Published by Steidl


Featuring photographs by Gerald Ratto


Image: Gerald Ratto, Children of the Fillmore #19, Gelatin Silver Print, 1952.


Reception + Book Signing

(with the artists from The Golden Decade)


Saturday, November 12, 4-7 PM


Gerald Ratto's photographs on view

November 12 - December 23, 2016


Smith Andersen North is pleased to announce an opening to celebrate the new publishing of The Golden Decade Book, published by Steidl and edited by Victoria Whyte Ball & Ken Ball. With so much dedicated time and hard work, the Ball's have comprised a book of 35 artists who sprung from what is known as The Golden Decade of photography; photographers who attended the first class held by renowned photographer Ansel Adams at the California School of Fine Arts (now San Francisco Art Institute) after World War II. The newly published books will be for sale and will be accompanied by a book signing with some of the remaining artists from The Golden Decade period. In conjunction with the book, we will be presenting photographs by Gerald Ratto (whose image was chosen for the cover of the book) will be on view from November 12 - December 23. There will also be an edition of 25 collector gelatin silver prints of the cover image available for sale, to celebrate the publishing of the book.


Please join us for an opening reception and book signing on Saturday, November 12, from 4-7 PM.

We hope to see you there! 


About The Golden Decade

After World War II the California School of Fine Arts (CSFA) in San Francisco hired renowned photographer Ansel Adams to establish one of the first fine art photography departments in the United States. The caliber of teachers and guest instructors assembled there under the new directorship of Douglas McAgy was unmatched, and the school was one of the most avant-garde art schools of its time. On hand were photographers Adams and Minor White, along with Edward Weston, Dorothea Lange, Imogen Cunningham, Lisette Model, Nancy and Beaumont Newhall, and Homer Page.

Three former students of Adams and White—William Heick, Ira H. Latour and C. Cameron Macauley, later known as the “Three Musketeers”—began planning a book that would focus on CSFA’s photography department, covering the years between 1945 and 1955, the period known as “The Golden Decade.” It was a lucky coincidence when Ken Ball and his wife Victoria Whyte Ball (whose father, Don Whyte, had bequeathed them an abundance of negatives and contact prints from his student years at CSFA) joined them. Together this team has embarked on an important journey into photography’s past that is embodied in this book.


About Gerald Ratto

If a person’s life can be defined by his work, the life of Gerald Ratto (b. 1933) has been defined through the lens of his camera for nearly six decades… and still counting.

Ratto remembers his first interview with Minor White. He was an undergraduate student at UC, Berkeley, and Ratto had decided that his fascination with light and form might best be expressed behind the camera. He showed White a few snapshots, and by the end of the interview, Ratto was in the photography program at the California School of Fine Arts (presently the San Francisco Art Institute).  White was a major influence on Ratto. “ He stressed the importance of ‘seeing’ before doing anything else,” Ratto says.  “Another lesson was the importance of trusting ones own knowledge and experiences and going in on your own direction.” Ratto attended lectures on visual relationships, anthropomorphism, and the philosophy that treats photography almost as an exterior language.

Ratto’s talent was evident very early. Even before he received his degree, Ratto exhibited alongside his teachers in the juried San Francisco Museum of (Modern) Art show Perceptions in 1954. “By the time I graduated, I was selling enough photographs that I had my own sales tax license,” he recalled. Welton Becket, from the Los Angeles architectural firm (the largest in the world when he died in 1961), was an early client. When White left for Rochester, New York, he referred his clients to Ratto, still a student.

 Ratto is perplexed when people ask him about the distinction between commercial and fine art photography. “I don't consider them different,” he says. The best commercial photography is equal to fine art photography. Look at the memorable photos Margaret Bourke-White, Richard Avedon, and W. Eugene Smith originally took as commercial assignments.” He has little patience with those who ask which of his photos is his favorite. “It depends on my mood,” he says. “I might prefer one today and another tomorrow. But what I did yesterday is not as important as what I will do tomorrow. I always hope that my best will be the photograph I take tomorrow.”

Ratto never thinks of photography as work. “It’s just what I do,” he says. “I take pictures wherever I am. People sometimes ask me where I want to go to take pictures,” he adds. “ I never have an answer. I say I’ll know when I get there. I think this is the only way to stay fresh. All of us have only so many creative ideas. If you have a pre-conceived notion of what you want to photograph, your work all starts to look alike. I photograph people, buildings, landscapes — whatever is in front of me. Then they tell their own stories.”
Ratto’s photographs have appeared in major interior and landscape design and architectural magazines and books and have won many awards worldwide. 



For more information about Gerald Ratto please visit

For more information about The Golden Decade visit


SMITH ANDERSEN NORTH is located at 20 Greenfield Ave. in San Anselmo, CA 94960.

Please note that this reception will be held in our SAN ANSELMO location.

For maps & directions please CLICK HERE