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Modernist Photography and the Group f.64

This chapter, although revised, is substantially based on my essay "Perspective on Seeing Straight," in Seeing Straight: The f.64 Revolution in Photography , ed. Therese Thau Heyman (Oakland, Calif.: Oakland Museum, and Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1992). Permission to reprint was graciously provided by the Oakland Museum. The abbreviation CCP refers to the Center for Creative Photography, University of Arizona, Tucson.

1. Heyman, "Perspective on Seeing Straight," 60. [BACK]

2. In most large cities by the early 1900s amateur photography enthusiasts gathered together in camera clubs, which provided technical support, social activities, and juried exhibitions. [BACK]

3. William Mortensen, "Venus and Vulcan," Camera Craft (May 1934): 206. Mortensen contributed five installments of this article from March to July 1934. [BACK]

4. Ansel Adams, Book Review, Creative Art (May 1933): 386. [BACK]

5. The Daybooks of Edward Weston: Two Volumes in One , vol. 1, Mexico ; vol. 2, California , ed. Nancy Newhall (New York: Aperture Foundation, 1981), 2:174. [BACK]

6. Ibid., 1:8. [BACK]

7. An ardent proponent of avant-garde art, Galka Scheyer introduced European works to the Oakland area, including constructivist and abstract paintings plus works by the Blue Four; organized lectures and exhibitions; and proposed purchases to the Oakland City Council while continuing to teach at Anna Head, a private girls' school in Berkeley. [BACK]

8. Daybooks of Edward Weston , 2:151. [BACK]

9. Ibid., 2:146. [BACK]

10. Ibid., 2:147. Weston does not seem to recognize that Paul Strand had presented these ideas in his 1923 lecture to the Clarence White School. [BACK]

11. Willard Van Dyke, "Unpublished Autobiography," 52; collection of CCP, courtesy of Barbara M. Van Dyke. [BACK]

12. Ibid., 54. [BACK]

13. Willard Van Dyke, transcript of a lecture given at the Oakland Museum, July 14, 1978, 5. [BACK]

14. James Alinder, "The Preston Holder Story," Exposure 13, no. 1 (February 1975): 4. [BACK]

15. Undated letter from Willard Van Dyke to Edward Weston, envelope postmarked September 8, 1933; collection of CCP, courtesy of Barbara M. Van Dyke. See also Willard Van Dyke's introduction to Weston's 1933 show at 683 Brockhurst and his article on Dorothea Lange's documentary style, "The Photographs of Dorothea Lange," Camera Craft 41 (October 1934): 461-67. Mary Alinder believes that Adams's typewriter was the one used and that he may have been the author; in my opinion, however, Adams, in his writing style at this time, simplified and overstated for emphasis in teaching. Imogen Cunningham states unequivocally, "In the main, the person who started this was Willard. I've been told that Ansel Adams claims he started it, but I would swear on my last penny that it was Willard who did it" (University of California Oral History, Regional Cultural History Project, Bancroft Library, Berkeley, 1961, 11). This uncertainty of authorship reflects the imperfect recollections of the artists themselves; moreover, the manifesto was essentially a consensus document. [BACK]

16. Daybooks of Edward Weston , 2:246. [BACK]

17. Adams, quoted in Ira Latour, "West Coast Photography: Does It Really Exist?" Photography [London] (May 1960): 20-25. Van Dyke credits a West Coast aesthetic as the goal of his photography in a 1934 statement for his show at 683 Brockhurst. [BACK]

18. Ansel Adams, unpublished typescript statement in the collection of Amy Conger, found also in the papers of Beaumont Newhall. This four-page piece appears to have been a draft to introduce the f.64 show at Adams's Geary Street gallery. [BACK]

19. San Francisco Chronicle , November 27, 1932, Music and Art Section. [BACK]

20. The Seattle Times announced the Group f.64 exhibition at the Seattle Art Museum on October 1, 1933, in the Art Museum column. [BACK]

21. Review, Spectator 54, no. 13 (November 4, 1933): 16. Naomi Rosenblum points out that "objective" is the very word Strand used in 1917 to discuss the new realist style. [BACK]

22. The Mills College exhibition, February 11-28, 1934, included work by Lavenson, Cunningham, Van Dyke, Adams, and Weston, as well as Dorothea Lange and Margaret Bourke-White. It was reviewed in "A Record of Actuality," San Francisco Argonaut , March 8, 1934. [BACK]

23. Undated letter from Edward Weston to Willard Van Dyke, envelope postmarked January 27, 1933; collection of CCP, courtesy of Barbara M. Van Dyke. "The f.64 exhibition shows up well at Denny-Watrous. They wish to give us another (free) week, O.K.?" He adds, "I do not want to hold up the group." [BACK]

24. Sigismund Blumann, "The F.64 Group Exhibition," Camera Craft 40 (May 1933): 199-200. [BACK]

25. Albert Jourdan, "Sidelight #16: The Impurities of Purism," American Photography 29 (June 1935): 348-56. [BACK]

26. John Paul Edwards, "Group f 64," Camera Craft 42 (March 1935): 107-12. [BACK]

27. Roger Sturtevant, transcript of interview on his collection and on Dorothea Lange (with whom he shared a studio at one time), the Oakland Museum, February 1977, 1-5. Although Sturtevant was unable to locate this set of pictures at the time he gave his photographic archive to the Oakland Museum, I have seen some of them in Michael Wilson's collection and also at the J. Paul Getty Museum. [BACK]

28. Van Dyke, "Autobiography," 32. [BACK]

29. Ibid., 50. [BACK]

30. Statement printed on the 683 gallery stationery; courtesy of Barbara M. Van Dyke. [BACK]

31. Camera Club Notes, Camera Craft 40 (September 1933): 388. [BACK]

32. Van Dyke, "Autobiography," 50. Curiously, the word "Salon" suggests the pictorial tradition they wanted to leave behind. [BACK]

33. Ibid., 48. Although Van Dyke writes of this period, Naomi Rosenblum told me about another account of Van Dyke's decision to leave the Shell Company and commit himself to photography, one that was related by William Alexander in Film on the Left: American Documentary Film from 1931 to 1942 (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1981), 130-44. In that interview Alexander notes that Van Dyke was radicalized when, after trying to organize a union at Shell, he was forced to choose between working a sixty-hour week and losing his job. Recently, when he compiled material for his autobiography, Van Dyke recalled the influence of Edward Weston; it is likely that both Weston and the circumstances at Shell led to his choosing photography. [BACK]

34. Laverne Mae Dicker, "Laura Adams Armer, California Photographer," California Historical Society Quarterly (Summer 1977): 139. [BACK]

35. Imogen Cunningham, University of California Oral History, Regional Cultural History Project, Bancroft Library, Berkeley, 100-104. [BACK]

36. Daybooks of Edward Weston , 2:4. Imogen Cunningham papers, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, no roll number. [BACK]

37. Daybooks of Edward Weston , 2:141. Years later Noskowiak moved away and worked for the San Francisco Chronicle and the Public Works of Art Project. [BACK]

38. The letters Consuelo Kanaga wrote to Albert Bender, in the Bender Collection, Mills College Library, Oakland, generally refer to her mental state, not her photographic activities. I am grateful to Barbara Millstein of the Brooklyn Museum, curator of the 1992 Kanaga exhibition and author of the accompanying catalogue, for suggesting this source to me as well as sharing many of her valuable insights on Kanaga. [BACK]

39. "A Visit with Consuelo Kanaga, from the Icehouse," Camera 35 (December 1972): 53. Kanaga recalled beginning in photography at the San Francisco Chronicle : "When I started on the newspaper, I learned just the fundamentals of printing and developing; no nuances. Everything had to be sharp, etched on the glass plates. The editor would look up and down the row to see the sharp cut line. And, if anything wasn't so sharp he'd say, 'what's the matter, losing your eyesight?'" Then, with her interest in photography whetted, she joined the California Camera Club, where she met many "wonderful" people, including Dorothea Lange, the innovative documentary photographer of San Francisco depression-era street scenes. Lange later described Kanaga as ''unconventional with great courage and an ability to go anywhere and do anything" (interview with Dorothea Lange by S. Reiss, University of California Oral History, Regional Cultural History Project, Bancroft Library, Berkeley, 1968, 87). [BACK]

40. See Susan Ehrens, Alma Lavenson: Photographs (Berkeley, Calif.: Wildwood Arts, 1990), 5. [BACK]

41. Ibid., 90. [BACK]

42. Ibid., 4. [BACK]

43. Charis Wilson, in "Founders of Photography" symposium transcript, the Oakland Museum, March 9, 1986, 9. [BACK]

44. Imogen Cunningham, lecture at the Oakland Museum, 1974, author's notes. [BACK]

45. Wilson, in "Founders of Photography," 2. [BACK]

46. Ibid. [BACK]

47. Ibid., 5. [BACK]

48. Daybooks of Edward Weston , 2: 267. [BACK]

49. Ibid., 2:243. [BACK]

50. Ibid. [BACK]

51. For a compelling discussion of the breakup, see Michel Oren, "On the Impurity of Group f. 64 Photography," History of Photography (Summer 1991): 119-27. [BACK]

52. Letter from Mary Jeannette Edwards to Edward Weston, undated but probably 1935; Edward Weston Archive, collection of CCP. [BACK]

53. Letter from Mary Jeannette Edwards to Edward Weston, August 3, 1935; collection of CCP. [BACK]

54. Imogen Cunningham, quoted in Latour, "West Coast Photography" (as in note 17), 62. [BACK]

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