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

August 12th, 2010 by David Leland Hyde Leave a reply »

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


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.”



  1. Richard Wong says:

    Sounds like an intriguing exhibit. I’ve had lunch in San Anselmo and driven by there many times in the past but hadn’t seen this gallery. Nice little town.

  2. Smith Anderson North just moved to San Anselmo from down the street in San Rafael. Smith Anderson North used to be a frame shop and small gallery, now it is a huge gallery and frame shop. Stefan Kirkeby, the proprietor, does framing for many of the major museums in San Francisco. Right now he is framing the Fisher Collection for the major expansion of MoMA. He makes these incredible thick but light wood frames out of all sorts of great hardwoods that can be sanded down and repainted if they get dinged. They last forever and are much more durable than metal frames for traveling exhibitions. With his small gallery and full-page ads in Black and White Magazine, he has developed a great following of collectors who are primarily interested in the early black and white prints from the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s. An era that many have overlooked, that has yet to get proper recognition for the incredible photography it produced.

  3. pj finn says:

    The golden decade — aptly named with a lineup like that. I’ll bet it’s an exhibit that’ll bring you right down to your knees.

  4. Hi PJ, thanks for stopping in. It will be magnificent. Some of the best vintage black and white prints and printing in the history of photography all gathered in one place.

  5. If you get a chance, David, could we see photos of the exhibit? I would enjoy seeing the film also – is it going to be released in theaters or on television?

    This will be an incredible exhibition, I’m sure.


  6. Hi Sharon, the Golden Decade exhibition will be well-worth seeing. I am not sure if they will scan any of the photographs for the internet. It’s a good idea. I personally can’t take on a project like that, perhaps Stefan Kirkeby, curator and proprietor will put them online. Some galleries do. I am getting photographs together for the upcoming show in Denver at Camera Obscura Gallery. I will be announcing that next.

  7. steve gerould says:

    Thanks for keeping me in the loop on this. There is a chance I might
    be in the Bay Area in Sept and will go if there. I wonder if any of these photographers would have known of Cedric Wright? Who knows…
    Hope all is well with you.
    Steve Gerould

  8. Hi Steve, thank you for reading. I’m sure some of them knew who Cedric Wright was, though remember this group of photographers was in school somewhere between 1945 and 1955. Dad for example went to CSFA 1946-1950. As you know, the Exhibit Format Series didn’t get rolling until the late 1950s and early 1960s. Cedric Wright’s “Words of the Earth” in the series did not appear until 1960. I realize Cedric Wright was photographing before Dad and many of his classmates, but Cedric Wright had not yet become known until after some CSFA students also started to become known. I know that Dad was not the only CSFA graduate who photographed for the Exhibit Format Series. As far as I know Clyde Childress went to CSFA under Ansel Adams and he contributed 12 photographs to “Time and The River Flowing: Grand Canyon.”

  9. Monte says:

    There is certainly a lot to know about this. I believe you made
    several good tips in Features also. It’s So much appreciated!

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