Visitors to Lumière gallery’s newly revamped website can get a taste of rare vintage videos of masters of American photography. The gallery has posted excerpts from four video interviews — with photographers Ansel Adams, Wynn Bullock and Edward Weston’s sons and with Beaumont Newhall, the first photography curator at New York’s Museum of Modern Art — that have not been seen since they aired on television in 1971.
The interviews were among 14 conducted by Steve James, the owner of Eikon Gallery in Monterey, California, for local television. A snapshot of photographic history, they reveal that, despite continual technological innovations, the issues and concerns around the medium have remained rather consistent over time: ease of use, depth of tone, portability, issues of originality, monetary value and collecting, etc.
Tony Casadonte of Lumière obtained access to the collection from James’ son, also named Steve. Lumière edited four of the videos for inclusion in its exhibition “Art in the Digital Culture . . . Silver to Silicon,” on view through Saturday, January 26. Casadonte told ArtsATL that there are tentative plans to compile a DVD of all 14 interviews next year. In the meantime, full versions are available for viewing upon request.
In the longest excerpt, Newhall talks about a variety of subjects, including a concise overview of the medium’s evolution, from wet collodion plates to dry plates to Autochrome, the first commercially available color process. While demonstrating with an antiquated device how a chrome was viewed, he makes a charmingly antiquated comment to the TV audience: “Those of you who have color sets will find it a quite startling image.”
Adams recalls his teaching days and his gallery in California, where he showed works by the f/64 group, which included Imogen Cunningham, Brett Weston and Edward Weston, among others. The gallery was short-lived, Adams says, because there “wasn’t enough interest” to keep it going.
The work of experimental photographer Wynn Bullock demonstrates an early version of image manipulation and provides a hint of the medium’s conceptual potential. He explains trying to convey the passing of time through the use of long exposures. A series of images with increasing exposure times depict waves coming ashore amid rocks. In the final image, the waves dissolve into an ethereal fog surrounding the rocks.
Edward Weston’s three sons appear on camera together. Brett discusses developing his own work in his father’s shadow and Cole discusses printing many of his father’s images posthumously for an exhibition — they are clearly marked, he assures.
When the interviewer makes an offhand comment about how they must be making a fortune from their father’s works, Cole quips, “We’re not making a fortune, we’re making a living. I don’t think any photographer makes a fortune.”
They chuckle when recalling that Weston’s will stipulates that his photographs “shall not be sold for under $30.” At a Sotheby’s auction in 2007, Weston’s 1927 “Nautilus” sold for $1.1 million.