The Golden Decade

I went to photo school, and I’ve been intrigued ever since by the debate about going to actual school versus the school of hard knocks. It’s a real pressing question for some folks: if you want to make a career of photography, should you study it in a classroom or should you apprentice with another photographer? The easy answer is to do both, but that option isn’t always practical. I learned a lot in school, but it’s amazing what you can learn quickly on a real live photo shoot.

One thing is certain about photo school: if you have the opportunity to go back in time and study at the California School of Fine Art Photography in the post WWII era, you should probably leap at the chance. Imagine this—a school of photography established by none other than Ansel Adams himself, run daily in the classroom by Ansel’s protègè Minor White. Stepping out into the world to shoot? No problem, as the field instructor was Edward Weston. Getting tired of learning from the same three geniuses all the time? Guest lecturers included the equally genius Imogen Cunningham, Dorothea Lange and Lisette Model.

Philip Hyde also taught at the school, and his son, David Leland Hyde, writes a great blog about classic landscape photography. That’s where I learned about this peerless decade at this too-good-to-be-true photo school, via Hyde’s Landscape Photography Blog. His writeup is timely because of the release of a neat new book, The Golden Decade, a story of the first decade at this amazing photographic school made to accompany the equally inspiring gallery show. So travel back in time virtually in the pages of this forthcoming book, and if you’re in the Bay area check out the Smith Anderson North gallery for the exhibition of vintage prints by these masters as well as their talented students.

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