David Vestal

Discussion in 'Photographers' started by Oren Grad, Dec 6, 2013.

  1. Oren Grad

    Oren Grad Subscriber

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    "David Vestal passed away this week at home in Bethlehem, Connecticut. Born in Menlo Park, California in 1924, Vestal studied painting at the Art Institute of Chicago before becoming involved in photography in the late 1940s through the Photo League in New York. Rather than working in photographic essays like many of his New York School contemporaries, Vestal captured singular moments of life in the city through his emotive and atmospheric images—a lone figure passing along a snowy sidewalk, a twilight drive over the George Washington Bridge, or the bustling traffic in Flatiron Square at night.

    "Vestal received two John Simon Guggenheim Fellowships in photography in 1966 and 1973. He wrote extensively for various photography publications, and published two classic books on photographic craft and printing: The Craft of Photography, 1975, and The Art of Black-and-White Enlarging, 1984. A lifelong educator, his illustrious teaching career included positions at Parsons School of Design, the School of Visual Arts, and Pratt Institute, as well as numerous lectures and workshops around the country. His work is included in such notable public collections as the Museum of Modern Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, and the Art Institute of Chicago."

    http://www.robertmann.com/news/main.html
     
  2. BrianShaw

    BrianShaw Member

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    Sad news. Thanks for mentioning it; I had not previously heard. he will be missed.
     
  3. Thomas Bertilsson

    Thomas Bertilsson Subscriber

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    David Vestal said:
    "Compensating for lack of skill with technology is progress toward mediocrity. As technology advances, craftsmanship recedes. As technology increases our possibilities, we use them less resourcefully.
    The one thing we've gained is spontaneity, which is useless without perception".

    I always took those words to heart, and it showed that Vestal was a good thinker, going beyond the obvious and not just blindly accepting the norm.

    I'm sorry to hear of his passing. A sad day for photography.
     
  4. RalphLambrecht

    RalphLambrecht Subscriber

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    too sad;he was one of my favorite athors;never over complicated basic but important subjects; a great educator.
     
  5. Mainecoonmaniac

    Mainecoonmaniac Subscriber

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    I remember using his book in college on black white photography 30 years ago. His book left an impression on me as a photography to this day.
     
  6. Christopher Walrath

    Christopher Walrath Member

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    Sad to hear when on of us dies. Our thoughts and prayers for his family and friends.
     
  7. lindyhopper

    lindyhopper Member

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    I had a joint show with David in the UK November 1993, I shall treasure the print I exchanged with him. Attached is an image I took of him as we sat in a diner on route to his home in 1999, its a bit blurd but as David once said "if its a bad picture it needs to be sharp".
     

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  8. Jeff Kubach

    Jeff Kubach Member

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    Sorry to hear about his passing. He was great.

    Jeff
     
  9. Michael W

    Michael W Member

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    He wrote two of the best "how to" books on photography that I have read. I appreciate his contribution to the field. Thanks David.
     
  10. Black Dog

    Black Dog Member

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    Thanks and RIP from me too.
     
  11. Jon Shiu

    Jon Shiu Subscriber

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    Wonderful writer. Always enjoyed his writing in Photo Techniques magazine. I have had some newsletters called Grump on the shelf above my desk and haven't looked at them for many years. I looked today and inside one is a beautiful delicate photo of trees in fog that he sent out to his readers.

    Jon
    dv.jpg
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 7, 2013
  12. Oren Grad

    Oren Grad Subscriber

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    Yes, that was a tradition with him - each year around holiday time he would include a little print for all of his newsletter subscribers. For a long time it was a silver print, and then his last few years they were inkjets. They are jewels.
     
  13. mike c

    mike c Subscriber

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    Such a very popular name for me in the 60's, 70's and 80's reading all the Photography mags I could, Vestal stands out in my mind to day even.
     
  14. Curt

    Curt Subscriber

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    I eagerly looked forward to the articles he wrote and I read his book. It seemed so much clearer after he explained it. A sad goodbye to a well spent life.
     
  15. johnsexton

    johnsexton Subscriber

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    David leaves behind a wonderful legacy of images and writings. He touched many through his teaching. RIP.
     
  16. jovo

    jovo Membership Council

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    So sad. I have had this statement from him on my blog for years..." that he listened to radio because the images were better, and photographed in black and white because the colors were better." I loved that. Sometimes, the only reason I'd buy Phototechniques was to have his column where I could refer to it when I needed to. Great man.
     
  17. Richard S. (rich815)

    Richard S. (rich815) Subscriber

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    So sad. I've enjoyed so much of his writings. His column about how what a joke it is for photographers to call themselves "fine art photographers" was brilliant.
     
  18. Photo Engineer

    Photo Engineer Subscriber

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    David was a fine man and an excellent teacher. His newsletter and yearly picture will be missed. RIP David. You are gone but not forgotten. You taught me that bigger is not always better!

    PE
     
  19. Christopher Nisperos

    Christopher Nisperos Member

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    Vive Vestal

    Wow. I'm a bit blown away.. I'd tried to reach David Vestal several times over the last couple months by phone and I just, today, learned of his passing away last month. Get ready for an unashamedly syrupy post —which will hopefully not diminish its intention to give hommage, because I absolutely adored David Vestal.

    David was a true angel even before he died. He did so much to pass along his great body of knowledge and communicate his wise point of view on photographic matters —and in such a clear way— that his place as one of photography's preeminent doyens will be difficult to fill. This kind, quiet, diminutive man was a true giant, and it shouldn't be forgotten that he was instrumental in helping to prolong the production of fiber-based paper at a moment when Kodak had announced they would discontinue it (I verified this with Mike Gristwood of the old Ilford company.. apparently Vestal's "Save FB" writing 'campaign' —and that of Jean Dieuzaide, here in France—, gave Ilford the extra push it needed to bring out their Galerie paper ..which, as I understand it, in turn forced Kodak to keep producing their own line ((Ron Mowrey, your input is welcome on this last point!)). We all owe him.

    I first 'met' David years ago by telephone. He sometimes helped me refine articles I submitted to Photo Techniques magazine and his clarity of thought was invaluable. Then, a few years ago, I had the great privilege of hosting him here in Paris, on what I suppose was his only visit. As I saw him in-person for the first time —coming out of customs at Charles de Gaulle airport—, I couldn't help but marvel at this indefatigable, slightly hunched and —yes— brave 80-something-year-old man who had just flown across the Atlantic alone, to arrive in France with his well-used, trusty Canon SLR film camera (FILM, damn it!) hanging from his neck. I'm not ashamed to tell you that I was very moved .. and that the memory of that moment yet brings a tear. Here was a man totally passionate about and devoted to photography, perhaps even "married" to this art as a nun is to Jesus (forgive the corny religious metaphor ... but it's true that I even joked with David that he reminded me of a monk, living a simple life with a seemingly singular goal: promoting good photography). For his Paris visit, I'd found him a small apartment in the Marais district, and we hung out in cafés and went to a couple of exhibitions, including one at the Henri Cartier Bresson Foundation of the work of Lewis Hines. I was fascinated to hear David's story of how his photography teacher, Sid Grossman [and a woman whose name I've forgotten] actually saved Hines' negatives --of some of the very images we were looking at---, after rescuing them from a flooded New York City basement, and how David himself was at one time in charge of holding several of those negatives.

    David Vestal wrote well, but obviously he was also a visual communicator, and pretty darn good one at that, too. In both cases, he inspired. I was lucky to have been able to call David my friend. I'll truly miss him ... but thanks, David, for leaving so much behind. Rather than "rest in peace", I'd rather say

    Vive Vestal!

    Christopher Nisperos

    PS - he surely would have edited this post down to five sentences!
     
  20. Photo Engineer

    Photo Engineer Subscriber

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    Chris, you don't know how sad I was to hear of this.

    I hope you enjoyed your visit will Bill though.
     
  21. Christopher Nisperos

    Christopher Nisperos Member

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    (seems my earlier reply disappeared)..

    Hi Ron ... you have good spies!

    Yes, Bill Troop was here a few weeks ago. It was his first trip back to Paris since his boyhood, he'd said. He and I had a good talk over lunch —and coincidentally, spoke warmly of David Vestal— though, ironically, neither of us were aware at the time that he'd passed away the month before. By the way, poor Bill took ill the very next day and spent the entire rest of his "vacation" in his hotel bed. I emailed him today about David's passing.

    Lastly, you know what? We spoke well of you, too (bet your spies didn't tell you that!). I'm not surprised that you feel such sadness about David..It's natural; You're just as much a mensch as he was. Once in a while you gotta know how much you're appreciated.

    Best,

    Chris
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 22, 2014
  22. Photo Engineer

    Photo Engineer Subscriber

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    Thanks, but I don't feel menschish! :smile:

    Best wishes.

    Ron