The Visual and Dramatic Arts Department at Rice University is pleased to present “Business & Pleasure, Fifty Years of Photographs” by Paul Hester with an opening reception on January 17, 2019, from 6-8 PM at the Rice Media Center Gallery. The photography instructor emeritus is sharing fifty years of his professional and personal life through a wide assortment of photographs from film and digital cameras.
The salon style show will cover the first and second floor walls of the Rice Media Center and include images from Hester’s undergraduate years at Rice in the Sixties. During that time the camera used in the beginning photography classes was the 4x5 view camera under the instruction of Geoff Winningham. Advanced students were offered the use of many different cameras and lenses from the store room of the Media Center: Leica M-4, Widelux (a 35mm camera with a moving lens that rotates 140 degrees), Olympus Pen F half-frame, 120mm Yashica, Nikon F, even a fisheye lens. Those were the beginning days of the Media Center when the Menils brought art, art history, film, photography, and Andy Warhol to Rice.
Those were the halcyon days at Rice’s Media Center. The influences and contributions made by the Menils cannot be exaggerated. Their commitment to bring photography and filmmaking, art, art history, and artists to the Media Center created a truly exciting community and a fertile space for budding artists.
“After a year of travel in Europe on a Thomas J. Watson Travel Fellowship and two years in graduate school at the Rhode Island School of Design, where I used a 35mm Leica M-4 exclusively, I returned to Houston in 1977 to work as the Photography Coordinator for the Visual Art Department at Rice. During those two years, the pay and working schedule followed the precedent established when John Lee Simon had the original position. I was required to be present four hours in the afternoon; in the morning I explored the city with my brand-new-to-me used Hasselblad Super Wide 120mm camera, making square pictures all over Houston, which seemed totally different after four years away,” recalls Hester.
The retrospective will showcase a wide variety of photographs from his Rice undergraduate years, through many commissioned and self-assigned projects, and including his most recent work. Taking the shapes of square, rectangular, 4x5, 35mm, elongated 35mm panoramas, and biggest of all, pictures from a Cirkut camera that he used in 1982 to re-photograph points of view recorded in negatives from the 1920s and 1930s. The Cirkut camera is a 19th century panorama camera that turns 360 degrees on a turntable atop a tripod, making a negative that is 8 inches tall and 60 inches long!
In contrast to photography’s analog days in the darkroom, Hester now enjoys the instant visual gratification of digital pictures. When his ‘photo-senses’ tingle and the need to document that very moment arises, he might rely on his iPhone, or Nikon D3X, or his mirrorless Fujifilm digital camera. “The best place to photograph is where you find yourself, and the best camera is the one you have with you. After working as an architectural photographer using very unforgiving color transparency film in a 4x5 view camera, the joy of extending the making of a photograph beyond the moment of exposure into the post-production time is my greatest delight with the digital process. In a way it is similar to using black and white film; the making of the print is again, as Ansel Adams said, the performance of the score recorded in the negative.”
Paul Hester received an MFA from the Rhode Island School of Design, where he studied with Harry Callahan, Aaron Siskind, Lisette Model, Minor White, Charles Harbutt, Bert Beavers, Richard Lebowitz, and Sally Stein. He divides his time between Fayetteville, Texas and Houston, Texas; between teaching and taking pictures; between looking and thinking; between now and then; between here and there. His photographs reside in the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris, Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, the Wooster Art Museum in Massachusetts, the National Museum of American Art in Washington DC, the Amon Carter Museum in Fort Worth, and in the homes of passionate collectors everywhere. He was on the faculty of the Department of Visual & Dramatic Arts, Rice University, Houston, for 15 years, where he taught courses in photography and writing-intensive classes about the language of photography. He traveled twice to Xi’an, China, and once to Havana, Cuba, with groups of students studying ways in which these countries are represented in photographic histories.
Paul Hester taught photography in the Department of Visual & Dramatic Arts at Rice University from 2003-2018, and photographed for Cite, the magazine of the Rice Design Alliance, since it began in 1982. Last year he photographed 100 locations around Houston chosen by 100 throws of a dart, culminating in issue 100 of Cite.
With his wife, Lisa Hardaway, a Rice graduate of the Shepherd School of Music, they operate as Hester + Hardaway Photographers, and have produced books on historic Texas court houses, California Spanish-style houses with Diane Keaton, a history of Glenwood Cemetery, the architecture of Philip Johnson in Texas by Frank Welch, and photographed a year of the changing seasons at the houses and studios of Georgia O’Keeffe in Abiquiu and Ghost Ranch, New Mexico.
Following retirement from teaching, Paul continues photographing art at the Menil Collection, which he began in 1979 when the Menil presented extraordinary exhibitions in The Barn, the home of the Institute for the Arts, an identically sized metal building along side the Media Center, which was demolished by the University in 2014.
Paul and Lisa are based in Fayetteville, Texas, and photograph for architects, artists, art galleries, and builders around the state. They maintain a large archive of film and pixels from fifty years of photography. www.PhotoGypsies.com
“Business & Pleasure” will be on view at the Rice Media Center gallery through February 22nd. Gallery Hours are 9:00 am to 5:00 pm, Monday through Friday. For more information visit vada.rice.edu or email firstname.lastname@example.org