Begin to See

The Photographers of Black Mountain College

Begin to See

Book Pages: 96 Illustrations: 116 photos, incl. 12 in color Published: May 2017

Author: Julie J. Thomson

Contributor: Michael Beggs

Art and Visual Culture > Photography, General Interest > NC and Regional U.S.

During its relatively brief existence (1933–1957), Black Mountain College was an experimental liberal arts college that placed the arts at the center of its curriculum. Its faculty included leading members of the American avant-garde such as Josef and Anni Albers, John Cage, Merce Cunningham, Buckminster Fuller, Charles Olson, and Robert Creeley. While Black Mountain College is best known for its contributions to the visual arts, literature, music, and dance, Begin to See: The Photographers of Black Mountain College shows how photography was also an important part of the curriculum. Photography began as an informal workshop in the 1930s and was taught through 1953. Josef Albers and Hazel Larsen Archer played important roles in this, including inviting many notable photographers to teach during the college's summer sessions.

While thousands of photographs were made at Black Mountain College there has not been a detailed examination of photography at the college. Begin to See is the first in-depth exhibition and catalog devoted to this topic. Organized around the themes of Available Light, Bearing Witness, Performing for the Camera, Experimentation, and Place, this catalog includes essays, photographer biographies, and a chronology about photography at Black Mountain College. It features over 100 photographs by more than forty artists including Josef Albers, Hazel Larsen Archer, Harry Callahan, Robert Haas, Barbara Morgan, Beaumont Newhall, Nancy Newhall, Andy Oates, Robert Rauschenberg, Aaron Siskind, Cy Twombly, Stan VanDerBeek, Susan Weil, and Jonathan Williams.

Published by the Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center and distributed by Duke University Press


"An intriguing view of the instructors and students who incorporated photography into the curriculum at Black Mountain College. . . . The five thoughtfully curated themes presented by Thomson illustrate how documenting place and time, combined with the individual artist’s vision, creates a work larger than the sum of its parts." — Ian Dunn, North Carolina Historical Review

"Begin to See will become a standard reference guide on the photographers at Black Mountain College. The chronology at the end is so useful to scholars and archivists." — Leslie Squyres, Senior Archivist, Center for Creative Photography, University of Arizona


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Julie J. Thomson is an independent scholar and curator who lives in Durham, North Carolina. She has been researching and writing about photographers at Black Mountain College since 2015 and the artist Ray Johnson since 2006. Her writing has appeared in the Journal of Black Mountain College Studies and Raw Vision, among other publications.

Michael Beggs spent four years studying Josef Albers's photographs and photographic practice while employed at The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation. He is currently pursuing a Master of Architecture degree at the College of Environmental Design, University of California, Berkeley.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Director’s Foreword v
Acknowledgements vii
Begin to See: The Photographers of Black Mountain College / Julie J. Thomson 1
Five Photographers 73
Snapshots 76
The Flattest Kind of Picture: Texture and Matière in Photography at Black Mountain College / Michael Beggs 79
Photographer Biographies 82
Select Chronology of Photographers and Photography at BMC 85
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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-1-5323-2572-4
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