the back seat down and  went to sleep. On trips I have my sleeping bag and I lay down right behind the passenger seat. Behind the driver seat is all my gear, equipment, food containers and my backpack of film. I live like a turtle when I’m the road. I just as often sleep in the back of my truck as in a hotel. Apparently I woke up to answer nature’s call and in the darkness walked off a 40 foot cliff. I didn’t remember the fall at all. I woke up in the middle of the desert floor in the middle of the night. It took minutes for my brain to say uh, uh, where am I? Why am I lying in the dirt, face down in the middle of the night? Where’s my truck? Why am I at the bottom of the cliff? OK, now I know I hurt. I have no idea how long I was unconscious. At some point in the middle of the night I woke up again. I didn’t have my truck keys. The only thing I had was a lighter. I sat there and made myself a little camp fire in the middle of the night, in the desert, by myself. Maybe an hour, two hours later, I said, “Alright, I want to get back to my truck. I know the main road is that way. I know that my truck is up there.” I worked my way down this desert wash and then finally found a place on the hill where I could scramble up. I made it back to my truck and climbed back into my sleeping bag. The next morning I got checked out by the Park Ranger of Death Valley. I had a broken wrist, bruised ribs, a yanked nerve in my back, but I managed to get all the way home to the Bay Area. My wife Connie took me to the hospital that same evening. They put me in a cast, gave me medicine and sent me home. Two days later I was lying on the couch in the fetal position, barely coherent, throwing up. My wife took me back to the hospital and they found out I had a subdural hematoma, which is the same injury that killed the actress Natasha Richardson in just about the same window of time.

HYDE: So you hit your head, is that what that means?

GARY CRABBE: Yeah, bleeding was going on in the brain. One of the guys I have coffee with in the Bay Area is a retired surgeon from the Children’s Hospital in Oakland. When I told him this story he said, “You were lucky that you even woke up. Given your injury it was just as likely that you could have climbed back in your truck and never woke up again.” It is eye opening when someone who is a surgeon says something like that. I wound up spending a week in the hospital, recovering from the trauma and the next 3 months recovering from the physical injury. I couldn’t even hold a camera. As soon as I recovered, I had to start this book project, which was supposed to be done in a year. I had to do it in about four and a half months. It was challenging. It has taken me 18 to 24 months to get my business back up to speed because my business completely shut down.

HYDE: Wow. What does your wife do for a living?

GARY CRABBE: She’s part of the reason why I get to do what I do. She’s a senior business manager at AT&T. She has the full AT&T benefit package.

HYDE: That’s nice, yeah.

GARY CRABBE: I complain about big corporations, but I got to admit. You know… I originally thought she was the type of girl that working in the big corporation in the big city would chew her up and spit her out in no time flat. Instead, she’s now been there 10 years. They were so impressed by her work that they hired her during a hiring freeze. The benefits help make our family. She has been probably one of the biggest support factors I could ever imagine.

HYDE: How many kids do you have Gary?

GARY CRABBE: Two: a nine-year-old daughter named Alyssa and a 12-year-old son, Brandon. Both of them act like teenagers or four year olds, depending…

HYDE: I’m trying to piece the chronology together in my mind. Starting out, you didn’t know much about photography. Most of the time working for Galen Rowell you didn’t want to be a photographer. Was it while you were still working for Galen Rowell that you decided that you did want to be a photographer?

GARY CRABBE: Yeah, I knew nothing and was suddenly thrust into the top level of the industry. Trial by fire. All I had was a one week vacation for my first few years of working there. The first year’s vacation my wife and I went to Crater Lake. Wow. I had just switched to using color film and trying slides, as part of my job.

HYDE: Were you still using the same original camera?

GARY CRABBE: No, once I started working for Galen Rowell I bought my first Nikon 8008 S and some Nikon lenses. As part of my job at Mountain Light, I had to work with Galen in his workshops. Staff would help the students edit their work. We would be there while Galen was doing critiques and we’d be out in the field helping the photographers. It was like osmosis. Photography was coming at me even while I was asleep. One day I was out taking a photo at local Lafayette Reservoir when a guy walked right by me and said, “I’ll buy that.” I hadn’t even taken the photo yet. I had just put the tripod and camera in place. I said, “Do you want to at least look through the lens?” He said, “Why don’t you just call me when you get your film.” I didn’t think he was serious, but I called him when I got the film. He came over to my apartment and bought a 20X24 print. It was my first print sale. I made several hundred bucks and I thought, “Wow, this is pretty cool.” I established with Galen right away that I was completely up front. If something came up involving me doing photography, I always ran it by him first. I did not want to cross the line or create more stress than he already had. One day after I had been working for him for a number of years and been on several trips, as my photography was improving by the nature of being where I was, I don’t recall where he was, maybe the Himalayas, Galapagos Islands or South America. Forbes Magazine called the office and said they needed, “Ugly, trashy images of Yosemite Valley. They’re changing concessionaires and we want to show all the negative impact.” I said, “We don’t really have much of that.” They asked some question about what Yosemite Valley looked like right at that moment. By coincidence I was scheduled to go up with my wife to Yosemite Valley that weekend. So I said, “I’ll let you know on Monday.” They asked, “Can you shoot it for us?” They never even bothered to ask if I was a photographer. “I have to ask Galen.” Galen called the office and somehow he said OK. So I called the woman at Forbes back and said I could do it. I spent three days in Yosemite National Park for Forbes Magazine running around taking pictures of gas stations, garbage cans, lines of people at the hotel, the cafeteria, the messes. It was the first editorial assignment that gave me a chance. As I got further down the road and started making more images that were salable, it started to creep into my mind that I could be a photographer. I liked it, but I wasn’t going to step on Galen’s feet to do it. I could do my own print sales if I found my own clients without doing anything in conflict with Galen. What finally made me take the leap, was my wife getting pregnant. We knew we wanted one of us to stay home with the kid and she had all these major company benefits. If I stayed home maybe I could sell a few photos. I became a photographer by nature of choosing to be a stay at home dad.

HYDE: Is it a nice fit for that?

Morning Mist Along The Mendocino Coast Near Elk, California, copyright 2010 by Gary Crabbe.

(See the photograph full size, “Morning Mist, Mendocino Coast.”)

GARY CRABBE: Yeah, except I don’t get to spend weeks and months traveling. I do know people that sacrifice their family to follow their photographic passion. That wasn’t going to be part of my consideration. I stayed close to home and fortunately all of the subsequent book projects were in California. I can be anywhere in the state within 8 ½ hours. That’s a day there and a day back.

HYDE: Well, now that you’ve developed a little more success, do you think you’ll go a little further afield, maybe, for future books projects?

GARY CRABBE: My kids are getting older. As of January, they are now old enough to walk home on their own and spend a few hours on their own during the day. That’s freeing me up much more than when someone needed to be there to pick them up.

HYDE: When the stock photography industry imploded, how much did that affect you?

GARY CRABBE: That was about the time of my fall. The changes in stock did have an emotional pull on me, not so much in my business personally, but in the broader sense. I couldn’t believe that photographers themselves were devaluing their work to commodity status. That was the part that I’ll still continue to say was difficult to see. I know the market shifts, you can’t stop the market, supply and demand and all. Digital did make the world much more accessible. It used to be with slide film, you had to get it right. If you were more than ½ a stop off, it was a disaster. I was always a proponent for photographers valuing their own work. Watching people think it was no big deal to sell unlimited commercial use of their images for say 10 bucks. That was the sad part. I still don’t sell my work royalty free. I don’t have a negative reaction to the sales model of royalty free. My main objection is to the rate people charge. If a national company wants to use one of my images royalty free, I want to see at least four figures for that. I want them to pay what I think is an appropriate value.

HYDE: Royalty free means selling the rights to an image forever for any use at a one time fee, right? And it is becoming more and more prevalent, correct?

GARY CRABBE: Yes, correct. Originally royalty free first came on the scene in the mid-90s as a reaction to regular stock photography, which was value based on use. It became price based on file size. You turned your work into a widget. Then suddenly photographers were offering widgets for 1/10th the cost of what the widgets were originally selling for, which became micro stock.

HYDE: Did your income mix change like many other full-time photographers during that time period—that is, the mix between stock photography and fine print sales, what would you say the ratio is and was?

GARY CRABBE: The ratio has remained relatively consistent, maybe around 70/30, 60/40, sometimes 80/20, somewhere in that neighborhood. But in a down economy, I still sell my work as only rights managed, value based on use. I may have fewer sales, but I’m still insisting on what I consider is a fair value for the use of my work. In a down economy, the first budget to go is an arts budget. People will still buy jewelry before they’ll buy something to put on their walls. As the economy ebbs and flows, sales tend to ebb and flow in relation, but in a down economy, prints may relatively dry up for a while and  then come back as people think, “Oh I have a little more expendable income.”

HYDE: My business is nearly 100 percent prints and I noticed that I was starting at the wrong time, but it is starting to pick up again.

GARY CRABBE: I will say, since the beginning of the year, I’ve had a considerable number of print sales.

HYDE: Is there anything else that you feel people ought to know about you Gary that maybe they couldn’t read somewhere else?

GARY CRABBE: All I can say is that I chose my company name, Enlightened Images, because I consider myself spiritual, especially in terms of nature and the universe. I have this big interconnected picture of how we as a species on a planet are in the universe.

HYDE: I really like the name. Thank you so much for your time Gary.

GARY CRABBE: My pleasure. David, have yourself a wonderful day and thank you.

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.”

Golden Decade Exhibition Extended

October 18th, 2010

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

Smith Andersen North Gallery Mobbed All Over Again

Exhibition Extended to November 13, 2010,

With New Closing Reception and Book Signing

Rock Formations Detail, Weston Beach, Point Lobos State Reserve, California, 1949 by Philip Hyde. This photograph made by Philip Hyde on a California School of Fine Arts class field trip to see Edward Weston at Wildcat Hill in Carmel and photograph with him on Point Lobos may have been created while Edward Weston was present. A vintage print of this photograph is on consignment at Smith Andersen North Gallery and part of the Golden Decade Exhibition and book. Philip Hyde considered Edward Weston his primary model for a simple life close to nature and dedicated to fine art photography.

A prominent feature article in the Marin Independent Journal and Contra Costa Times called, “Golden Images: Exhibit Shows Work That Helped Transform Photography Into An Art Form” recently featured Stan Zrnich, a former CSFA student and long-time resident of San Rafael, Marin County, California. Stan Zrnich spoke about the show, his photography and his years as a student at the California School of Fine Arts, now the San Francisco Art Institute, in the late 1940s and early 1950s. The article brought to the event another wave of local guests that grew into another inundation of the Smith Andersen North Gallery as the article was syndicated to other newspapers around the Bay Area.

Due to the success of the Golden Decade Exhibition, it will be extended to November 13. Also, the Smith Andersen North Gallery will host a Closing Reception and Book Signing.

Closing Reception and Book Signing

Saturday, November 13, 2-6 pm

Smith Andersen North Gallery
20 Greenfield Avenue
San Anselmo, California   94960
415-455-9665

A handful of the Golden Decade photographers will be present to meet, greet and sign books. If you weren’t able to attend the opening or didn’t get a chance to meet the photographers and get a good look at the work through the crowds, this will be the perfect opportunity to experience the show anew.

The exhibition was organized in conjunction with the pre-publication release of the book  The Golden Decade: Photography at the California School of Fine Arts, written by Ira Latour, Bill Heick and C. Cameron  Macauley and compiled by Ken Ball and Victoria Whyte Ball. For book inquiries or to reserve a copy (there are about 40 limited edition pre-published books available), please contact Ken & Victoria Ball at 925-373-0173 and let them know you heard about it on Lanscape Photography Blogger.

For more information about the Golden Decade Exhibition and the original show announcement see the blog post, “The Golden Decade: California School Of Fine Arts Photography.” For a follow-up review of the Golden Decade Opening read the blog post, “Over 500 People Attend Golden Decade Opening.”

The Golden Decade: Photography At The California School Of Fine Arts

August 12th, 2010

The Golden Decade: California School of Fine Arts Photography 1945-55

September 4 – October 15, 2010  EXTENDED TO NOVEMBER 13, with a closing book signing and reception.

Opening Reception September 4, 2010, 6-9 pm

Golden Decade Poster. Students at the California School of Fine Arts during the first Golden Decade of Ansel Adam’s photography department while Minor White was lead instructor, Edward Weston was field instructor and guest lectureres included Imogen Cunningham, Dorothea Lange, Lisette Model and other definers of the medium.

The Golden Decade Group Exhibition and Book Preview

Smith Andersen North Gallery

20 Greenfield Avenue

San Anselmo, California  94960

415-455-9733

The Golden Decade: California School of Fine Arts Photography

From the Smith Andersen North website:

The California School of Fine Arts (CSFA) in San Francisco (renamed the San Francisco Art Institute in 1961) was among a handful of institutions in the nation to offer an extensive program in photography and film during the period immediately following WWII. The importance of the school and its influence, not only on West Coast Photography but on photography as a whole, has been far-reaching, lasting well into the 21st century.

Founded in 1945 by Ansel Adams and administered and taught by Minor White, the California School of Fine Arts photography program was the first academic department in the country to teach creative photography as a profession. The program raised the dialog around photographic practice, before limited to local photo clubs scattered about the country, to the level of a serious, focused study. Golden Decade Students were not only expected to be technically adept and informed, but thoughtful and intentional about how they approached the world with a camera. Golden Decade teachers were among the most influential figures in photography of the day; they included Edward Weston, Dorothea LangeImogen CunninghamLisette ModelHomer PageAlma Lavenson, and Bill Quandt. For more on the inspiration of Edward Weston see the blog post, “Edward Weston’s Landscape Philosophy Part 1.” For insight into the influence of Minor White see the blog post, “Photography’s Golden Era 9.” For more about Minor White’s teaching and how he and Philip Hyde inspired each other see the blog post, “Minor White Letters 1.”

The First Decade at the California School of Fine Arts

The first decade of the program, 1945-1955, gave rise to a unique group of photographers who went on to become accomplished artists and important contributors to visual culture. The Golden Decade focuses on 32 of these students and how they influenced and supported each other during, and in the years following their time at the California School of Fine Arts. The California School of Fine Arts Golden Decade artists include Pirkle JonesRuth Marion Baruch, Philip Hyde, William Heick, Pat Harris, Bob Hollingsworth, Cameron Macauley, Ira LatourBenjamen Chinn, Rose MandelDavid MyersJohn 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 California School of Fine Arts photographers were prominently featured in the early issues of Aperture magazine. A number of Golden Decade photographers have had books published, notably Pirkle Jones with his wife, Ruth Marion BaruchPhilip Hyde, and John Upton.

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 information and a follow-up review of the Golden Decade Opening Reception see the blog post, “Over 500 People Attend Golden Decade Opening.”

The Flowers Of San Francisco

August 5th, 2010

Flowers of San Francisco, Downtown San Francisco, California 2009 by David Leland Hyde. Nikon D90. Camera Raw.

If you’re going to San Francisco,

Be sure to wear some flowers in your hair.

If you come to San Francisco,

Summer time will be a love-in there.

Wall Design, Trees, San Francisco, California, 2010 by David Leland Hyde. Nikon D90. Camera Raw.

The popular 1967 song written by John Phillips of the Mamas and Papas and sung by Scott McKenzie, inspired thousands of young people to travel to San Francisco in the late 1960s and is still inspiring visitors and natives of San Francisco to this day. San Francisco in the summer time is the place to escape the heat and experience all forms of art and fine art, perhaps a place to create your own art.

A Friend Twirling and Dancing In Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, California, 2009 by David Leland Hyde. Nikon D90. Camera Raw.

Starting in the mid-20th Century and for many generations San Francisco has been a hotbed of art and is no less a major incubator of artists today than in any other era. Life’s rich pageant blooms in many colors and races in San Francisco. San Francisco is a collage of opposites, of old and new, industry and art, wisdom and foolishness, wealth and poverty.

Golden Gate Bridge Span and Marin Headlands, San Francisco, California, 2009 by David Leland Hyde. Nikon D90. Camera Raw.

It was the birthplace of the Sierra Club, the Exhibit Format Series, perhaps even landscape photography, the Beat Generation, earthquake insurance, the Summer of Love, the sexual revolution, the anti-war movement, Friends of the Earth, Earth Island Institute, Bank of America, Bechtel, Jefferson Airplane, Jerry Garcia, Courtney Love, William Randolph Hearst, Robert McNamara, Robert Frost, Jack London, Gary Snyder, Ansel Adams, Philip Hyde, Clint Eastwood, Bruce Lee, Val Kilmer, Steve Jobs, Jim Jones, O. J. Simpson, Rob Schneider, Jerry Brown and 407 other celebrities.

Stan Zrnich and Himself at the California Academy of Sciences, San Francisco, California, 2009 by David Leland Hyde. Colors digitally altered.

I visit San Francisco several times a year to go to San Francisco art galleries, photography galleries, museums and libraries for research and as ambassador of my father’s photography. When I am there I feel a quickening as I am artistically moved, culturally enlightened and creatively freed.

Reflections, San Francisco, California, 2010 by David Leland Hyde. Nikon D90. Camera Raw.

My father, who was born in San Francisco, escaped the city and spent most of his life photographing wilderness. Ironically, I was born in the wilderness and do photograph nature often, but feel like I could easily spend the rest of my life photographing San Francisco.

Lines Curving Into The Sun, San Francisco, California, 2009 by David Leland Hyde. Nikon D90.

When I am in The City, as northern Californians call it, I often feel compelled to write about or photograph this diverse built landscape of fog, cable cars and the big red bridge.

Photography’s Golden Era 3

February 18th, 2010

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

Straight Photography and Other Early Influences

5-26-09, rev. 1-23-10

The Steerage, 1921, by Alfred Stieglitz. More than his signature photograph, it is also considered one of the most important images of the 20th Century because it helped to transform photography and change the perception of what was considered fine art. It is also one of the earliest and best examples of "straight photography" as defined by Alfred Stieglitz. Public Domain Image.

Note: Future blog posts will expand on this overview and delve into Pictorialism, documentary, straight photography and especially Group f.64 and the west coast tradition.

In August, 1921, a little known but classically trained painter and furniture maker, Paul Leland Hyde and his wife Jessie Clemens Hyde of Howard Street in San Francisco, gave birth to their third child, a boy they named Philip Jean Hyde. The year proved auspicious for fine art photography, but not for wilderness, at least not until the boy grew up.

The twentieth century’s biggest threats to wilderness and the National Park System began in 1921 when seven western states formed the Colorado River Commission, U. S. Geological Survey teams made studies of Glen Canyon, Cataract Canyon, Grand Canyon and the San Juan River Canyon and Hydrologists proposed the first dam site on the Colorado River.

Meanwhile photography thrived and took leaps forward thanks to an outspoken New York City proponent, the father of fine art photography, Alfred Stieglitz. In February 1921, Alfred Stieglitz sent shock waves through the art world by exhibiting a mixture of nude and clothed depictions of his lover, the rising painter Georgia O’Keeffe. The buzz created by the scandal and success of the show made the young Georgia O’Keeffe famous and solidified Alfred Stieglitz’ place in history both in America and Europe. Philip Hyde never met Alfred Stieglitz, but Alfred Stieglitz would indirectly impact Philip Hyde’s photography and that of all landscape photography. Alfred Stieglitz through his association with Paul Strand and Ansel Adams, influenced the west coast tradition of photography that was also born in the San Francisco Bay Area, as Philip Hyde grew up.

In 1932, an election year, Franklin D. Roosevelt ran against Herbert Hoover, whose popularity plummeted in the wake of the stock market crash and ensuing Great Depression. Roosevelt campaigned on the promise of his New Deal. He said its many programs and projects would reverse the economic collapse. In late 1932, even before Roosevelt took office his advisors started framing programs and began to employ photographers to add life to their reports. The nearly 100-year-old medium of photography conveyed the need for each program more memorably and dynamically than solely written documents. The photography originally used by government organizations such as the Farm Security Administration or FSA in the Great Depression came to be known as documentary photography and was characterized by crisp, sharp and unadorned images.

In previous decades photographers who wanted their work to be considered art, had been moving away from the plain representation of documentation. They experimented with soft focus and print manipulation in many forms including the changing of tone by various methods and printing on cotton and a variety of other art papers. These painterly forms came to be called Pictorialism and dictated what sold in galleries in New York City and the museums and art markets of the Eastern US until 1930 and beyond.

A few photographers bucked this trend, but none successfully until Alfred Stieglitz. Alfred Stieglitz produced a magazine called Camera Work in which he eventually began to encourage “Straight Photography.” When Alfred Stieglitz originally started a society he called Photo-Secession, he was still practicing many of the techniques of pictorialism, but in time he began to take the view that photography was an art form, in and of itself, and did not need to imitate other art forms to warrant public appreciation. He coined the term Straight Photography to refer to images that were sharp and printed just as they were captured by the camera on glossy non-painterly papers that brought out detail. One of the photographers Alfred Stieglitz featured in Camera Work was Paul Strand of Chicago, whose work was stark, simple and straightforward, yet possessed creative depth.

In 1930, a young pianist and photographer named Ansel Adams traveled to New Mexico to finish a book he had started on the Taos Pueblo. No rooms were available at Los Gallos Inn but the Innkeeper introduced Ansel Adams to Becky and Paul Strand who invited Ansel Adams to stay in an extra bedroom of their adobe guest cottage. Ansel Adams knew of Paul Strand from reading Camera Work and was delighted when Paul Strand offered to show him his negatives since he had no prints on hand. Ansel Adams described the negatives as “glorious… with perfect, uncluttered edges and beautifully distributed shapes that he had carefully selected and interpreted as forms—simple, yet of great power.” Ansel Adams was so inspired that he decided that afternoon, “the camera, not the piano, would shape my destiny.”

In 1932, a group of West Coast photographers met informally at photographer Willard Van Dyke’s home in Berkeley, California. Van Dyke’s guests Imogen Cunningham, Edward Weston, Henry Swift, Sonya Noskowiak, John Paul Edwards and Ansel Adams found they were on a similar journey. When Ansel Adams described his new direction in photography inspired by Alfred Stieglitz and Paul Strand, he discovered that the others were already at work on this new approach. All present agreed to pursue what they would call “pure photography” and work to reverse the trend of art photography toward Pictorialism. At a subsequent meeting they agreed to call themselves Group f.64, after the smallest aperture or lens opening setting that allowed for the greatest sharpness and depth. Later after World War II, Philip Hyde would study under three of the members of this group that redefined photography, Ansel Adams, Edward Weston and Imogen Cunningham.

(Continued in the blog post, “Photography’s Golden Era 4“)

References:
O’Keeffe and Stieglitz: An American Romance by Benita Eisler
Two Lives, Georgia O’Keeffe & Alfred Stieglitz: A Conversation in Paintings and Photographs by Alexandra and Thomas West
Seeing Straight: The F.64 Revolution in Photography by Mary Street Alinder, Therese Thau Heyman and Naomi Rosenblum
Ansel Adams: An Autobiography by Ansel Adams
Ansel Adams: A Biography by Mary Street Alinder

Photography’s Golden Era 2

February 4th, 2010

Photography’s Golden Era 2

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

Are We Currently in Another Golden Era of Photography?

HEY, THAT’S NOT ART!!!!!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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