Viewpoint Photography Gallery in Sacramento will present a retrospective of the photographs of longtime Nevada City resident, Gene Crowe, from Nov. 10 to Dec. 4, along with the images of another Viewpoint photographer, Paul Mohr.
Crowe was born in San Francisco, grew up in Marin County, moved to Nevada County in 1964 to begin his teaching career at Nevada Union High School, and lived in Nevada City for the last forty-plus years of his life. He attended College of Marin and San Francisco State College, where he obtained a B.A. in Photography and a Secondary Credential in Art. He later did graduate work in photography at Sacramento State University.
For many years, until the early 2000s, Crowe taught art and photography at NUHS and Sierra College.
Crowe credits his Uncle Steve, photographer Edgar Stephenson, with sparking his interest in photography. He was about eleven when he first watched his uncle make magic in his darkroom. Stephenson was one of the notable photographers who attended the San Francisco Art Institute after World War II. In 1946, Ansel Adams and Minor White established the first fine-art photography department at SFAI, with Imogen Cunningham, Edward Weston, and Dorothea Lange among its instructors.
Other artists and photographers Crowe cited as influences include Jack Welpott, Don Worth, Roger Vail, Frank Stella, Clyfford Still, Franz Kline, Mark Rothko, and Charles Sheeler.
Crowe described his work as variations on straight photography. He would start with an idea based on something he saw on the ground glass and, in the darkroom or on the computer, would enhance that idea with minimal manipulation. He liked to describe his process as “intentional photography.” He once said, “There is pleasure in composing the image so the photograph works as a whole, not as a collection of unintended parts. The possibility of failure is the threat that makes success all the more exhilarating. In all of my work, I am mindful of the painter Frank Stella’s notion that one doesn’t know how good an idea is until it’s hanging on the wall.”
Over the years, Crowe experimented with many photographic processes and explored many themes. One series was a group of large color prints of botanical subjects printed on acid-free watercolor paper. Also in the exhibition are images made from paper negatives, a process that began with the scanning of transparencies and negatives and the printing of paper negatives, which were then contact printed and processed in the darkroom.
Other subjects included the ruins of Cistercian Abbeys in England and Scotland, life in urban and rural China, the pre-renovation San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Nevada City street scenes, and a project focusing on “small things.” Examples of those varied techniques and themes will hang in the exhibit.
Crowe’s art and photography have been featured in many galleries and several other venues in the Sacramento/Nevada City area. A longstanding member of Viewpoint Gallery, he was also a member of the Artists’ Collective at the Osborn Woods Gallery in Miners Foundry in Nevada City.
Gene Crowe passed away in 2020. He is survived by his wife Judy, three children, and five grandchildren. His art lives on in a variety of media, including paintings and drawings, wood and stone sculpture, jewelry, and photography.