The California School of Fine Arts (CSFA) in San Francisco (renamed the San Francisco Art Institute in 1961) was among a handful of institutions in the nation to offer and extensive program in photography an dfilm during the period immediately following WWII. The importance of the school and its influence, not only on the West Coast photography but on photography as a whole, has been far-reaching, lasting well into the 21st century.


Set up in 1945 by Ansel Adams and administered and taught by Minor White, the CSFA photography program was the first academic department in the country to teach photography as a profession. The program raised the dialog around photographic practice, before limited to local photo clubs scattered about the country, to the level of a serious, focused study. Students were not only expected to be technically adept and informed, but thoughtful and intentional about how they approached the world with a camera.  Their teachers were among the most influential figures in photography of the day; they included Edward Weston, Dorothea Lange, Imogen Cunningham, Lisette Model, Homer Page, Alma Lavenson, and Bill Quandt. The CSFA photography students became the visual disciples of this illustrious group. Whether their approach was documentary, landscape based, or conceptual, the faculty directed its students to have a basic focal study and to follow it with the rigorousness of any other serious academic discipline. Under this guidance, the students asked questions, pushed themselves, and honed their artistic visions.


The first decade of the program, 1945-1955, gave rise to a unique group of photographers who went on to become accomplished artists and important contributors to visual culture. The Golden Decade, CSFA Photography 1945-1955, focuses on 32 of these students and how they influenced and supported each other during, and in the years following, their time at CSFA. The show explores how the school was not only an academic force, but the birthplace of an artistic community that continued to flourish for years.


Presented in conjunction with the release of the book The Golden Decade, spearheaded byCameron Macaluley, William Heick and Ira Latour and put together by Ken Ball and Victoria Whyte Ball, Smith Andersen North presents new imagery from this time period. Some photographers and images will be shown for the first time.


The artists include Pirkle Jones, Ruth Marion Baruch, Philip Hyde, William Heick, Pat Harris, Bob Hollingsworth, Cameron Macauley, Ira Latour, Benjamen Chinn,Rose Mandel, Gerald Ratto, John Upton and others. Their work has been represented in important photographic historical events such as The Family of Man Exhibition (1955, New York and international venues) and The Perceptions Exhibition (1954, San Francisco), and many of these photographers were prominently featured in the early issues of Aperture magazine. A number of them have had books published, notably Pirkle Jones with his wife, Ruth Marion Baruch, Philip Hyde, and John Upton.


Complete list of Golden Decade artists:


Ruth Marion-Baruch

John Bertolino

Lee Blodget

Benjamin Chinn

Eliot Finkels

Oliver Gagliani

Muriel Green

Pat Harris

William Heick

Fred Hill

Bob Hollingsworth

Helen Howell

Joe Humphreys

Philip Hyde

David Johnson

Pirkle Jones

Ira Latour

Zoe Lowenthal Brown

C. Cameron Macauley

Rose Mandel

Nata Piaskowski

Frederick W. Quandt

Gerald Ratto

Al Richter

Walter Stoy

John Upton

George Wallace

Don Whyte

Charles Wong

Leonard Zielaskiewicz

Harold Zegart

Stan Zrnich