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Frederick Sommer (September 7, 1905 – January 23, 1999), was an artist born in Angri, Italy and raised in Brazil. He earned a M.A. degree in Landscape Architecture (1927) from Cornell University where he met Frances Elisabeth Watson (September 20, 1904 – April 10, 1999) whom he married in 1928; they had no children. The Sommers moved to Tucson, Arizona in 1931 and then Prescott, Arizona in 1935. Sommer became a naturalized citizen of the United States on November 18, 1939.
Angri is a town and comune in the province of Salerno, Campania, southern Italy. It is around 11 miles (18 km) northwest of the town of Salerno.
Italy, officially the Italian Republic, is a country in Southern Europe. Located in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, Italy shares open land borders with France, Switzerland, Austria, Slovenia and the enclaved microstates San Marino and Vatican City. Italy covers an area of 301,340 km2 (116,350 sq mi) and has a largely temperate seasonal and Mediterranean climate. With around 61 million inhabitants, it is the fourth-most populous EU member state and the most populous country in Southern Europe.
Brazil, officially the Federative Republic of Brazil, is the largest country in both South America and Latin America. At 8.5 million square kilometers and with over 208 million people, Brazil is the world's fifth-largest country by area and the fifth most populous. Its capital is Brasília, and its most populated city is São Paulo. The federation is composed of the union of the 26 states, the Federal District, and the 5,570 municipalities. It is the largest country to have Portuguese as an official language and the only one in the Americas; it is also one of the most multicultural and ethnically diverse nations, due to over a century of mass immigration from around the world.
Considered a master photographer, Sommer first experimented with photography in 1931 after being diagnosed with tuberculosis the year prior. Early works on paper (starting in 1931) include watercolors, and evolve to pen-and-ink or brush plus drawings of visually composed musical score. Concurrent to the works on paper, Sommer started to seriously explore the artistic possibilities of photography in 1938 when he acquired an 8×10 Century Universal Camera, eventually encompassing the genres of still life (chicken parts and assemblage), horizonless landscapes, jarred subjects, cut-paper, cliché-verre negatives and nudes. According to art critic Robert C. Morgan, Sommer's "most extravagant, subtle, majestic, and impressive photographs—comparable in many ways to the views of Yosemite Valley’s El Capitan and Half Dome by Ansel Adams—were Sommer’s seemingly infinite desert landscapes, some of which he referred to as 'constellations.'"The last artistic body of work Sommer produced (1989–1999) was collage based largely on anatomical illustrations.
A photographer is a person who makes photographs.
Tuberculosis (TB) is an infectious disease usually caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis (MTB) bacteria. Tuberculosis generally affects the lungs, but can also affect other parts of the body. Most infections do not have symptoms, in which case it is known as latent tuberculosis. About 10% of latent infections progress to active disease which, if left untreated, kills about half of those affected. The classic symptoms of active TB are a chronic cough with blood-containing sputum, fever, night sweats, and weight loss. It was historically called "consumption" due to the weight loss. Infection of other organs can cause a wide range of symptoms.
Sheet music is a handwritten or printed form of music notation that uses modern musical symbols to indicate the pitches (melodies), rhythms or chords of a song or instrumental musical piece. Like its analogs – printed books or pamphlets in English, Arabic or other languages – the medium of sheet music typically is paper, although the access to musical notation since the 1980s has included the presentation of musical notation on computer screens and the development of scorewriter computer programs that can notate a song or piece electronically, and, in some cases, "play back" the notated music using a synthesizer or virtual instruments.
Frederick Sommer had significant artistic relationships with Edward Weston, Max Ernst, Aaron Siskind, Richard Nickel, Minor White, and others. His archive (of negatives and correspondence) was part of founding the Center for Creative Photography in 1975 along with Ansel Adams, Harry Callahan, Wynn Bullock, and Aaron Siskind. He taught briefly at Prescott College during the late 60s and substituted for Harry Callahan at IIT Institute of Design in 1957–1958 and later at the Rhode Island School of Design.
Max Ernst was a German painter, sculptor, graphic artist, and poet. A prolific artist, Ernst was a primary pioneer of the Dada movement and Surrealism. He had no formal artistic training, but his experimental attitude toward the making of art resulted in his invention of frottage—a technique that uses pencil rubbings of objects as a source of images— and 'grattage', an analogous technique in which paint is scraped across canvas to reveal the imprints of the objects placed beneath. He is also noted for his novels consisting of collages.
Richard Stanley Nickel was a Polish American architectural photographer and historical preservationist, who was based in Chicago, Illinois. He is best known for his efforts to preserve and document the buildings of architect Louis Sullivan, and the work of the architecture firm of Adler & Sullivan.
Minor Martin White was an American photographer, theoretician, critic and educator. He combined an intense interest in how people viewed and understood photographs with a personal vision that was guided by a variety of spiritual and intellectual philosophies. Starting in Oregon in 1937 and continuing until he died in 1976, White made thousands of black-and-white and color photographs of landscapes, people and abstract subject matter, created with both technical mastery and a strong visual sense of light and shadow. He taught many classes, workshops and retreats on photography at the California School of Fine Arts, Rochester Institute of Technology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, other schools, and in his own home. He lived much of his life as a closeted gay man, afraid to express himself publicly for fear of loss of his teaching jobs, and some of his most compelling images are figure studies of men whom he taught or with whom he had relationships. He helped start and for many years was editor of the photography magazine Aperture. After his death in 1976, White was hailed as one of America's greatest photographers.
Bruce Silverstein Gallery is the New York representative of the Frederick & Frances Sommer Foundation.
Bruce Silverstein Gallery is a photographic art gallery in the Chelsea section of Manhattan, New York City. It was started in 2001 by Bruce Silverstein. The gallery is a member of the Association of International Photography Art Dealers.
In 1934, Frederick Sommer visited Los Angeles. Walking through the art museum one day, he noticed a display of musical scores. He saw them not as music, but as graphics, and found in them an elegance and grace that led him to a careful study of scores and notation.
He found that the best music was visually more effective and attractive. He assumed that there was a correlation between music as we hear it and its notation; and he wondered if drawings that used notational motifs and elements could be played. He made his first “drawings in the manner of musical scores” that year. (After reviewing this text, Fred asked that the author refer to his scores “only” in this way. When the author suggested that it was perhaps too long to be repeated throughout the text, he laughed and said, “Well, use it at least once.”)
Although people knew of his scores, and occasionally brought musicians to his house to play them, no one ever stayed with it for long. In 1967, both Walton Mendelson and Stephen Aldrich attended Prescott College, Prescott, Arizona, where Sommer was on the faculty. They barely knew of his reputation as a photographer, and nothing of the scores. Towards the end of September he invited them to his house for dinner, but they were to come early, and Mendelson was to bring my flute. “Can you play that?” he asked, as they looked at one of the scores, framed, and sitting atop his piano. With no guidance from him, they tried. Nervous and unsure of what they were getting into, they stopped midway through. Mendelson asked Alddrich where he was in the score: he pointed to where Mendelson had stopped. They knew then, mysterious though the scores were, they could be played. On May 9, 1968, the first public performance of the music of Frederick Sommer was given at Prescott College.
Sommer had no musical training. He didn't know one note from another on his piano, nor could he read music. His record collection was surprisingly broad for that time, and his familiarity with it was thorough. What surprised Mendelson and Aldrich when they first met him were his visual skills: he could identify many specific pieces and almost any major composer by looking at the shapes of the notation on a page of printed music.
Of Sommer's known works, his drawings, glue-color on paper, photographs, and writings, it is only these scores that have been a part of his creative life throughout the entirety of his artistic career. He was still drawing elegant scores in 1997. And like his skip reading, they are the closest insight to his creative process, thinking and aesthetic.
Ansel Easton Adams was an American landscape photographer and environmentalist known for his black-and-white images of the American West.
Ernest Bloch was a Swiss-born American composer. Bloch was a pre-eminent artist in his day and left a lasting legacy. He is recognised as one of the greatest Swiss composers in history. As well as producing musical scores, Bloch had an academic career that culminated in his recognition as Professor Emeritus at the University of California, Berkeley in 1952.
Harry Morey Callahan was an American photographer.
Raymond Moore was a post-war English art photographer.
Aperture magazine, based in New York City, is an international quarterly journal specializing in photography. Founded in 1952, Aperture magazine is the flagship publication of Aperture Foundation.
Wynn Bullock was an American photographer whose work is included in over 90 major museum collections around the world. He received substantial critical acclaim during his lifetime, published numerous books and is mentioned in all the standard histories of modern photography.
The Center for Creative Photography (CCP), established in 1975 and located on the University of Arizona (Tucson) campus, is a research facility and archival repository containing the full archives of over sixty of the most famous American photographers including those of Edward Weston, Harry Callahan and Garry Winogrand, as well as a collection of over 80,000 images representing more than 2,000 photographers. The center also houses the archives for Ansel Adams, including all negatives known to exist at the time of his death. The CCP collects, preserves, interprets, and makes available materials that are essential to understanding photography and its history.
Emmet Gowin is an American photographer. He first gained attention in the 1970s with his intimate portraits of his wife, Edith, and her family. Later he turned his attention to the landscapes of the American West, taking aerial photographs of places that had been changed by humans or nature, including the Hanford Site, Mount St. Helens, and the Nevada Test Site. Gowin taught at Princeton University for 25 years.
Sonya Noskowiak was an American photographer and member of the famous San Francisco photography collective Group f/64 that included Ansel Adams and Edward Weston.
Marvin E. Newman is an American artist and photographer.
Nathan Lyons was an American photographer, curator, and educator. He exhibited his photographs from 1956 onwards, produced books of his own and edited those of others.
Edmund Rudolph Teske was a 20th-century American photographer who combined a career of taking portraits of artists, musicians and entertainers with a prolific output of experimental photography. His use of techniques like: combined prints, montages and solarizations led to "often romantic and mysterious images". Although he exhibited extensively and was well-known within artistic photography circles during his lifetime, his work was not widely known by the public. He has been called "one of the forgotten greats of American photography."
Dody Weston Thompson was a 20th-century American photographer and chronicler of the history and craft of photography. She learned the art in 1947 and developed her own expression of “straight” or realistic photography, the style that emerged in Northern California in the 1930s. Dody worked closely with contemporary icons Edward Weston, Brett Weston and Ansel Adams during the late 1940s and through the 1950s, with additional collaboration with Brett Weston in the 1980s.
Abraham "Abe" Aronow is an American physician and photographer best known for his monochrome portraits of prominent photographers.
Deborah Springstead Ford is an American photographer noted for her fine art black and white combination printed photographs exploring ambiguous perceptual realities. She has photographed her family, western landscapes and cultural artifacts, with much of her photographic work drawing on the relationships between science and art, the natural world and cultural geography. Most recently her photographs of oil and gas exploration in the Powder River Basin and the high desert west have received attention and been published in Arid. Her work has been exhibited in solo and group exhibits in museums and galleries around the continent, and is included in many private and public collections such as the Center for Creative Photography, California Museum of Photography, and Northlight Gallery. She has been an arts advocate, educator and program administrator in addition to being a professional visual artist for over 30 years. Ford attended Minneapolis College of Art & Design, Arizona State University and Goddard College. She has a BFA in Photography, a Master's in Art Education/Photographic Studies and an MFA in Interdisciplinary Arts. She was a professor of Photographic Studies at Prescott College. She taught photography full-time from 1982-2013, the last 18 years at Prescott College in northern Arizona. As an arts advocate, Ford was instrumental in the creation of the Prescott College Art Gallery. The gallery and Ford have both been nominated for Arizona Governor's Art Awards. She has received numerous awards and fellowships, including four Arizona Commission on the Arts Grants and participated in many Artist-in-Residence programs around the country including the Biosphere 2, Ucross Foundation, Anderson Center for Interdisciplinary Arts, Sitka Center for Art & Ecology, Joshua Tree National Park, Isle Royale National Park, and Aspen Guard Station. Ford's photographs have been exhibited nationally and internationally. Recent publications include a profile in Black and White Magazine, Issue #82. and photographs in Orion magazine. Ford was the Executive Director of Playa, in Summer Lake Oregon, a residency program for visual artists, scientists, writers and others engaged with creative inquiry from 2013-2017.
Friends of Photography was a nonprofit organization started by Ansel Adams and others in 1967 to promote photography as a fine art. During its existence the organization held at least 330 photography exhibitions at its galleries in Carmel and San Francisco, California, and it published a lengthy series of monographs under the name Untitled. Among those who were featured in their exhibitions and publications were well-known photographers Ansel Adams, Wynn Bullock, Ruth Bernhard, Harry Callahan, Roy DeCarava, Lee Friedlander, Emmet Gowin, Mary Ellen Mark, Barbara Morgan, Aaron Siskind, Paul Strand, Brett Weston, Edward Weston and Minor White, as well as then newly starting photographers such as Marsha Burns, William Garnett, Richard Misrach, John Pfahl, Lorna Simpson, and Jo Ann Walters. The organization was formally dissolved in 2001.
Ray McSavaney was an American fine-art photographer based in Los Angeles, California. Throughout a spartan but active life, practicing classical Western black and white fine art photography, he made enduring photographs of buildings, bridges, and street scenes of the vast city, ancient ruins and panoramic vistas of the Southwest, and studio setups with varied floral subjects. He passed away from lymphoma in Los Angeles Veteran's Hospital. Warm tributes to his life and career by some of his close friends and colleagues appear in a ‘celebration of life’ memorial recounted in ‘View Camera’ magazine.
Gita Lenz was a New York photographer whose imagery ranged from the humanist to the abstract.
Musya S. Sheeler (1908–1981), born Musya Metas Sokolova, was a Russian dancer (1908-1981), who at age 15 fled with her family from the Revolution to the USA, where she became a photographer. Her work was exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art three times and featured in magazines including Life and Vogue.
For detailed chronology, biography, bibliography, and images see
For more information on the music Frederick Sommer, with musical examples see:
For the complete performances: