Find out About the F/64 Group and their Contribution to Pure Photography

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Find out About the F/64 Group and their Contribution to Pure Photography

Much of the photography scene during the 1960s was dominated by Pictorialism. It was a style of photography that sought to focus on the aesthetics of images rather than documenting their reality.

Its practitioners like Edward Steichen and Alvin Langdon looked to create painting-like effects by using their cameras. It began as a response to criticism from some quarters that photographs were just tools to capture everyday or authentic images.

Pictorialism flourished between 1885 and 1915 and did a lot for this visual art form. However, a new movement called the f64 group, created by Ansel Adams and Willard Van Dyke, along with others in 1932, took over soon.

Instead of embellishing the pictures and altering reality, they captured images in their purest form. The duo captured images of everyday life using large-format cameras to deliver high-quality, precise images as they saw them.

What were the characteristics of this movement, why was it so popular, and what other things you should know as a visual art enthusiast? Continue reading to find out.

Why was it called f64?

According to various sources, Van Dyke and Preston Holder thought of the name while taking a ferry ride from Oakland to San Francisco.

The group’s name refers to an aperture setting of a large-format camera, which provides a fantastic depth of field and allows every image to enjoy an optimally strong background and foreground.

How was it formed?

Inspired by the idea of common aesthetic principles, Ansel Adams and Willard Van Dyke came together with several other photographers to form the group. It constituted 11 members who shared the modernist vision of pure photography.

The 11 members of the group were Ansel Adams, Willard Van Dyke, Imogen Cunningham, John Paul Edwards, Sonya Noskowiak, Henry Swift, Preston Holder, Brett Weston, Consuelo Kanaga, Alma Levenson, and Edwards Weston.

They held their first museum exhibition in 1932 at the M.H. De Young Museum, with each displaying a specific number of photos. Adams, Edwards, Weston, Cunningham, Swift, Van Dyke, and Noskowiak showed nine pictures.

The invited members, Weston, Kanaga, Holder, and Lavenson, displayed four pictures each.

What were their principles?

The group members focused on recording life in its purest form, whether it was a person or an everyday item. Most of them selected their subjects from everyday life.

For example, Edward Weston chose fruits, vegetables, elemental landscapes, and sculptural nudes as his subjects. His emphasis was on the innate quality of the thing, thereby making it look extraordinary or even unusual.

The group’s members also described pure photography as not influenced by the form, technique, composition, or idea of any other art, especially painting. In this aspect, they were much in line with modernism, which emphasizes the innate quality of each medium.

How did the California landscape inspire them?

Most of the group’s photographers came from the West Coast area and were inspired by the beautiful California landscape that surrounded them. The usually cloudless and sunny climate and the natural landscape provided them with aesthetic light effects with natural light sources.

Because the entire West Coast receives plenty of sunlight, it also removed the need for post-processing the photos once they clicked them.

The f64 group revolutionized photography in the USA, and across the world, with their focus on purity and sharpness in capturing landscape, people, and things. They showed how pure photography could exist independently without being influenced by other art forms.

Beatrice Lipson

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