by Mary Street Alinder
The first paragraph of the Prologue is an apt introduction to the contents of this biographical/historical work.
“In 1932 an energetic alliance of dedicated San Francisco Bay Area photographers burst upon the art world, demanding local attention and looking beyond to the East Coast. These westerners believed they were redefining photography, finding a new way of seeing. Before them loomed two roadblocks; Alfred Stieglitz in New York and Pictorialism, the popular photographic style that was the antithesis of their philosophy.”
The book is a well written, fascinating, in-depth history of the emergence of fine art photography from the perspective of this group of photographers on the west coast. There are brief biographies of each of the original seven members and also bits and pieces of biographical info on later members and guest members such as Dorthea Lange. Also covered are their varied approaches to photography over the time period and their interactions with the other members of the group as well as the art world and the public. Being the era of the Great Depression, it was interesting to read how these photographers played a role in the perception of photography as an art form and how their lives were affected. For the period, it was unusual that there were several women in the group who for the most part were treated as equals to their male colleagues. The rivalry with the Pictorialists is amusingly reminiscent of modern controversies. Also interesting were the interactions with the East Coast group led by Alfred Stieglitz.
The author is an independent scholar specializing in 20th century photography. As a student in 1967, she attended a workshop where the instructors included several of the Group f.64 photographers. She became the chief assistant to Ansel Adams from 1979 until his death and worked closely with him on his autobiography, completing it after his death. Much of this book came from the research material collected then.
Have you read it? What did you think?
I will loan my copy to trustworthy members on request.