To “fight for recognition” for themselves and for photography as an art form, in late 1932 a circle of photographers that included Edward Weston, Imogen Cunningham and Ansel Adams formed Group f.64, a San Francisco-area collective that would have a profound impact on the history of photography. The group bucked against the East Coast’s dominance of the medium (led at the time by curator and photographer Alfred Stieglitz) as well as the Pictorialist movement, which emphasized a handmade quality in images often created through manipulation by the artist. Group f.64 espoused “the qualities of clearness and definition of the photographic image,” as they wrote in their manifesto, and also the “Photography of the West,” which they felt was unrecognized by New York-based gatekeepers like Stieglitz, Edward Steichen and Paul Strand. The group organized exhibitions and published books; their ranks would eventually grow in number to 13 and include Dorothea Lange.
In her history of Group f.64, Mary Street Alinder traces the formation and impact of the collective in a colorful and heavily researched account that brings to life the characters and ideas whose impacts on photography are felt today. Alinder had already written Ansel Adams’ biography and knew several members of the group. Photographers interested in these individuals, the history of the medium and the cultural and economic milieu that shaped photography in the United States in the 20th century will find much to like in her book. – Conor Risch
Group f.64: Edward Weston, Ansel Adams, Imogen Cunningham and the Community of Artists Who Revolutionized American Photography by Mary Street Alinder is currently available.