A CURIOUS PHOTO EXHIBIT

“Ten Teachers of Creative Photography,” on exhibition at the Lawson Galleries, 3235 Sacramento street, is one of a number of tributes by the local galleries to the Society for Photographic Education has staged this week in Oakland.


It is a curious show, containing primarily familiar works by all of the familiar people: Imogen Cunningham, Ruth Bernhard, Don Worth, Wynn Bullock, Oliver Gagliani, Josepha Haverman, etc.


As always, Miss Cunningham’s photographs are marvels of clean-cut detachment combined with a sensitive empathy toward the images she photographs; Ruth Bernhard’s photographs are tactile and sensuous. Miss Haverman specializes in a geometry of rich, sonorous textures and contrasts. Jack Welpott gives his somewhat contrived imagery an air of conviction, Judy Dater creates a Hopperesque aura around her studies of shabby room interiors, and William Current fashions strong compositions of corrugated metal walls and the calligraphs of wharf pilings.


The trouble is, seen altogether, many of the photographs have a disquieting sameness about them, a oneness of vision with minor personal variations. That vision belonged primarily to Edward Weston, and the show largely demonstrates the continuing tyranny of Weston’s influence as it has been passed down through Minor White and other teachers of “creative photography” to every camera club hobbyist in Northern California.


One photographer not so tyrannized is HARRY WILSON, whose work is currently being displayed at the M. H. de Young Memorial Museum. Wilson reveals a deeply personal vision in his studies of lonely crowds, of individuals who are almost displaced from the pictures by drab sidewalks, streets and other dehumanized features of the environment, by his juxtapositions of people with blatant signs, Playland concessions and other symbols of commercialized, depersonalized fun. Wilson’s technique is disarmingly candid in appearance, but it includes a sense of subtle composition, contrast and other high artistic values, which inconspicuously underline his purpose.

Thomas Albright

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San Francisco Chronicle 3/28/1969