11th. October 2021 – VINCENT KNAUS – “Your Photographic Family Tree”

Our speaker tonight makes a welcome return to SYPC with the intriguing title shown above. When you become totally engaged in the Art/Science of photography there is an overwhelming urge to look back in history to the foundations of this hobby and the superb output of one photographer will almost automatically lead you to another and, almost without noticing, your own style will develop.
In the case of Vincent his formal Higher Education at the University of South Florida, and specialising in fine art, has led him to a well-known exponent, Ansel Adams, who was an American landscape photographer and environmentalist known for his black-and-white images of the American West. He helped found Group f/64, an association of photographers advocating “pure” photography which favoured sharp focus and the use of the full tonal range of a photograph. He passed away in 1984 and left a body of work which still continues to influence widely today. We were shown portions of his work and a description of how important he found it that each photograph should tell a story and, interestingly, how Adams found it difficult to create documentary essays, particularly working with other people – he was described as master in the darkroom. He never made a straight print.
Growing his own family tree our speaker moved to a photographer who he had actually met, Jerry Uelsmann, also an American photographer who was an early exponent of photomontage in the 20th century in America. His work in darkroom effects foreshadowed the use of Adobe Photoshop to make surrealistic images in the late 20th century. He was a Member of the American Society of Magazine Photographers and in response to a question “what would you do if you were starting now?” “Replied work in colour!” Uelsmann became a free spirit in the darkroom sometimes having up to 6 enlargers which could be utilised to combine a single print – he always used and paid professional models in carrying out his assignments. Many of his prints were supernatural in their appearance – he never worked in colour.
The next influence, who Vincent never met, was Pete Turner a veritable pioneer in colour photography, Turner’s many adventures in Africa, beginning with his trek in 1959 from Cape Town to Cairo with Wally Byam’s famous Airstream caravan were shown. The results being unique and spectacular with vivid images on Safari using both animals and indigenous people. His clever use of manipulating film and the photocopier earned him a fabulous reputation.
The final focus of this talk was Jay Maisel who earned awards including the Art Directors Club Hall of Fame, the Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Society of Media Photographers, and the Infinity Award from the International Centre of Photography. His book Light, Gesture and Colour covers a long period and demonstrates his absolute determination to get the very best out of a topic once he had been captured by it. Amazingly he lived in a 6-storey bank building in NY City which he final sold to realise a huge real estate profit. He never threw any of his thousands of pieces of work away, his range included cleverly seen simple views, street photography and certainly believed that everything has its own gesture – his book is a revelation, his understanding of the vibrations between colours on diametrically opposite sides of the colour wheel are a lesson in optics.


Vincent concluded his evening’s presentation with some of his own work during shutdown, the images were pin sharp, cleverly lit bowls of pears, apricots, a glass of wine showing surprising colour arrangements, a bacon, sausage, egg, brown sauce sandwich with mouth watering yolk teasing the viewer, carrots with sprouting green tops, an orange pepper. Colour mixtures of spiral pasta and a multi coloured smoke haze providing atmosphere.

Like so many experts in photography he was more than willing to share his expertise.
A wonderful evening providing many references for further investigation, we thank him for coming to visit us and, surely leading us towards our own photographic family.

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