Fine Arts Museum, Museum of New Mexico

Left: Plaza, Looking North, Santa Fe, February, 1997; Right: Detail of Front Facade, Fine Arts Museum, Santa Fe, 1997, photos by John Hazeltine

Santa Fe, NM



In His Native Land: The Early Modern Photography of John Candelario


He sharpened knives for Georgia O'Keeffe, became a millionaire at age 22, was the 1958 state chess master, an FBI operative, a filmmaker and a seventh-generation New Mexican. He also took pictures. He was John S. Candelario (1916-1993), born John Weeks in 1916, son of an English father and Hispanic mother, with bits of German and Scot mixed in for good measure. The story of John Candelario is a New Mexico story, a unique blend of cultures and an endless sky, (left: John S. Candelario, Georgia O'Keeffe, 1939, gelatin silver photograph)

"In His Native Land: The Early Modern Photography of John Candelario" opens at the Museum of Fine Arts September 15, 2000 and closes Summer 2001, The exhibition includes unique platinum prints, photographs, and letters representing the first decade of Candelario's work beginning in 1938. Selections are from the John S. Candelario Archives in the Museum of Fine Arts and the Fray Angélico Chávez History Library and Photographic Archives at the Palace of the Governors.

Eighteen platinum prints, one bromoil photograph, and seventeen gelatin silver photographs convey the honesty and directness of the photographer's modernist sensibility, The New Mexico you see in Candelario's photographs seems little changed in 50 years. The sky is still as starkly vivid, the faces still reveal the dignity and pride of a people who have known life and met it with grace.(left: photograph by John S. Candelario)

Candelario photographs graced numerous magazine covers including Life, Look and the Saturday Evening Post. What America saw were photographs that clearly and crisply revealed the people and places of Northern New Mexico as no other photographer had been able to do,The 1930s and 1940s saw the peak of Candelario's photographic output. and while he worked in both black-and-white and color photography, it is his platinum prints that reflect the real genius of the man.

So, how does a young man with an insatiable appetite for the arts and sciences become New Mexico:s first master in photography? To hear him tell it, he was just in the right place at the right time. It could have started with a job sharpening knives for Georgia O'Keeffe and taking a few pictures of her. Known for mentoring any promising young talent, O'Keeffe encouraged Candelario and passed examples of his work to her husband, Alfred Stieglitz in New York. Stieglitz displayed the work in his own gallery, which led to an exhibition in 1944 at the Museum of Modern Art, the work eventually becoming part of MOMA's permanent collection.

Working with luminaries such as Edward Weston, Ansel Adams, Laura Gilpin, and Nancy and Beaumont Newhall, Candelario's work reached its zenith through a special combination of artistic sensibility and technical mastery. It was those personal relationships with the giants of photography that moved him through a rarefied atmosphere known to few New Mexicans at the time.

In the 1950s he turned to color photography, screen writing and film production. In the tradition of a true Renaissance man, he mastered these areas as well and went on to teach advanced seminars in color photography, and win an Emmy, a Golden Reel and a Peabody Award. Although an engaging and unboastful man, he was most proud of being elected to the Fellowship of Royal Photographic Society of Great Britain for his contribution to photography in the platinum printing process.

In His Native Land opens with a free reception hosted by the Women's Board of the Museum of New Mexico from 5:30-7:30 p.m. in the Beauregard Photography Gallery on Friday, September 15. There will be a gallery talk on Wednesday, September 27 at 12:15 pm.

Read more in Resource Library Magazine about the Museum of Fine Arts, Santa Fe.

Please click on thumbnail images bordered by a red line to see enlargements.

For further biographical information on selected artists cited above please see America's Distinguished Artists, a national registry of historic artists.

This page was originally published in Resource Library Magazine. Please see Resource Library's Overview section for more information. rev. 3/18/11

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