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Documentary about legendary professor to screen

January 26, 2007

Photo of John GutmannIn a career that spanned more than five decades, Professor John Gutmann took photographs that connected 20th century American culture with European modernism. The native of Germany became a legend not only in the art world, but also at SF State, as founder of the creative photography program in 1946 and mentor to many students over four decades.

The San Francisco Jewish Film Festival and SF State Documentary Film Institute present a Jan. 31 screening of his documentary, "My Eyes Were Fresh: The Life and Photographs of John Gutmann," directed by Jane Levy Reed.

"He studied with the preeminent German expressionists; nobody else in America had," said Professor of Art Mark Johnson, who is interviewed in the documentary. "He deserves to be talked about alongside Ansel Adams as the most influential photographers of San Francisco and the Bay Area."

In 1933 at age 28, the Nazi regime forced Gutmann to abandon a budding career as a painter and professor in Germany. He moved to San Francisco, where he began taking photographs of the historic 1934 General Strike. Gutmann joined the SF State faculty in 1938. That year the de Young Museum in San Francisco held his first solo photography exhibition. He introduced photography to the SF State Art Department curriculum in 1946 -- the same year Adams and Minor White established one of the nation's first fine art photography departments, at the San Francisco Art Institute.

Gutmann also worked as a photojournalist, with work appearing in such publications as National Geographic, Saturday Evening Post, Life and Time.

From 1949 to 1963, Gutmann organized the Art Movies series on campus. The series, which was the first of its kind in the Bay Area, featured screenings of documentary, classic, foreign, art and experimental films. Gutmann retired from SF State in 1973 and died in 1998.

"My Eyes Were Fresh" will be shown at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 31, in the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (YBCA) screening room at 701 Mission St. in San Francisco. "Marti: The Passionate Eye," a documentary about New Zealand photographer Marti Friedlander, will also be shown. Tickets are $8 general admission and $6 for students, seniors, and YBCA and Jewish Film Forum members. For tickets and details, call (415) 978-2787.

The Documentary Film Institute, based in SF State's International Center for the Arts and founded in 2005, has presented film festivals focused on the environment and the work of legendary filmmakers Richard Leacock, D.A. Pennebaker and Frederick Wiseman.

-- Matt Itelson
Photo: Sy Marcuse


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Last modified January 26, 2007 by University Communications