The West Coast Photographic Movement

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Artists of The West Coast Photographic Movement (also known as Straight photography) took a realistic approach to imagery. They created sharp-focus photographs of natural American Western objects and scenery, skillfully composing with subtleties of tone, light and texture. This approach was entirely radical. From 1910 to the early 1930s, the dominant style was East Coast Pictorialism in which objects were shot with haze and gauze to purposely blur the image for a soft focus effect. The aim was to mimic Impressionist paintings. With the emerging West Coast Movement, photography no longer imitated painting and developed as a separate art form. The new movement spread in the 1950s as the West Coast artists championed the use of natural environmental forms and clarity of detail—very novel concepts at the time.

This was a close knit community of friends and colleagues. Most were pioneers of realistic photography but there were contemporary artists who also admired and championed this movement. Notable artists and photographers included: Dody Weston Thompson, Ansel Adams, Minor White, Charis Wilson (second wife of Edward Weston and the famous model of his nude photographic work), Paul Strand, Dorothea Lange, Wynn Bullock, Don Ross, William Garnett, Ruth Bernhard, Willard Van Dyke, Nata Piaskowski, Beaumont Newhall and Nancy Newhall, and artists Georgia O'Keeffe, Morris Graves and Jean Charlot and his wife Zohmah Charlot.