AIR at 40: The Early Years: A Decade of Photography, Part One

By Jenny Zeller

Nature and photography are completely intertwined. It’s because of the natural world that the photographic medium was finally recognized as a valid art form. And it’s because of photography that large blocks of the natural world have been protected. After 1980-82 AIR Paul Fields, the program hosted nearly a decade of fine art landscape photographers. At a time long before digital technology consumed the photography market, these works harken back to days of film with prints developed in the darkroom that also documents areas of Bernheim that no longer exist in the same fashion. This is the first in a series of three that highlights the early artistic contributions of Bernheim’s Artist in Residence program through the lens of photography.  (click here to see part two, click here to see part three )

1983 Artist in Residence David Graham

David Graham Deep Into the Woods, Vines 1983, Cibachrome Print.

David Graham is an internationally recognized photographer of the American cultural landscape. For over three decades, Graham has tirelessly traveled the country capturing the colorful and sometimes surreal of people, place and symbolism that expresses the unique character of American life.

Born in Abington, Pennsylvania, Graham received a BFA from The University of the Arts in Philadelphia and his MFA in Photography from the Tyler School of Art. Graham studied under the influential artist (and 1989 Bernheim Artist in Residence), Ray Metzker and was mentored by Emmet Gowin. He has taught at Moore College of Art and is currently a Professor of Photography at The University of the Arts.

During his residency at Bernheim, Graham took many color pictures at night with the flash but decided that the forest terrain was better suited for black and white photography. He used a wide-angle lens and took pictures from a really low vantage point. The combination produced some small landscapes which may at first glance seem distorted. One of his goals was to give new importance to fossils roots and other natural objects.

His works are in the permanent collections of New York’s Museum of Modern Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris, France and the Fotografie Forum in Cologne, Germany just to name a few. Graham has shown his work extensively in the past four decades and published eleven photographic books.

David Graham, Untitled, 1983, Silver Gelatin Print.


1984 Artist in Residence Frank Hunter

Untitled by Frank Hunter, Platinum/Palladium Print, 1984.

Photographer Frank Hunter is best known for his contemporary reinterpretation of the Romantic American landscape, printing in the richly tonal late 19th-century platinum/palladium process. Hunter has photographed extensively throughout Appalachia and in many locations ranging from north Georgia through Ohio. Hunter’s goal is not to visually define a place through his photographic images, but evoke an emotional response to the psychological and spiritual aspects of the landscape.

Hunter is also known for striking documentary photography, which he has done for over 40 years. His work is represented in a number of public and private collections, including the Speed Museum in Louisville, the Denver Museum of Art, the High Museum in Atlanta, and the Houston Museum of Fine Arts. In addition to his residence at Bernheim, Hunter has been awarded grants from the International Polaroid collection and Light Works at Syracuse University. His large-scale platinum/palladium work was developed through support from the Fulton County and Georgia Arts Councils in the early 1990s.

Untitled by Frank Hunter, Platinum/Palladium Print, 1984.


1985 Artist in Residence Clinton Smith

Pink & White Dogwood, by Clinton Smith was made into a Bernheim poster in 1985.

Clinton Smith has pursued excellence in fine art photography since 1971. A move to the Monterey Peninsula to work for the California State Park Service in 1975 paved the way for his passion in photographing the landscape. It was during this time that he was befriended by famous landscape photographer, Ansel Adams, who admired and encouraged Smith’s early work in color photography. Smith was an Artist in Residence during the early years of the program and he captured the Bernheim landscape as images soaked in beautiful light, color, and of perfect composition. He considers this residency experience a formative time professionally as well as a national recognition of honor.

In addition to being the subject of feature segments on NBC’s Today Show, articles regarding Smith’s work have been published by virtually every photographic magazine in America. The June 1988 edition of Outdoor Photographer featured an extensive nine page article on Smith that also included images created during his Bernheim residency in 1985.


Over ninety works of fine art nature photographs produced by Bernheim Artists in Residence are on permanent loan and available for viewing in the Photographic Archives at the University of Louisville’s Special Collections


2020 marks the 40th anniversary of Bernheim’s Artist in Residence program. Established in 1980, this internationally renowned program annually awards artists the opportunity to live and create site-specific work inspired by their total immersion experience at Bernheim. Throughout 2020, we are celebrating the contributions of the program’s past that has allowed our visitors to experience nature in a new way while enhancing awareness of Bernheim’s mission of connecting people to nature.

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