Modern Masters: Group f/64

Photographs from the Bank of America Collection
Ansel Adams · Imogen Cunningham · Willard Van Dyke · Brett Weston · Edward Weston


Nearly fifty works from five of f/64's members, now known as some of the most influential artists of the twentieth century. 

Founded in 1932, Group ƒ/64 was an informal association of Bay Area photographers devoted to exhibiting and promoting a new direction in photography. The group was established as a challenge to pictorialism, a popular movement on the West Coast, which favored painterly, hand-manipulated, soft-focus prints, often made on textured papers. This small association of innovators named their organization Group ƒ/64 after the large-format camera aperture, which produces the maximum depth of field so that everything from the immediate foreground to the distant background is in sharp focus, yielding crisp, graphic compositions. On November 15, 1932, the work of the original eleven members of Group ƒ/64—seven men and four women—was shown in a major exhibition at the M.H. de Young Memorial Museum in San Francisco. Modern Masters: Group ƒ/64 features five of the most important members of the group.

True to modernist beliefs, the members of Group ƒ/64 argued that photography could only advance as an art form if its practitioners exploited the characteristics inherent in the camera’s mechanical nature. They adhered to a philosophy that photography is only valid when it is “straight,” or unaltered. Rather than enlargements, the group preferred contact prints, made on a sheet of glossy printing paper in direct contact with the negative. This technique gave the photographs rich clarity, subtle definition and maximum tonal range. They wrote a manifesto, stating that “pure photography is defined as possessing no qualities of technic [sic], composition or idea, derivative of any other art form.” Subject matter was less important than technique, and their photographs covered a wide range of themes, from landscapes and still lifes to portraits and nudes.

The group disbanded in 1935 when California, along with the rest of the nation, felt the effects of the Great Depression. Many of Group ƒ/64’s members continued to photograph and are now known as some of the most influential artists of the 20th century. This exhibition features nearly 50 works from five Group f/64 artists, many of which were created after the group dissolved, remaining faithful to the manifesto.

 

Featured Artists:

Ansel Adams (American, 1902–1984) 
Imogen Cunningham (American, 1883 –1976) 
Willard Van Dyke (American, 1906 –1986)
Brett Weston (American, 1911–1993)
Edward Weston (American, 1886 –1958)

 

This exhibition is made possible by the
Bank of America Art in our Communities ® program

 

 

 

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Top Images:

Half DomeBlowing Snow, 1955. Photograph by Ansel Adams. Collection Center for Creative Photography. © The Ansel Adams Publishing Rights Trust.

Magnolia Blossom, 1925. © 2018 Imogen Cunningham Trust. All rights reserved.
 


RELATED EVENTS

From Things Seen to Things Known
Thursday, January 17, 2019, 6:30 pm

Guest Speaker: Photography historian and curator, Mark Johnstone provides an overview of the Group f/64 social and artistic scene and talks about the lives and work of the individual photographers and how their work is viewed today.


Wista View Camera Photography Workshop
Saturday, January 19, 2019, 10:30 am

Instructor: Professional photographer leads a hands-on workshop using a Wista View 8 x 10 field camera and demonstrate techniques used by the f/64 photographers.