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Morley Baer

(1916–1995)

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Biography

Baer enjoyed a distinguished career in photography for over fifty years.  He began an apprenticeship in a commercial photographic studio in Chicago in 1939 following graduation from the University of Michigan with a master’s degree in English. 
During World War II, Baer served as a photographic officer in the United States Navy, first in the Atlantic theatre and later in the Pacific with Edward Steichen’s photography corps.

In 1946 Baer moved to California, and a year later he met the noted photographer Edward Weston, whose photographs he had seen in Chicago eight years earlier.  Baer began a close friendship with Weston and, shortly after, with Ansel Adams.  He also became aware of and absorbed with the work of other members of Group f/64 who espoused “straight” photography.  The Group took its name from the small lens aperture that produced the detailed images its members preferred.  These artists felt that photographic prints should not be manipulated in any way and which focuses should be sharp to allow subject matter to radiate with its own intensity.  Some, like Weston and Adams, often spent the better part of a day composing the exact image before opening the aperture and exposing the negative.

Baer became internationally known for his architectural photography, which he had done on a commercial basis.  Yet he also maintained a strong commitment to his personal work.  While much of the architectural work was executed in color, black-and-white photography remained for him the best vehicle for his creative vision of abstraction.  Baer photographed in many locales, but central California held a consistent fascination with its extraordinarily diverse landscape.

Exhibiting his work frequently, Baer was the subject of two retrospectives, in 1986 at The Friends of Photography (Carmel, CA) and in 1990 at the Monterey Peninsula Museum of Art.  He was highly regarded as an educator, having taught for a number of years at the Ansel Adams Workshops and also published a number of books including Light Years (1988), The Wilder Shore (1984), Room and Times Enough (1980), Painted Ladies (1978) and Adobes in the Sun (1973).  Examples of his work are found in a number of museum collections on the West Coast, including the San Francisco Museum of Art, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and the Museum of Photographic Arts, San Diego.