Image of originality
Arizona Summer Wildcat
The UA's Center for Creative Photography speaks volumes
Images of the human experience have been captured as photographs for 150 years. Many of the best of those images have been housed in the UA's Center for Creative Photography archives for 25 years.
"It's a gift from a goddess - definitely way out there as a repository of great work and it is only getting bigger and better," said Dan Budnik, a Tucson photographer featured at the CCP.
Founded in 1975 by Ansel Adams and John P. Shaefer, then-University of Arizona president, the CCP was created to not only preserve the archived images and materials of photographers, but to also serve the community as an educational resource.
"The Center gives people an opportunity to view the archives of the forces that bare on the life of an artist, not just a photographer," said James Enyeart, CCP director from 1977 to 1990.
The storied founding of the internationally renowned archive center began when Shaefer was contacted by Adams, who was looking for a gallery to house his archives.
While Adams was preparing to submit his material to the George Eastman House in Rochester, N.Y., Shaefer stepped in and offered to create a facility to keep his good friend's work in the western United States.
Along with Adams and Shaefer, Enyeart was an important part of both the Center's conceptualization and building process.
"John Shaefer had come to Camel, California where I was working with Ansel Adams at The Friends of Photography. He discussed his idea with me, and I explained that they needed to enlarge their field to not just serve the photographers themselves, but also serve the world of photography."
Still, the main catalyst behind the Center was Adams and his love of photography as an art form.
"It is, in a sense, a fulfillment of a promise to Ansel," Enyeart said. "It was the decision by Ansel to commit his life's work to an idea that was actually bigger than himself."
The idea, Enyeart said, was a revolutionary step in the field of photography.
"What the Center did was provide an entirely new model for the world," he said. "There were other galleries, but they were, with the exception of the George Eastman House, all special collections in museums. None of them included the life's work of archives of the photographers."
The work of more than 2,000 photographers, amassing more than 60,000 prints are archived in cold storage at the CCP. Along with the prints, more than 60 major artist archives are housed at the Center, incorporating, journals, diaries and other personal items donated by photographers.
Even Eugene Smith, considered by Enyeart to be one of the greatest photojournalist of the 20th century, donated his favorite chair to the CCP - which houses the largest Smith archive in the world.
Along with its storied lineage, ground breaking ideas, and world renowned archives, the Center has helped preserve the work of thousands of artists while on a limited budget and a lack of local exposure.
"With limited resources and being located outside the major metropolitan areas, CCP has still managed to build an unparalleled collection and produce and make available to the public the highest quality exhibitions and educational programs," said Nancy Lutz, acting director of CCP.
Education - in and out of the classroom
Along with the thousands of archived prints and photographer materials, the Center provides a wealth of education for interested students, all free to the public. One unique feature is the PrintViewing program, which allows the public to schedule appointments to see actual prints.
The Center holds classes in its main auditorium and conducts guest lectures for art and photography students and interested non-students.
"If you have an idea that is unique enough, it should be housed in the university setting," Enyeart said. "We (U.S. citizens) have tended to leave all that goes into artist archives to the government, who hasn't, quite frankly, done a good job."
Still, the educational value of the CCP is not necessarily found in the structured classes and programs, but rather in the archived materials that expose the thought process and personality behind a photographer's work.
"I think it's always important, especially for young artists in some respects, to have an archived collection," said David Levinthal, a photographer whose work is archived at the Center. "I've always believed that it's not just the artwork itself, but what goes into making the art as well."
Jack Dykinga, a Pulitzer prize-winning photographer whose work has been displayed in the CCP gallery, said that while the archives are important, the many gallery showings help educate the public as well.
"It has certainly improved photographer development by being a research facility, however, I would qualify that by saying that the gallery displays reach a broader audience," he said. "A person can go into the archives and obtain research materials about certain artists, and that's great for that one photographer. The gallery display reaches the entire community."
International acclaim, local indifference
Although the CCP is celebrating 25 years of international renown and the creation of a new extension in the field of photography, some Center officials and photographers said the Tucson community has not embraced the Center like those throughout the world.
Budnik, who has lived in Tucson for more than 20 years, said the local community may not be qualified to understand the importance of the Center.
"Some of the best gallery photographers in the world are on display here. This is a reality check for those who don't have the street smarts to understand its presence," he said.
"You have people coming from all over the world because they need it - and the Center fulfills that need. Most people don't see the vitalness for the Center."
Budnik added that although the Center has given Tucson a fresh and innovative facility for the educational interests of photographers, university officials still do not understand its true potential.
"If it's done anything for Tucson, the university, or Arizona in general is that it has created an international repository for talented photographers. I'm not sure the wheels of the university quite know that," Budnik said. "They still don't know the magnitude or potential of it."
CCP Director Lutz said the university can still gain more from the Center.
"I think that the breadth of the Center activities and the unique nature of this collection and research center and the integration between the two are under recognized and under utilized by the campus," she said. "The campus as a whole, from the administration, to the faculty, to the students, to the staff have not taken full advantage of it."
Regardless of the local community's relative unfamiliarity of the Center, some photographers still said the CCP will continue to grow, inspiring future photographers and audiences in the process.
"The Center has been very helpful because it collects such a wide range and volume of material," Levinthal said. "It's always very difficult to tell at the moment what is going to be important."
Budnik said the Center will reflects more than just an image or feeling, but also all that is involved in photography.
"In effect, you are replicating the type of excitement for someone interested in photography," he said.
Enyeart agreed, adding that the Center was the product of years of love for the art, not merely one man's dream.
"Institutions of a certain field of study tend to not be brought into existence because people choose to do it, but rather because the field chooses them."