Margery Mann

  • “Certain Aspects of the American Dream in the Mid Nineteen Sixties” at the Richmond Art Center

    BAY AREA PHOTOGRAPHY IS FLAILING around like a carp caught in the muddy pool of a drying stream. There is tremendous activity but little progress. We might—abruptly changing the metaphor—divide the photographers having one-man shows into two columns. As the leader of one column we see Ansel Adams, and at the head of the other we imagine the shade of the late Edward Weston. The photographers standing in the column behind Adams are older—many of them look like business or professional men on holiday costumed by Abercrombie and Fitch—but a few of them are obviously old-time naturalists. They carry


    California photographers have discovered the Negro. In the Bay Area, it has become the fashion for photographers to drive in to town in their white Mustangs from the white suburbs to spend a couple of weekends walking up and down Fill more Street, and their Serious Social Statements, photographs of genuine, real live Negroes—a couple talking on a street corner, a group of women in their best hats congregating at a store front church, or children playing games on the sidewalk—have been shown recently in too frequent exhibits that mirror the condescension of both photographer and gallery director.


    Late in June, the Friends of Photography Gallery opened in Carmel, with all the tinsel and fanfare one would expect of an occasion sponsored by the two top names in California photography, Ansel Adams and Brett Weston. But it seems only one more attempt by the Old Guard to hobble creativity in California and to keep it confined to the well-worn paths already established. The first show, a dozen or so photographs by each of seven respected artists—Adams, Brett and Edward Weston, Wynn Bullock, Imogen Cunningham, Dorothea Lange, and Minor White—was devoid of surprises. Bullock showed his Boy Fishing


    W. Eugene Smith, San Francisco Museum of Art: Occasionally we hear on the radio an advertisement for a record with a snappy title like Gems from the Verdi Operas, and we realize that we will be served up only the nice warm chestnuts and not have to listen to all that dreary, dull connecting stuff that takes up so much of our time and merely serves to separate the jolly tunes that we really pay our money to hear. The twenty-five-print traveling show of the photographs of W. Eugene Smith circulated by George Eastman House leaves us with some of the same queasy dissatisfaction. The editor has been

  • Ernest Lowe

    Don't Cry For Me Babey at the de Young Museum is a profound, sympathetic story of the lives of the agricultural workers of the San Joaquin Valley. Ernest Lowe made the photographs over a six-year period, from the spring of 1960 to the spring of 1966, and his photographs show a way of life that has gained little in dignity and security since Steinbeck described it in The Grapes of Wrath in 1939. Many of the workers are still migratory. They follow the crops, picking cherries or apricots, sacking onions, pruning grapevines, and many of them live in ramshackle cabins or in dusty campsites beside

  • Photography

    RUTH BERNARD, AARDVARK GALLERY: Ruth Bernhard’s sad little show which opens the relocated Aardvark Gallery raises some disquieting ques­tions about the differences between the artist-painter and the artist-pho­tographer. While the artist-painter often carries wet canvases into the gallery, because his ideas have been boiling as he worked under the pres­sure of the impending exhibit, the artist-photographer plays it safe and shows the same old prints again and again. Most, if not all, of Miss Bernhard’s prints have been around for a long time—the skull with the crucifix, the pigeons through the

  • Paul Hassel, Robert Heinecken, Phil Palmer

    The photographer-editor relationship is a controversy that has been widely debated in the past and will no doubt continue to be widely debated as long as there are photographers and editors to debate. “The photographer must never be allowed to arrange his own work,” claims the editor. “He is too close to it. He falls in love with mediocre images because they were difficult to obtain. He is unable to subordinate the single image to the whole.” “Not so,” cries the photographer. “I was there. I saw. I pressed the shutter, and only I can decide the order and importance of each photograph.”

    At the

  • The Widening Stream. Poems by Richard Mack, photographs by Wynn Bullock.

    The Widening Stream, poems by Richard Mack, photographs by Wynn Bullock (Peregrin Publications, Monterey, California), 1965. 2000 copies printed.

    Because Wynn Bullock has worked in the same geographical region and often in the same forms, his work has too often been eclipsed by the work of Ansel Adams and Edward Weston. Both Adams and Weston are more prolific photographers, and Bullock’s carefully considered seeing can in no way compete with Adams’ flamboyant grandeur or Weston’s flamboyant sensuality. Bullock’s work has been seen occasionally in group shows in the Bay Area—perhaps he is best

  • Photography: Thomas and Margaret Tenney; Richard Weymouth Brooks

    THOMAS AND MARGARET TENNEY, San Francisco Museum Of Art: The Tenneys have created a show that had to be created—the inevitable translation of Pop art from billboard to photograph, and it is fortunate that the translation was made by photographers who viewed their project so lightly and humorously. The Tenneys have not photographed advertisements aimed at a rich, sophisticated, or intellectual audience, only advertisements with mass appeal. The hamburger is seen as the ultimate in culinary delight; taking your girl for a ride in a convertible with the top down is the ultimate in status. Both

  • Textiles of Oaxaca

    The two dozen photographs that accompany the Oaxaca textiles make a refreshingly competent, unpretentious display––so unpretentious, in fact, that in the gallery, the photographer-editor takes no credit for his work. The technique is cinematic. A long shot establishes the scene––ruins of pyramidal temples surrounded by pillars and courtyards. The camera zooms in to look at the pyramids and columns. The next shot, medium close-up, shows us details of carved stone in the buildings. The next is a quick cut to a closeup of a woman wearing a heavily-patterned, woven and embroidered “huipil” whose

  • Ambiguity and the Absurd

    Gordon Bennett has so often stumbled over the title of his show that one fears that he has fallen victim to the catchy alliteration without really understanding what the words mean. Elliot Erwitt’s widely-reproduced photograph––from his series, “Improbable Photographs,” shown last summer at the Museum of Modern Art––of a boy and girl deep in conversation between two rows of gaping-mouthed mummies in the catacombs of Guanajuato is absurd; the conversation is ridiculously unrelated to the locale. Bennett, on the other hand, has shown only the mummies––hardly ambiguous, far from absurd. Some of

  • Richard Elkus’s Alamos at the De Young Museum

    It is fortunate that the De Young has chosen to show Richard Elkus’s photographs from his book, Alamos, since few of us will have the opportunity to see the book, which was published by Grabhorn Press in an edition of fewer than 500 copies and costs $75. The book is a magnificent, opulent volume, almost a tribute to the taste of Renaissance man, for its spine is covered in rich brown suede and it is bound in specially-woven Mexican fabric––actually, more accurately, Mexicanesque, for the light brown, orange and buff look to have been mingled by an interior decorator rather than by a Mexican

  • Ruth-Marion Baruch’s Illusion For Sale at the San Francisco Museum of Art

    Ruth-Marion Baruch has carried her camera into department stores to study women as they buy cosmetics, jewelry, clothes to make themselves more beautiful. The idea is such a splendid one that it is disappointing that Miss Baruch has not investigated very extensively or in very great depth. And the casual arrangement of her prints destroys any impact that careful editing might give. Many of Miss Baruch’s prints are almost good; few of them are excellent. She has too often selected not quite the right moment, not quite the right place. A charming study of a young girl critically examining herself

  • “Contemporary Photographs from the George Eastman House Collection, 1900–1964” at the De Young Museum

    The 124 photographs selected by Nathan Lyons to represent the range of contemporary photographic expression show clearly that we have today such a wonderfully malleable, plastic concept of the world that the imaginative photographer can mould and stretch and pommel reality into undreamed-of new dimensions. Lyons has in general selected the unexpected, sometimes Surrealistic, image rather than the image that isolates the commonplace object or experience to make us look at it with new eyes. People wear masks, and our minds must resolve the difference between masked and non-masked individual to be


    THE POSSIBILITIES OPENED UP by the invention of the camera 125 years ago were immediately grasped by the painter. Here was an instrument that could reproduce the “real” world more easily, more cheaply and with greater fidelity than the paint brush. One could, flippantly, say that from that moment on the “real” world was conceded to the camera, and a new world began to be created by the painters.

    But today the photographer, as well as the painter, has turned his back on the real world (though few photographers have looked as sharply at our neon-and-hamburger society as, say, the Pop painter) and


    The Photographer And The American Landscape, San Francisco Museum Of Art:

    Two years ago, John Szarkowski replaced Edward Steichen as Director of the Photography Department at the Museum of Modern Art, and “The American Landscape” is the first major exhibit prepared under his direction. It is, in fact, the first important traveling show to come to the Bay Area since “The Bitter Years,” the photographs of the Farm Security Administration, an exhibit edited by Steichen and shown here in 1963.

    “The American Landscape” is a big, sprawling show, spanning almost a hundred years. It is not a unified,


    Eliot Porter, De Young Museum: The magnificent scenery of western North America has given impetus to a peculiar local phenomenon we might call the “Conservation School.” In 1871, William H. Jackson accompanied an expedition to the Rocky Mountain region, and his photographs convinced skeptical congressmen—who had previously believed the verbal descriptions of the Yellowstone area were as fantastic and as false as the tales brought back to Europe by the early spice traders—that the scenery was truly as remarkable as it had been described, and persuaded them that the area must be set aside as a

  • Imogen Cunningham at the San Francisco Museum of Art

    The first successful photographs were made between 1835 and 1840 (Daguerre’s photograph of the corner of his studio is dated 1837, and his daguerreotype process was described to the Academy of Sciences in Paris in 1839), and for almost 65 years, half the entire history of the medium, Imogen Cunningham has made photographs. She was born in Portland, Oregon, in 1883, and when she was six years old, she moved with her family to Seattle. In 1900, she saw reproductions of photographs by Gertrude Kasebier, who was later a member of Photo-Secession, and she dreamed of becoming a photographer as good

  • Bruce Goodell at the Richmond Art Center

    Goodell’s gimmick (bits and snippets of the world: license plates, shingles, a hinge on a gate, the signs on buses) has entrapped many young photographers. Seen and expressed by an intensely philosophical, intensely imaginative photographer, Aaron Siskind perhaps, the bits of the world may embody many things, humor, sadness, horror. Goodell, like many others, has photographed almost at random, and the lack of imagination and emphasis has reduced simplicity to insignificance.

    ––Margery Mann

  • Oscar Maurer at the Oakland Art Museum

    The history and legends of the San Francisco earthquake and fire of April 18, 1906, have given rise to such a vast body of “Earthquakeana”––pictures, books, films––that one more exhibit might seem superfluous. The current show at the Oakland Museum, twenty photographs by Oscar Maurer, is, however, such a splendid, moving representation of the chaos and destruction that followed the catastrophe that it is well worth seeing.

    Maurer, who is now 94 years old, began to photograph in the 1890s. The Museum shows a small album of his platinum prints––portraits and landscapes––made before 1900; and early