I am by no means the first to note that certain novelists through their unique styling can dramatically expand our understanding of language and meaning.  In similar fashion, I find a small number of books can alter our sense of what makes a good photograph and clearly articulate why.

One such book is “Gift of the Commonplace” dedicated to the art of Ruth Bernhard.  Fortunately it was made available as a thank you to everyone who attended CPA’s recent celebration of her life.

In his introduction, Michael Kenna, her long-time assistant and printmaker, writes movingly: “All of Ruth’s photographs are created out of a deep respect and love for the object being photographed.  She describes her process of photographing in terms akin to meditation.  At times she spends hours, days, weeks or even months arranging her chosen or found subject matter, trying to enter it like a sculptor finding the intrinsic life in something material.  With a fierce and singular concentration of effort, Ruth searches for perfection before eventually making a single exposure, an act of thankfulness and appreciation for the gift that has been presented to her, and for her life as a whole.  She does not think or speak in terms of taking or shooting a photograph.  A photograph must be made, for the process is a connection between the uniqueness of the individual person and what is being photographed.  The resulting image, the fusion of creativity will carry and reflect both aspects.” 

CPA’s celebration of Ruth’s life and work on August 11, including the screening of the documentary Illuminations and a rollicking reminiscence by Michael Kenna, was another example of the high quality programs we continue to offer at CPA.  That it was a sell-out audience is a special tribute to Board Member Sarah Spencer and her team of volunteers who worked so long and hard to make this an event not to be missed.

But if miss it you did, please be sure to check out our ever-expanding list of programs and upcoming events.  It is only through your membership and robust support that we can continue to offer programs of the caliber of the Celebration of Ruth Bernhard.

-Brooks McChesney

President, Board of Trustees

Michael Kenna Addressing Audience. © Jack Wasserbach. All Rights Reserved. 

Michael Kenna with his wife Mamta and Sarah Spencer. © Jack Wasserbach. All Rights Reserved.