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Bowers Museum : Peter Fetterman : The Power of Photography


Peter Fetterman Gallery announces that the Bowers Museum, San Diego is exhibiting The Power of Photography. The exhibition is centred around Peter Fetterman’s book, The Power of Photography, published by ACC Art Books and features many original photographic prints featured in the publication. The exhibition is on view through January 14th, 2024.

From the Bowers Museum:

The Power of Photography features a selection of iconic images which were compiled by the pioneering collector and gallerist Peter Fetterman to celebrate the photograph’s unique capacity for sensibility. Fetterman has been championing the photographic arts for over 40 years. He runs one of the leading fine art photography galleries in the world with a special emphasis on humanist photography. During the long months of the COVID-19 lockdown, he published one photograph online per day, accompanied by inspirational text, quotes, and poetry. Striking a chord with followers from around the world, this digital collection now sits at around 1,000 images.

This exhibition presents a carefully curated selection of over 70 outstanding original prints from the series, along with Fetterman’s insightful words. These works offer an inspiring overview of the medium while paying homage to masters of the art. From the bizarre Boschian fantasies of Melvin Sokolsky to the haunting humanity of Edward Weston’s portraits; from rare interior shots by famed nude photographer Ruth Bernhard to Steve McCurry’s Afghan Girl, one of the most recognizable photographs ever taken; this exhibition gathers some of the most unique and heartening photographs from the 20th century. Each image is a time capsule, offering us a glimpse into days gone past. Yet, each photograph also speaks of tranquility, peace, and hope for the future.”

The Power of Photography is organized by Photographic Traveling Exhibitions, Los Angeles, CA. This presentation of The Power of Photography is sponsored by The Ronald C. and Kristine Pietersma Family Trust.


Henri Cartier-Bresson 1908-2004
On the Banks of the Marne, Paris, 1938; Printed later
Signed in ink on recto Signed in ink on recto
Gelatin Silver Print
Paper 11 3/4 x 15 5/8 inches; Image 9 3/8 x 14 1/8 inches, Mat 16 x 20, Frame 17 x 21

“Life is once forever.”~ Henri Cartier-Bresson

Four simple words sum up Henri’s approach not only to photography but his approach to life in general. I learnt so much from him and the lessons he taught me continue every day through being surrounded by his work. A family relaxes on a Sunday by the banks of a river. In an ordinary photographer’s eye it would be a static moment. With Henri it has a gentle dynamism and tells a story of family and friendship. How did he know to press the shutter just as the man on the left is pouring the glass of wine and the woman on the right is about to eat the tastiest morsel of the chicken leg in harmonious order? It was always Cartier-Bresson’s intention to become a painter as a young man. He studied intensely with the celebrated teacher and Cubist painter Andre Lhote. Fortunately, for the history of photography and for us, he discovered photography to become in my opinion, the greatest 20th Century photographer and maybe the greatest photographer ever. His work was the inspiration for me to open a fine art photography gallery so my debt to him is huge. One can see the painterly influence on this key early image, “On The Banks of the Marne”. It is as if Seurat picked up a camera by mistake instead of his paint brushes. It is simple joy and humanity and always puts a smile on my face.


Steve McCurry 1950
The Afghan Girl, Sharbut Gula, Pakistan, 1984
Signed in ink on verso.
Digital C-Print on Fuji Crystal Paper
Paper 24 x 20, Mat 30 x 24, Frame 31 x 25
Edition .0587

“Most of my photos are grounded in people. I look for the unguarded moment, the essential soul peeking out, experience etched on a person’s face.” ~ Steve McCurry

This is one of the most recognised images in the history of photography, often referred to as the “Mona Lisa” of photos. Yet, however many times you might have seen it reproduced in books or magazines, when you are actually standing in front of a real, physical print, it is even more powerful and alluring. In 1984, with the Soviet War in Afghanistan raging, refugee camps set up along the Afghan-Pakistan border were quickly filling with displaced people. As the numbers of refugees increased, McCurry was asked by National Geographic to explore and document these settlements.

In one makeshift classroom in a girls’ camp near Peshawar, McCurry captured the image that would come to define a story, a conflict and a people. This is what great social documentary photographers like McCurry strive to achieve throughout their careers: to preserve an image that connects the viewer from the specific to the universal, revealing and reminding us of our common humanity.


Edward Curtis (United States, b. 1868-1952)
At the Old Well of Acoma, 1904
Signed on recto, original framed label on verso
Goldtone print
Image 10 1/2 x 14 ” , Framed 19 x 16″

“The passing of every old man or woman means the passing of some tradition, some knowledge of sacred rites possessed by no other. Consequently, the information that is to be gathered for the benefit of future generations, respecting the mode of life of one of the great races of mankind, must be collected at once or the opportunity will be lost for all time.” ~ Edward S. Curtis

Edward S. Curtis dedicated and basically sacrificed his life to his dream project of documenting the history of Native American peoples. He created one of the most powerful bodies of work in the history of photography. Nowhere does his artistry manifest itself better than in his portraits, particularly of chiefs and warriors. Here is the strength, dignity and life experience portrayed by this Hopi man.

This exquisite print is nothing less than haunting and one of the most beautiful platinum prints of his work I have ever seen. Curtis died virtually penniless and forgotten in Los Angeles in 1952, with a scant obituary in the New York Times mentioning rather understatedly that “Mr Curtis was a photographer”. That is somewhat akin to saying that “Rembrandt was a painter”.


Paul Fusco (1930 – 2020)
Untitled from the RFK Train Portfolio., 1968
Signed and numbered by artist
Archival digital C print
Image – 15 x 23″, Mat – 24×30″

“There are those who look at things the way they are and ask why. I dream of things that never were and ask why not?” ~ Robert F. Kennedy

“JFK was gunned down by an assassin. Five years later, when Bobby rose to try to re-establish a government of hope, the hearts of Americans quickened and excitement flared. Then tragedy struck again. The blow was monumental. Hope on the rise had again been shattered and those in most need of hope crowded the tracks of Bobby’s last train, stunned into disbelief, and watched that hope trapped in a coffin pass and disappear from their lives.” ~ Paul Fusco

The camera is often the witness to monumental events in world history. Such was the case in Paul Fusco’s documentation of RFK’s funeral train as it proceeded to his final burial place close to his brother in Arlington Cemetery, Virginia. To my mind, it is one of the most powerful pieces of photographic reportage ever produced. In this, my adopted country of America, it seems as relevant today as when the images were first taken. The issues have not changed, and have even intensified, but the hope that one day solutions will be found is still there.


Dan Budnik 1933
‘March on Washington’ – Martin Luther King Jr. after delivering his, ‘I Have a Dream’ speech, Lincoln Memorial, Washington D.C., August 28, 1963/Printed 2007
Signed in ink on recto; signed, titled and dated in pencil on verso.
Gelatin silver print
Paper 20×24″, Mat 24 x 30, Frame 25 x 31

“I need to become completely anonymous if I’m to capture the essence, the root fact about the person and not merely their surface.” ~ Dan Budnik

Many years ago, we mounted a civil rights exhibition in the gallery. It was a subject that completely enveloped me. I knew we needed to have a great MLK image to anchor the exhibition and I subsequently spent months hunting and viewing hundreds of images. When I came across Dan Budnik’s understated work and met him, I knew this was the one.


John Dominis 1921-2013
Jacques D’Amboise Playing with his Children, Seattle, Washington, 1962, printed 2006
Signed in ink on recto; Titled & dated with copyright in pencil on verso
Gelatin Silver Print
Image – 11 3/4″ x 16 3/4″, Paper – 16″ x 20″, Mat – 20″ x 24″, Frame 21 x 25

“The great thing about working with Life, was that I was given all the support and money and time, whatever was required, to do almost any kind of work I wanted to do, anywhere in the world. It was like having a grant, a Guggenheim grant, but permanently.” ~ John Dominis

John Dominis was one of the great Life magazine photographers. He was commissioned to shoot one of the great male dancers of the era, Jacques d’Amboise. It was not only a portrait of a dancer at his physical peak but a portrait of fatherhood.


George Ayres
Portrait of Abraham Lincoln, June, 3rd, 1860 (Printed 1890)
Signed on verso w/ various pencil notations
Vintage platinum/palladium print
Image: 20×26, Matted: 30×40, Frame 45 x 35

“Those who deny freedom to others, deserve it not for themselves.” ~ Abraham Lincoln

Alexander Hesler, a noted commercial photographer based in Chicago, arranged two portrait sessions with Lincoln in 1858 and 1860. The images from their first session displayed the presidential candidate with disordered and messy hair. During the subsequent election campaign, the Republican National Committee grew concerned that Lincoln might appear unkempt compared to his opponent, Stephen A. Douglas. Hesler, therefore, produced this more dapper and well-groomed representation of the candidate at the second sitting. The artist, George B. Ayres, purchased Hesler’s studio in 1867, a move that saved its contents from being destroyed when the gallery burned down in the Chicago fire of 1871. This has always been my favourite portrait of Lincoln and has been a source of inspiration and hope, especially now.


Thurston Hopkins 1913-2014
La Dolce Vita, Knightsbridge, London, 1953
Signed, titled, & dated in pencil with artist’s copyright stamp on verso
Gelatin Silver Print
Paper 8 x 10 inches; Image 6 7/8 x 9 3/8 inches, Mat 16 x 20, Frame 17 x 21

“Many photographers are naturally shy people. Hiding behind a camera helps them overcome their shyness.” ~ Thurston Hopkins

Thurston Hopkins and his wonderful wife and fellow photographer Grace Robertson were always so kind and gracious when I visited them at their cottage in Seaford, near the West Sussex coast. I was honoured to consider them true friends. Whenever I was at the cottage, I would discover wonderful new gems from their archives. It was like a treasure hunt; you never knew what prize of a photograph would turn up.

This photo just makes me so happy. I asked Thurston how it came to be and he explained to me that he was in Knightsbridge, London and decided to pick up some special treats for Grace from the celebrated food hall at Harrods. After loading up on his splurge of delights, he left the store and saw this car parked outside, with the chauffeur and large poodle waiting for their shopper to return. Like all great photographers, he was always prepared for the unexpected gift that life sometimes grants you, and he was ready to receive it with his talented eye, camera in hand. The result is the pure joy of this perfect photograph.


Michael Kenna
Torii Gate, Study 3, Shosanbetsu, Hokkaido, 2014, printed 2021
Signed, dated and numbered in pencil on recto
Signed, titled, dated and numbered in pencil on verso
Silver gelatin print
image- 7 5/8 x 7 7/8″, mat- 20 x 16″, Frame 21′ x 17″
Edition 14 of 25

“During long exposures, the world changes. Rivers flow, planes fly by, clouds pass and the Earth’s position relative to the stars is different. This accumulation of light, time and movement, impossible for the human eye to take in, can be recorded on film. Real becomes surreal, which is wonderful.” ~ Michael Kenna

Michael Kenna’s photographs from Japan are among his strongest works. The images of the isolated Torii gates at sea produce such a profound and haunting presence, yet at their core are visually calming and surreal. The Japanese Torri gate symbolically marks the transition from the mundane to the sacred, a movement achieved for the audience through the view of Kenna’s images. No matter where we are when we look at these photographs, we are transported into a realm of the sacred.

Kenna knows no limits with his subject matter, yet his approach to photography has always been a Zen-like, holistic process of connecting to the world around him. Using minimalism and long camera exposures, Kenna captures the ethereal passage of time within a single image, creating his seductive, dream-like scenes of nature and a community’s relationship with that natural world.

I have always felt that a photographer’s lasting importance is directly tied to the influence their work has on other photographers. Michael Kenna’s vision has been cohesively consistent for nearly five decades, and his style has been adopted by thousands of photographers since. His work is often imitated but remains unparalleled in its creative genius. Kenna remains one step ahead with his unique approach, and continues to be one of the most prolific and inspiring photographers working today.


David Montgomery 1937
Queen Elizabeth with Corgis (Heater), 1967 (Printed 2018)
Signed and numbered on verso
Archival digital C-print
Paper 20″x24″, Image 16.5″x22″, Matted 24″x30″, Framed 31×25″
Edition 9 of 25

“The Queen came in and she was very sweet. At that point, there were just the three of us. The Queen, myself and my assistant. The dogs were there, four or five of those, but no other people, no guards, nothing. ‘Where do you normally sit when you’re here?’ I asked. And the next thing I knew, she was on the floor, in front of the fire. I thought, ‘I don’t believe this’.” ~David Montgomery

When I first saw these images, I knew I had to meet their creator. I tracked down David Montgomery and so began our long collaboration and friendship. Montgomery first came to London as an assistant to a photographer in the early 1960s and decided that he wanted to make London his home, starting his own career there. One day, he got a call from The Observer newspaper for a special assignment to photograph Her Royal Highness, with clear instructions to show The Queen as a real, living person who can do everyday things. He was so terrified that he initially turned the job down but after being screamed at by his wife, he called back and agreed to do it. I have never seen any other photos of The Queen that so candidly show us her “normality”. I am always awe-struck by this first image from the collection. One would think that The Queen, with her large household staff always at the ready, would be sitting in front of a crackling real log fire. Why then, is she seated next to a cheap electric heater? While Queen Elizabeth and I don’t have a great deal in common, we do both share a love of corgis. Fewer things in life can outrank the joy of sitting fireside with a loyal corgi nearby.


Sarah Moon 1941
L’inconnue, 2011
Signed, titled, dated, numbered on verso
Gelatin Silver Print
Image – 17.5″x21.75″, Paper – 20″x24″, Matted – 24″x30″, Frame 25″ x 31″
Edition 12 of 20

“A fashion photographer I am and remain. I can say that for certain, but I also take photographs without any particular aim in mind. Photographs of everything and nothing, things that look good to me or that don’t look good. I wander.

But wandering is not so different from dancing. Things have come full circle and while there’s still time and for as long as I can, I want to see. I want to take photographs and all kinds of dancing are allowed.” ~ Sarah Moon

Sarah Moon, like all great artists, approaches beauty with her own unique blend of creativity and inspiration. Her work takes on a transcendent vision, allowing us into a realm that almost defies description. Beauty becomes something even more powerful thanks to Moon’s intimate relationship with her subject matter. Here, she has created an image that is seductive in its ethereal pose, elevated from talented to genius by the simple act of photographing her model from behind. We are as intrigued by what we can’t see, the hidden and missing elements, as we are by that which we can. This serene composition reminds me of a John Singer Sargent, a Degas or a Mary Cassatt.


Norman Parkinson 1913-1990
Audrey Hepburn with Flowers, 1955 (Printed 2017)
Limited Edition Estate Print; titled, dated and numbered in ink on verso
Archival Digital C-Print
Image size 16 x 20 inches; paper size 20 x 24 inches, mat 24 x 30, frame 31 x 25
Edition 15 of 21

“I like to make people look as good as they’d like to look, and with luck, a shade better.” ~ Norman Parkinson

Well, I don’t think the great 20th-century British photographer Norman Parkinson had too many problems on this day. This session was in a way the “perfect storm”. Here you have one of the greatest gifts to the camera in the history of photography, Audrey Hepburn, blessed with a sublime combination of beauty and vulnerability, and “Parks”, one of the most skilled practitioners of his craft, whose sense of humour, charm and height relaxed everyone before his lens. This special image was shot at the Villa Rolli, just outside Rome, where Hepburn was filming War and Peace with herhusband Mel Ferrer. It also helped that Hepburn was dressed in one of the greatest creations of her favourite designer, Givenchy. It is difficult to top this image, right?


About Peter Fetterman

Born in London, Peter Fetterman, initially a filmmaker and collector, has helmed the Peter Fetterman Gallery in Santa Monica, CA, for over 35 years. He is the author of The Power of Photography which was released May 2022, published by ACC Art Books. It reached the top of the photography book bestseller list on Amazon He is also the author of Woman A Celebration (2003) published by Chronicle Books, and Cornell Capa (2002).


Peter Fetterman : The Power of Photography
on view through January 14th, 2024
Bowers Museum
2002 North Main Street
Santa Ana, CA 92706 United States

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