Fine Art Photography Collector's Resource

A Resource for Collectors of Fine Art Photography, The Landscape Photography Of Philip Hyde And His Colleagues

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Black And White Prints, Collectors And Philip Hyde

February 28th, 2011 · 5 Comments · My Journey In Collecting

About Philip Hyde Vintage Black and White Prints, Cibachrome, Dye Transfer and Archival Digital Prints and What I Have Learned From Collectors

Ansel Adams did more than any other photographer to establish photography as a fine art. His own international renown later in life and the increasing value of his original black and white prints made him one of the leaders in the emerging market for fine art photography for sale in photography galleries and auction houses.

In the new book Ansel Adams in the National Parks: Photographs from America’s Wild Places, Richard B. Woodward wrote an enlightening essay called, “Ansel Adams and the Preservation of Wilderness.” In this essay, Richard B. Woodward said, “The select but not inconsiderable number of photographers lucky enough to earn a living today from sales of their prints have Adams to thank for proving this could be done.” For a review of Ansel Adams In The National Parks see the blog post, “Monday Blog Blog: Ansel Adams In The National Parks.”

As a result of the still expanding and escalating market for vintage black and white photographs, most serious collectors of fine art photography are interested primarily in black and white prints more than 40 years old, over and above color prints or other types of photographs.

Philip Hyde was the only professional full-time exclusively landscape photographer who learned black and white printing directly from Ansel Adams, Minor White, Edward Weston, Imogen Cunningham and the other seminal teachers in Ansel Adams’ photography program at the California School of Fine Arts, now the San Francisco Art Institute.

A collector I met in Marin County, California at Smith Andersen North Gallery said, “I have digital prints in my collection. I am not adverse to buying digital prints, but I would not buy digital prints of photography from this era.” By “this era” he was referring to Golden Decade era photography. The Golden Decade refers to the first 10 years of Ansel Adams’ photography department at the California School of Fine Arts now the San Francisco Art Institute. A forthcoming book on the era called The Golden Decade: Photography at the California School of Fine Arts, 1945-55 contains photographs of the students of the school during that time.

From this statement, it appears that this collector was not aware that besides being a master of both black and white photography and black and white darkroom printing, and being a star pupil and favorite student of lead instructor Minor White and Ansel Adams, and exhibiting with his Group f64 mentors, Philip Hyde also went on to become known as the primary photographer, along with Eliot Porter, who introduced color to landscape photography.

Philip Hyde photographed in black and white into the early 1980s. The majority of his output in black and white prints came between 1948 and the mid 1970s. He first began photographing in color in the High Sierra Minarets Wilderness and Yosemite National Park in 1942. He took the only color class at the California School of Fine Arts in 1949, photographing in color around California and as far afield as Death Valley National Park. Some of his most famous color photographs that helped create Redwood National Park, saved the Grand Canyon and Dinosaur National Monument from dams, helped establish Point Reyes National Seashore, North Cascades National Park and many others were made in the early 1960s.

In 1959 the Sierra Club launched the groundbreaking Exhibit Format Series, which popularized the coffee table photography book. The series began with This is the American Earth with foreward by David Brower, text by Nancy Newhall and photographs by Ansel Adams with a select few other photographers including Philip Hyde. In 1962, the Sierra Club Exhibit Format Series introduced color to two volumes, increasing their impact and sales. The year 1962 was significant to the fledgling modern environmental movement and to photography. It was the year Rachel Carson published Silent Spring. It was also the year that Eliot Porter’s In Wildness Is the Preservation of the World came out, as well as Philip Hyde’s Island In Time: The Point Reyes Peninsula. Eliot Porter’s beautiful well-planned art book became a bestseller and outsold all of the other Exhibit Format Series including This Is The American Earth. Island In Time was more of a documentary project that was rushed through to help raise funds to buy the ranch land of Point Reyes before developers could build houses on it and ruin its possibilities as a national seashore.

Beginning in the 1960s and into the 1970s, Philip Hyde often exposed a black and white negative and a color transparency of the same scene from the same tripod holes. While he made nearly as many color images as black and white all along, he did not begin a transition away from black and white and into color primarily until he was inspired by more often photographing the subtle desert colors of the Southwestern U.S. The transition gathered steam when he discovered Dye Transfer printing. For more on the history and evolution of Dye Transfer printing see the blog posts, “The Legend Of Dye Transfer Printing, Interrupted 1,” “The Legend Of Dye Transfer Printing, Interrupted 2” and “Images Of The Southwest Portfolio Foreward By Philip Hyde.” Dye Transfer was a complex and technically demanding process, but Philip Hyde was one of the relatively few major full-time photographers who perfected the art. When Dye Transfer was discontinued, Philip Hyde took up Cibachrome printing. He was lead instructor for the color printing workshop for a number of years in the late 1970s and early 1980s at the Ansel Adams Gallery and through many other prestigious workshop organizations.

Having a long, prolific nearly 60 year photography career has its pluses and minuses. By the time Philip Hyde developed as a Cibachrome printer, his early color transparencies made with Kodak Ektacolor E-3 and E-6 film were color-shifting, fading, streaking, developing blotches, and generally turning pink-orange-magenta. He was unable to make color prints of many of his most well-known images. Fast forward to the 1970s. Carr Clifton, a neighbor of Philip Hyde’s, at age 16 expressed interest in photography. Carr Clifton’s mother brought him over to Philip Hyde’s home and introduced them. Philip Hyde advised Carr Clifton on cameras and going to photography school and became a lifetime mentor. Carr Clifton is now a renowned landscape photographer in his own right. In 1998, Carr Clifton restored two of Philip Hyde’s most well-known images from the Exhibit Format Series book Navajo Wildlands. “Stormlight, Canyon De Chelly” and “Horse And Cottonwoods At The Mouth Of Canyon De Chelly” both had been damaged by the Sierra Club’s publisher Barnes Press. They both had pink fingerprints throughout the sky. In the digital era, these flaws that had taken these two images out of circulation were healed and Carr Clifton began making archival fine art digital prints. Philip Hyde signed a number of the archival digital prints, it is believed to be five, before his passing away in 2006. Besides the two images from Navajo Wildlands, a number of other photographs that could in no way be printed before, are now printed in limited numbers as archival digital prints. For more about these other photographs and how they were printed and more on the archival digital printing process see the blog post, “About Archival Fine Art Digital Prints.”

When Philip Hyde was black and white printing himself in the darkroom, or making dye transfer or Cibachrome prints, he was a very prolific printer. He made a large numbers of prints, but only a few of each image. In both black and white, as well as color, Philip Hyde printed only 2, 4, or 6 and on more rare occasions as many as 8 or 10 prints of each photograph. Because of this rarity of prints of each photograph, most of his best images are long sold out. The digital era also allows prints to be made of the images that have sold out. Carr Clifton and myself, Philip Hyde’s son, work very hard to match or come as close as we can to printing the digital prints the way Philip Hyde printed. When a high resolution drum scan is made of a 4X5 color transparency, the resulting digital file is large, anywhere from 350 MB up to 3.0 GB. The quality of this digital file blows away any image made by digital capture to date. The colors are richer, the tones finer, the detail far superior in both shadows and highlights. This leads to far superior prints. In fact in the history of photography, it was primarily the full-time working photographers who scanned their large format transparencies for a number of years before they switched to digital capture. This narrow time band represents a short era, the prints from which may in time become some of the most sought after in collecting. We are now making some of the best prints ever made in the history of photography.

Nonetheless, for now, Collectors have taught me that the majority are looking for vintage black and white prints. This is wonderful, great news to me. I am gradually bringing the vintage black and white prints out on the market over the next several years. A significant selection of vintage prints are already available at select galleries and displayed on the Philip Hyde Photography Website. When it comes to very high quality original vintage black and white silver prints, Dad was one of the best printers ever. Ansel Adams possibly has more collectors than any other photographer. It is a natural progression for any collector of Ansel Adams to follow by collecting vintage prints by Philip Hyde.

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