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Matinee: 'Henry Wessel, Photographer' Share This on LinkedIn   Tweet This   Forward This

12 March 2022

Saturday matinees long ago let us escape from the ordinary world to the island of the Swiss Family Robinson or the mutinous decks of the Bounty. Why not, we thought, escape the usual fare here with Saturday matinees of our favorite photography films?

So we're pleased to present the 439th in our series of Saturday matinees today: Henry Wessel, Photographer.

This 4:38 video by David Bransten for the Rena Bransten Gallery on Minnesota St. in San Francisco is a short and sweet profile of the photographer who died in 2018 at the age of 76.

Wessel was represented by the Rena Bransten Gallery in San Francisco and Pace/MacGill Gallery in New York. He taught at the San Francisco Art Institute from 1973 to 2014.

The piece is narrated mostly by Wessel himself, who begins with the story of a girlfriend returning from Europe with a Leica and inviting him to try it. But , former SFMOMA curator of photography Sandra Phillips, actor Jason Lee, photographer Leo Rubinfien and Los Angeles County Museum of Art curator Britt Salvesen all chime in along the way, making it a real treat.

We see Wessel at work, wandering around San Francisco taking shots of people passing by, always thanking them, examining negatives and sitting at the desk in his office. There's even a clip from Antonioni's Blow Up.

Photography is easy, Wessel once said. "You have two decisions to make: Where to stand, and when to press the shutter. Pressing the shutter is saying yes to the world."

But the beauty of photography, he observes in this video, is that when you get stuck for two hours getting a muffler replaced, you don't watch TV in the waiting room, you take your camera and go for walk.

And say, "Yes!" to the world as you do.

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