Carmel Mission, 2007
Original Gelatin Silver Photograph
Image dimensions: 15" x 19"
Mounted dimensions: 22" x 28"
Pristine conditioncertified authentic
Original Gelatin Silver Photograph
Image dimensions: 15" x 19"
Mounted dimensions: 22" x 28"
Pristine conditioncertified authentic
At Photography West, we want you to have the art you love. To make the work more accessible, we offer interest-free layaway options to our valued clients. While most programs last 3 to 6 months, shorter or longer terms are also considered. Please contact us to discuss your personalized payment plan.
For thirty years (1983-2013), Photography West Graphics collaborated with Ansel Adams’ renowned book printer and lithographer, David Gray Gardner, until his retirement at age 87 in 2013. Together we set new standards for photographic reproductions and generated the finest quality photographic monographs of the era, winning numerous awards, including “Photography Book of the Year” from Friends of Photography. During press production, the photographers would join us on site at Dual Graphics in Brea, California, to personally inspect and approve the reproductions in their forthcoming book. The plates themselves were made from unique wet-process works handmade from film (not scans of film) with the desire to give readers an opportunity to experience what the original photographs would be like to hold in their own hands. Reproductions were sometimes individually spot varnished to produce a distinctive high gloss and text papers were heavier weight for the same reason. Bindings and end papers featured custom imported fabric and embossed with elegant designs in our later editions. Each book was considered an art project by our founder, Carol Williams, who worked closely with the individual photographers to present their images for more widespread public viewing.
With one exception – Ruth Bernhard’s, The Eternal Body (1986), which still enjoys printings by Chronicle Books (and recently Amazon!) and has sold over 30,000 copies – all our photography books were exclusively hardbound, limited, collectible first editions. In 2013, Photography West published a final concluding monograph, Roman Loranc: Absolution – Fifty Photographs from Europe. It won three awards, including the United States Literary Award for Fine Art Photography and the 2014 Gold Medal “North American Printer of the Year” for Dual Graphics.
In addition to our publications, we offer a select number of monographs from other exceptional publishers featuring our gallery photographer’s work.
Julia Brett Christopher (American, 1983 -) grew up in Carmel, California, in the heart of West Coast photography. Brett Weston, who doted on Julia as the grandchild he never had, fondly encouraged her to take up both photography and riding horses as a toddler. She spontaneously made her first photographs at Weston’s Carmel Valley residence at the age of two. After having taken classes at ICP (Institut Catholique de Paris) and graduating from Santa Catalina School, she went on to study classical painting at New York University’s Steinhardt and art history at their extension program in Paris, France.
She graduated Magna Cum Laude from the Gallatin School of Individualized Study in 2006, where she pursued abiding interests in fine art, philosophy, marketing, creative writing, and photography. While living in Manhattan, she was scouted by an agency and briefly worked as a model and event promoter, but far preferred being behind the camera than in front of it. During that time, she assisted fashion photographer, Howard Schatz, on a project about Club Culture. She departed New York for Europe in 2006, and returned to settle in Carmel in 2008, where she narrowed her artistic focus to medium format black and white film photography.
She began using Brett Weston’s former Pentax 67 camera and studied darkroom craft with Greg Mettler, Bob Kolbrener and Luther Gerlach, who introduced her to the 19th century wet plate collodion process. Today she pursues her own photography with a Hasselblad 205 TCC, while working as an educator, art historian, conservator, web developer, owner and CEO of Photography West, Incorporated, the first educational e-commerce platform devoted to wet-process photography. Each gallery photographer is an accomplished darkroom master, using film, archival photographic papers, and wet processes. Many have created their own darkroom chemistry, built their own cameras, and even invented their own unique, light-sensitive techniques. (Photography West has been told they are now the only photography establishment in the United States that does not show digital or digital/darkroom multimedia processes like film-scanning).
At the publishing branch of the gallery, Photography West Graphics, she contributed to two major publications as both an author and editor – Brett Weston at One Hundred (2011) and Roman Loranc, Absolution: Fifty Photographs from Europe (2013). Over the last decade, Christopher has closed over $15 million in fine art photography sales, curated dozens of exhibitions and hosted various artist receptions, conducted in person and online lectures at colleges and photography groups, in addition to educating the general public about fine art photography.
Carol Williams never talks about her own work as a photographer, which is a surprise, considering the company she keeps in her gallery – Ansel Adams, Morley Baer, Christopher Burkett, Paul Caponigro, Kenro Izu, Roman Loranc, Don Worth and Edward and Brett Weston, to name a few. Williams co-founded Photography West Gallery in Carmel-by-the-Sea, California in 1980, with dear friends and fellow photographers Ron C. James (1937-2013), Claudette Bargeen Dibert (1942-1982) and the legendary Brett Weston (1911-1993) widely regarded as the child genius of American photography.
The gallery shows only accomplished darkroom masters using film, archival photographic papers and wet processes, each piece hand-crafted by the artist. “Brett used to tell me the integrity of the photograph depends on the photographers doing the darkroom work themselves,” Williams says of the late Brett Weston, with whom she had over a decade of “photographic adventures” spanning the Monterey Peninsula to the Big Island of Hawai’i. Not only has Williams persisted for 40 years in showing only artist-produced film photography, but Photography West Gallery is perhaps the only photographic gallery in the world today that holds this distinction.
The light and the rugged beauty of the Monterey Peninsula has famously attracted artists, writers and photographers since the early 1900s, with locales such as windswept Garrapata Beach and rocky Point Lobos. Edward Weston (1886-1958), who is credited as being the most influential American photographer of the twentieth century, moved to Carmel in 1929, and it was the images he created here that eventually would bring him international acclaim. He had four sons: Chandler, Brett, Neil and Cole, and it was Brett who would follow in his father’s footsteps. Brett’s career launched at age 13, when Edward brought him to Mexico, where he encountered the likes of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera. By the time Ansel Adams moved to Carmel in 1962, Brett had had already established a name for himself, having won a Guggenheim fellowship in 1947 and exhibited internationally. Williams tells an anecdote that before Ansel Adams moved to Carmel in 1962, he called up Brett Weston and asked, “Do you think Carmel is big enough for both of us?”
At that time, photography was unrecognized as fine art. “In the 1970s, photography was taught in the journalism departments and not considered a legitimate art medium,” says Williams, who singles out a particular 1970 issue of LIFE Magazine as one of her early influences. She cut out images by photography icons Imogen Cunningham, Don Worth, and Jerry Uelsmann, mounting and framing the black and whites and displaying them in her dorm room at Western Washington University. “We were studying surrealism, and it was Uelsmann’s allegorical images that sparked my initial realization and conviction that photography should be included in the history of modern art,” she says. “It was this undeniable link to surrealism that really launched me into seeing photography as very significant modern art,” Williams says. “Jerry Uelsmann was the original catalyst for me.”
After graduating in 1974, Williams moved to Carmel, attracted by the art and photography scene of the Monterey Peninsula. Photography – indeed the arts – had largely been a man’s world, but Williams says that women in the area started taking up photography in the ‘70s. “It was a very free-spirited decade in California culture, particularly in Big Sur and Carmel. Many women were exploring their identities, and many used a camera to discover who they were or might be,” says Williams. “I definitely was investigating that genre in my own work.”
In her twenties, Williams worked by day in the library at Monterey Peninsula College and took photography classes at night. When she had a chance to meet Brett Weston at a Christmas party in 1976, she recalled thinking, “Oh! My opportunity to have a conversation with Brett Weston! I’ll ask him what light meter he recommends for a beginning photographer,’” The meeting proved pivotal: “Brett Weston declared, ‘no good photographer uses a light meter. If you can’t read the light on your skin, you shouldn’t be a photographer.’”
Owing to this unexpectedly shocking revelation, Williams never bought a light meter and changed her approach to photography. “I realized that photography is a significant exchange and interaction with light,” she explains. “It’s not just what you see with your eyes but involves the whole body. Your body is a light meter.” She continued to explore this concept in her work and photography classes.
Williams had never imagined ever owning a business. The idea of starting an artistic cooperative was contemplated with fellow photographers; however no one had either the time or money to make it happen.
In 1979, for the first time, the Small Business Administration began offering small business loans to women. Prior to that – a mere forty years ago — women needed a husband’s or male relative’s signature to apply for a loan. “I heard Jimmy Carter had a new SBA program to help women start their own businesses, so I went over to the local bank,” Williams remembered. In 1980, she became one of the first single women to be approved for an SBA start-up loan.
In a flash, the news spread around Carmel — a single, 29-year-old woman wanted to open a new photography gallery in town. But the gallery became inevitable once Brett Weston got word: a photographer told her Weston wanted to meet her. “She brought me to his house, and Brett opened the door saying, ‘So, you’re the young girl everyone says will lose her shirt opening a photography gallery; I’ll help you.’”
The two quickly connected. “He was a 51-year resident of the Monterey Peninsula and I was a 28-year-old newcomer, but there was a tremendous simpatica between us. We were just on the same page about photography, we were both totally obsessed and electrified by the images,” Williams recalls.
On October 25, 1980, five hundred people lined the streets of Carmel-by-the-Sea for the opening of Photography West Gallery. The opening featured a show of three new Brett Weston portfolios, seen for the first time: Leaves and Lava – Hawaii: 15 photographs from the Big Island; Abstractions, Portfolio #1, 1927-1980; and Abstractions, Portfolio 2, 1925-80. Copies of Weston’s newly released book, Brett Weston, Selections from Five Decades, were shipped in from New York, and Weston signed books all evening long.
Fine art photography was catching on, and the techies of the Silicon Valley were among its admirers. A young Steve Jobs came into the gallery in the early 1980s, admiring the work of Ansel Adams. “Steve asked if I would take a partial trade for his newest computer. ‘It’s called a Macintosh,’ he said hopefully,” she laughs. “We were both very young and just starting out, so I said sure, to help him out and ended up curating exhibitions for him at Apple and Next for the next decade!”
In 1985, San Francisco photographer Ruth Bernhard (1905-2006), whose images of nudes hang on the walls of Photography West, confided a concern to Williams. “Ruth said she knew there’d be a book of her photography after her death, but she’d hoped there’d be one while she was still alive,” says Williams. “I was concerned her work would be lost to history,” says Williams. “Ansel considered Ruth Bernhard to be the greatest photographer of the nude. But every commercial publisher I approached told me: ‘a woman photographer who does nudes in black and white? It will never sell.’ No one would publish her work. But then, it dawned on me that since I had a gallery, I could sell Ruth’s photographs to raise money for her book, so Ruth and I decided to collaborate.” Thus, a new chapter was born for Williams and the gallery: book publishing.
Adams introduced Williams to his printer, Dave Gardner, who at the time owned Los Angelesbased Gardner-Fulmer Lithograph. “He is legendary in the printing business for his patented Fultone process that by the early ‘80’s created incredible detail in reproduction quality by laserscanning the original photographs,” says Williams. Local photographer and graphics designer, Jerry Takigawa, created a simple design, and Williams published a series of limited edition posters to display in the gallery window. “Ansel would get all excited and dance around in front of his huge fireplace – nobody had ever seen such incredibly detailed reproductions,” recounts Williams.
Ruth Bernhard with her assistant Michael Kenna created five limited edition photographs to sell and raise money to publish Bernhard’s book. “We published Ruth’s book, The Eternal Body, ourselves,” says Williams. “Brett Weston was disappointed with the plate quality of his most recent book, so he also wanted a book featuring his best unpublished photographs. And that was how I got started in publishing.”
No commercial publisher wanted to produce books to the same high quality, according to Williams; it was expensive and there was no known market for them. “However, after my first two books won Photography Book of the Year from Friends of Photography, one of the publishers who had initially rejected Ruth’s book proposal called to tell me, ‘you’ve set a new publishing standard in photography books,’ and offered to buy the entire run. That first edition quickly sold out. The Eternal Body is the only book I ever reprinted – to celebrate Ruth’s 100th birthday.” Williams’ thirty-year collaboration with Dave Gardner resulted in eleven monographs for her gallery photographers. Her final monograph, a collection of fifty European photographs by Polish photographer Roman Loranc, entitled Absolution, was released in 2013. “It won several awards including the United State Literary Award and was my grand finale. Dave Gardner retired that year so I decided it was time for me to conclude book publishing,” she says.
Williams, now semi-retired, makes her home on the Big Island of Hawai’i. Brett Weston introduced her to the island in 1981. “For more than a decade, I would go to Hawaii every year and Brett and I would drive out at sunrise and have these amazing photographic adventures,” says Williams. Weston died in 1993 in Kona, Hawaii at age 82. “Brett was such a gift. A true free spirit, extremely loyal to the people he liked,” says Williams. “And never in my life have I ever met a person so in tune to light. He had a rare heightened intuitive sensitivity, it was always this quest for light.” All of the images that hang in Photography West Gallery are original, individually handcrafted photographs made with gelatin silver, platinum palladium or Cibachrome papers, from medium and large format film. With digital on the rise, darkroom materials are more and more difficult and costly to come by, Williams hopes that traditional light-based darkroom processes will be rediscovered and increasingly appreciated – not eclipsed as a relic from a by-gone era.
Written by Marina Blythe Davalos