Thursday, December 15, 2011

Inspirations #29: Henry Gilpin, 1922-2011


Highway 1, 1963 © Henry Gilpin

Henry Gilpin is a familiar name on the Monterey Peninsula in California. He was an educator, a photographer, a citizen, but most of all, a gentleman.

He was a contemporary of Ansel Adams, Brett Weston and Morley Baer, all of the "West Coast School" of photography, made popular by Edward Weston, Ansel Adams and others years earlier. He took his duty as a citizen so seriously that he joined the Monterey County Sherrif's Department in 1952. He taught photography at Monterey Peninsula Community College for 37 years. It is hard to put a number on the photographers that he has taught or influenced. He definitely influenced me.

I remember my first trip to the Peninsula in 1984... a journey to walk in the footsteps of the masters who had preceded me. Henry's most famous image (above) was one of the images that made me want, excuse me, NEED, to visit this beautiful place to see if I could make photographs worthy of it. My first attempt was "Sea Lion Cove" that year. One thing I see now, looking back at that first trip, was how overwhelming it is "your first time". Your senses are bombarded by the beauty of nature at every turn. I think I exposed just over 80 4x5" negatives in just 4 days.


Sea Lion Cove, Pt. Lobos, CA, 1984 © Richard M. Coda

If you have ever been on Highway 1 in Big Sur or just south of San Francisco, you know that every turn can "kill you". The road, built in the 1920s-30s, hugs the coast and has wicked hairpin turns, often just inches from a 300 foot fall to your death. The first time I took my wife on the road (1989) from San Francisco to Carmel, she almost became ill.

My next trip in 1986 produced this image, an 8x10" negative.


Garrapata, CA, 1986 © Richard M. Coda

On a trip in 1987 I made the image below. You can see Highway 1 in the top left of the frame.


Big Sur Coast, CA, 1987 © Richard M. Coda

The photographic community is saddened at the news of Henry's passing on December 13, but he leaves behind a legacy of photographs to inspire future generations of photographers. I am very proud to have Henry's "Highway 1" hanging in my living room. It is an image I will always treasure.

2 comments:

patra Mach said...
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