Scott Nichols Gallery

William Garnett: An Aerial Aesthetic

William Garnett: An Aerial Aesthetic

sand bars and sailboat, cape cod, massachusetts by william garnett

William Garnett

Sand Bars and Sailboat, Cape Cod, Massachusetts, 1966

eight trees on a hill, paso robles, california by william garnett

William Garnett

Eight Trees On A Hill, Paso Robles, California, 1979

train crossing desert near kelso, california by william garnett

William Garnett

Train Crossing Desert Near Kelso, California, 1974

plowed field, arvin, ca by william garnett

William Garnett

Plowed Field, Arvin, CA, 1951

Thursday, January 6, 2011Saturday, February 26, 2011


San Francisco, CA USA

Scott Nichols Gallery is proud to present William Garnett, An Aerial Aesthetic.

A pioneer in the field of aerial photography who has received three Guggenheim fellowships, Garnett took a highly mechanized and utilitarian process and transformed it into a art form of power and beauty.

It was luck that brought William Garnett to aerial photography. Discharged from the Army in 1945, where he served as a motion picture cameraman for U.S. Signal Corps he found his life's work on the plane trip back to the east coast in the navigator's seat of a troop transport. Inspired by the majesty of the landscape below, he decided to get his pilot's license and start photographing from the sky. He learned to fly on the G.I. Bill and bought his first plane in 1947, which served as his tripod and studio, throughout his career.

He elevated the genre of aerial photography to a form of artistic expression. Garnett sees shadow against light, geometric patterns, sensuous ambiguous organic shapes and textures all within the traditions of landscape photography without the conventional horizon line. John Szarkowski wrote in his definitive book, Looking at Photographs: 100 Pictures from the Collection of The Museum of Modern Art, "Garnett is not a flyer who makes photographs, but a photographer who flies. His plane's function is to hold his camera in precisely the right spot at precisely the right moment, in order to achieve not a map but a picture."

Garnett simultaneously piloted a plane while photographing out the window - traveling above every state and many parts of the world. His light, 1956 Cessna 170B plane allowed him to fly to just the right location to capture subjects with precision. He experimented with a variety of camera formats and films but found that the medium format 6x7 was his preferred camera.

Garnett was the second photographer after Edward Weston to earn three prestigious Guggenheim Awards, the first in 1953, Garnett's photograph, Snow Geese, with Reflection of the Sun on Buena Vista Lake, California was included in the The Family of Man, Edward Steichen's 1955 seminal exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City and that same year he had his first one man exhibition at the George Eastman House in Rochester, curated by the photo historian Beaumont Newhall. In 1968, he began teaching photography in the College of Environmental Design at the University of California, Berkeley.

His photographs are in numerous museum collections around the world, including the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., and the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles.