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The San Diego Museum of Art’s photographic exhibit features the greatest of the 20th century

Finally kicking off a year after its planned debut, the new San Diego Museum of Art photography exhibition will feature some of the medium’s most recognizable and influential names, including Ansel Adams, Dorothea Lange, Aaron Siskind and Alfred Eisenstaedt.

“Masters of Photography: The Garner Collection” was scheduled to open on November 14, 2020, the day the COVID pandemic forced the museum to close for the second time. He will now make his debut on Saturday.

“No one got a chance to see it,” said Anita Feldman, associate director of curatorial affairs and education at the San Diego Museum of Art. “We just kept the photographs and put everything away. “

The collection of 112 prints is on loan from Cam and Wanda Garner, local collectors who have long contributed to the museum. The couple – he is a biotechnology executive and she is a licensed family and marriage therapist – have donated hundreds of photographs to the institution, although only a few are on display in this exhibit.

The images reflect the interests of the Garners, focusing on work from the 1930s to the 1960s, but include photos from 1900 to the present. Rather than collecting only well-known images, Cam Garner said he focuses on works by photographers that pique his interest.

“I find it much more attractive,” he said. “I can dig into their past and have more depth,” he said.

Garner said his interest in photography began during childhood vacations with the family. His father always had a camera with him and when he got home he would put together slideshows of their travels. Garner started taking surf photos at the age of 16 and started collecting about 25 years ago.

“Cam is a solid photographer in his own right. Although self-taught, he has had the privilege of working and learning from many professional photographers, ”said Roxana Velásquez, Executive Director and CEO of the museum. “His collection is particularly important because it includes many important in-depth photographers; for example, her collection includes over 100 works by Mary Ellen Mark, one of the 20th century’s most profound photographers documenting the inequalities of society.

Sid Grossman. Arkansas, 1939-1940. Gelatin silver print. Collection of Cam and Wander Garner.

(Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York)

The exhibition is grouped into three themes: “Reflection on nature”, “Things as they are: city, society and conflict” and “Manipulating reality: abstraction and allegory”.

“Thematic groupings often offer a way to understand a topic that might be lost in a chronological organization,” Velásquez said. “Different artists grappling with similar themes from different generations reveal that their aesthetic, humanitarian or environmental concerns are continuous and not unique to any particular moment in time. “

The “Reflection on Nature” section includes four images by Ansel Adams. Among them is his iconic “Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico”, shot in 1941, and “El Capitan, Sunrise Winter, Yosemite National Park”, shot in 1918 and printed in 1976.

Adams used what is known as the gelatin silver process for his prints, a technique that brings images into focus and accentuates black and white contrasts. This process, Feldman said, “captures details that you lose with the naked eye.”

By comparison, platinum prints from the early 20e century, like William Edward Dassonville’s “Yosemite Valley”, which dates from 1905, have a velvety quality that emulates a painting.

Aaron Siskind used the crisp details of gelatin silver prints to create summaries by taking close-ups of objects found in nature and focusing on shapes, textures and lines. The Garners have an extensive collection of Siskind’s prolific career, which began with documentary photography in the 1930s. His images are featured in the “Reflection on Nature” section as well as the “Manipulating Reality: Abstraction” section. and allegory ”.

Anne Brigman brought a romantic and pictorial vision to her landscapes. Brigman was known as a pictorialist who created images in the aesthetics of European master painters, promoting the idea that photography was equal to other fine arts. Her photos were often shot in the Sierra Nevada with female nudes, which were usually her sister or sister. “The Pine Sprite” from 1911 has a primordial feel as Brigman poses in a tree.

Brigman’s photos of elf-like nudes were considered radical by some during a time when feminism was in its infancy. But photography and the women’s rights movement have grown together. Women won the vote in 1920, and in 1925, the invention of the Leica 35mm pocket camera ushered in the era of photojournalism.

“Photography was something women could do,” Feldman said. “It was a form of self-expression that didn’t rely on the male-dominated art schools. It was a modern, liberated art form.

Pioneering photojournalist Margaret Bourke-White was one of the first four photographers hired to work for Life magazine in 1936. She documented the German invasion of Moscow in 1941, crossed the Rhine with General George Patton and took some- some of the first photos of the interior. concentration camps as well as the acclaimed 1946 photo of Mahatma Gandhi next to his spinning wheel.

Two of Bourke-White’s prints are on display in the “Things As They Are: The City, Society, and Conflict” section. One is a 1951 image of the US Navy Boxer aircraft carrier stationed in San Diego, the other is of the liberation of Buchenwald concentration camp in 1945.

Other notable women in the exhibit are Dorothea Lange, who put a human face on the suffering of the Depression Era. (Her photo of a breadline in 1932 is one of many photos on the show depicting the Great Depression.) Berenice Abbott documented the transformation of the New York skyline in the 1930s and Diane Arbus focused on people on the fringes of society.

Mary Ellen Mark also focused on the marginalized and grounded in her subjects. She spent time in the maximum security women’s ward at Oregon State Hospital in Salem, Ore. In the mid-1970s, and a Life magazine assignment on street teens in Seattle became a project of all. a life. His photo of 13-year-old Erin Blackwell, known as Tiny on the streets of Seattle, dressed for Halloween is one of Mark’s three prints in the exhibit.

“Things As They Are: The City, Society and Conflict” covers everything from a spooky photo of Nazi Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels by Alfred Eisenstaedt in 1933 and Robert Capa’s landing at Omaha Beach in 1944 to a series of photographs of Bruce Davidson, who immersed himself in a street gang in Brooklyn in 1959.

Also included is Lewis Hine’s image of a young girl named Sadie Pfeifer working as a spinner in a North Carolina cotton mill in 1910. His photos of working children helped pass child labor laws.

An artistic photo of a gas station at night with a car

George Tice. Petit’s Mobil Gas Station, Cherry Hill, NJ, 1974. Gelatin silver print. Collection of Cam and Wanda Garner.

(George Tice)

The third section of the exhibition, “Manipulating Reality: Abstraction and Allegory,” examines how photos were altered to achieve desired effects, even long before Photoshop. In 1900 Frank Eugene used engraving tools to scrape the negative of the “Minuet” to give the illusion of a hand-created image. And Albanian photographer Gjon Mili used the stop action to create a surreal image with multiple exposures in his 1940 photo of a female torso.

But not all of the photographs in this section have been altered; some have been staged as “Dream House (Gwyneth Paltrow)” by Gregory Crewdson, one of the few color images in the exhibition. The 2002 image is composed to resemble a movie set.

“He plays with collective memory. It’s totally invented, playing on the banality of suburban life. It’s a very different way of taking a photo, ”Feldman said. “Photography always makes us look again at the world we live in,” she said. “And it’s something we can all play with.”

“Masters of photography: the Garner collection”

When: Opens Saturdays and runs until February 21

Or: San Diego Museum of Art, 1450 El Prado, Balboa Park

Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday and Tuesday and Thursday to Saturday; from noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday; closed wednesday

Admission: $ 8 to $ 20; 17 and under free.

Call: (619) 232-7931

In line: sdmart.org