Rediscovered: Photographs of LA, San Francisco and NYC


In 24 hours, I came across articles describing the recovery of black and white photographs of three American masters — Ansel Adams, Robert Frank and Arthur Tress.  A strange convergence of timing – but, what a great chance to glimpse into the past and see an artist in his early days. As it turns out, each trove of negatives told a very different story.

In the case of Ansel Adams, the city is Los Angeles in 1939 or 1940, and the images, now owned by the Los Angeles Public Library, were tossed aside by the photographer, who didn’t think they were particularly good. An intrepid gallery owner procured them from the LAPL, and made some prints which are on display at a small gallery called drkrm until March 17. According to this Los Angeles Times article by Mike Boehm, selling prints from negatives cast aside by a master is a squeamish matter. Looking at Adams prints, you can see the artist’s ability to find all shades from black-to-white in one image (the highly toned street contrasting with the black trees), but since Adams didn’t care for these images, it does feel odd to be touting them as art all these years later.

 A trove of Arthur Tress negatives were recently rediscovered – the young photographer (he was 23) took photographs of San Francisco on the edge of change, in 1964.  The images can be seen at the de Young Museum in San Francisco, and in a recently published book. Here is a photographer at the start of his visual development matched with a city just beginning to emerge into history at the start of the 60s. Lucky for the world that these negatives were unearthed.

Robert Frank’s images of New York were taken on assignment for The New York Times for a publication designed to boost the paper’s circulation called “New York is.” Click here for these gorgeous images, which have long been valued by photo buffs… turns out the negatives were only recently discovered and the photography blogs are a flutter with excitement. Looking through his shots, taken in the year before the seminal “The Americans” was published, is a thrill.  Even though he is on assignment (the New York Times is featured in many images), his composition and sense of immediacy can’t help but shine through.