August 10 - December 23, 2005
Berkeley, CA, June 21, 2005-The UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAM/PFA) is pleased to present Yosemite in Time, an exhibition that explores the history of California's spectacular and beloved Yosemite National Park by re-photographing the work of America's greatest landscape photographers. The exhibition is a collaborative project by photographers Mark Klett and Byron Wolfe, and San Francisco-based historian and writer Rebecca Solnit, and is on view in the Theater Gallery from August 10 through December 23, 2005.
Using original prints and new images, and combinations of both in the form of large-scale panoramas, Yosemite in Time provides insight into change and the nature of time itself. When they first began their collaboration, Solnit, Klett, and Wolfe's intention had been to visit the National Park and retrace the steps of San Franciscan photographer Eadweard Muybridge, who photographed Yosemite in 1868 and again in 1872. By identifying each of the locations Muybridge had visited, and re-photographing his views of the landscape, they hoped to gain a better understanding of the artist and his creative decisions.
Soon the project expanded to include photographs of Yosemite taken by Carleton Watkins in the 1860s and 270s, and by Ansel Adams and Edward Weston from the 1930s and 240s. By retracing these photographers' journeys in and around the Yosemite Valley and locating the places where each image had been taken, Solnit, Klett, and Wolfe were also able to reveal the subtle and not-so-subtle transformation of the landscape over more than 130 years.
As they set about re-photographing Yosemite, Solnit, Klett, and Wolfe made some unexpected discoveries. When they tried to reproduce a view of the Merced River at the valley's western end they found that the river had moved 100 feet south since Muybridge stood on its banks in 1872. One particular juniper appeared completely unchanged in the more than 100 years since Weston had photographed it, while other groves of pines actually looked younger and livelier than they did in Muybridge's photographs. The celebrated lone tree atop Sentinel dome that had been an icon when Adams photographed it in 1940 had since become a stump, but in other instances the photographers found the same trees that had aged over time.
Comparing earlier photographs with new images taken by Klett and Wolfe also gave a sense of the different ways in which time is experienced and measured-whether in terms of the gradual aging of the landscape, the span of a human life, or the length of a single photographic exposure. Solnit writes that "though the glacier-carved granite is, on the brief timescale of human lives, fairly unchanging (save for the occasional rockfall and invisible erosion), the culture that interprets it is volatile, a windblown veil through which we see." In a sense, by combining images of Cathedral Rocks taken by Watkins in 1861, Muybridge in 1872, and Adams in 1944 with the images taken by Klett and Wolfe in 2002, Yosemite in Time depicts time itself. More than simply juxtapositions of "then" and "now", the exhibition explores time as photography freezes it, represents it, and questions its nature.
Yosemite in Time features more than forty photographs, including work by Watkins, Adams, Weston, and six original albumen plates by Muybridge from the collection of UC Berkeley's Bancroft Library. Several of the photographs have been combined to form large-scale panoramic collages, some measuring more than ten feet in length, in which the earlier photographs are inserted into contemporary views of the landscape. The exhibition is organized for BAM/PFA by Gary Bogus and Stephanie Cannizzo.
Yosemite in Time: Ice Ages, Tree Clocks, Ghost Rivers by Mark Klett, Rebecca Solnit, and Byron Wolfe. Published by Trinity University Press; $45, hardcover. To order, contact the Museum Store at (510) 642-1475 or online at bampfa.berkeley.edu/store.
Gallery Talk by Rebecca Solnit
Thursday, September 15, 5:30 p.m.
Activist, historian, and writer Rebecca Solnit will talk about the representation of time and space as it plays out in the photographs on view-from works by Eadweard Muybridge and his contemporaries to the present-day photographs by Mark Klett and Byron Wolfe. Solnit is the author of eight books including River of Shadows: Eadweard Muybridge and the Technological Wild West (Viking, 2003) and Savage Dreams: A Journey into the Landscape Wars of the American West (Sierra Club Books, 1994).
Panel Discussion: Yosemite in Time
Mark Klett, exhibition photographer and professor of art, Arizona State University
Margaretta Lovell, professor of art history, UC Berkeley
Carolyn Merchant, professor of environmental history, philosophy, and ethics, UC Berkeley
Rebecca Solnit, cultural historian and writer
Byron Wolfe, exhibition photographer and professor of communication design, California State University, Chico
Sunday, October 9, 2 p.m.
Some of the best-known images of American landscapes are the photographs of Yosemite taken by Ansel Adams, Carleton Watkins, and Eadweard Muybridge. As such, they have influenced how we think about the natural environment, conservation, and the American West. A multidisciplinary group of scholars and photographers will explore how contemporary rephotography reveals the evolution of our attitudes toward nature, and will consider how the aesthetics and meaning of Yosemite have changed since those Victorian and Modernist-era images were made.
The program will be followed by a booksigning event featuring Klett, Solnit, and Wolfe's Yosemite in Time and related titles.