Jan 11, 2006

California Dreaming on Such a Winter’s Day

Source: The New York Times
Written by Randy Kennedy

Winter, to put it politely, is not kind to Rochester. How many other cities, after all, are regularly in the running for the Golden Snowball, an annual award presented to the upstate city with the most snowfall? (Rochester, at 113 inches, was bested last winter only by Syracuse at 137.)

“It can be pretty bleak, let’s be honest,” said Anthony Bannon, director of George Eastman House, the renowned photography museum founded in the city in 1947. “There are times when it feels like you don’t see the sun for months.”

This was one of the reasons that a light bulb – actually more like a tanning lamp – went off over Mr. Bannon’s head more than a year ago when he became familiar with an odd, obsessive experiment being conducted by a photographer named Robert Weingarten.

Mr. Weingarten, a former executive who took up a camera professionally at 54, travels around the world in search of images, and his work is now in the collections of several major museums. But in 2002, at the urging of Weston Naef, the photography curator at the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, Mr. Weingarten decided to train his lens on his own backyard in Malibu, Calif., following Alfred Stieglitz’s advice that photographers should first look for pictures at home before traveling to find them.

The results of Mr. Weingarten’s experiment went on view this week at Eastman House, beaming a little bit of Southern California to Rochester, at least photographically. His idea was to take pictures with a medium-format film camera every day that he was home, at exactly the same time, 6:30 in the morning, the camera pointed southeastward from his bedroom porch toward the same spot over Santa Monica Bay.

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