John Gutmann (1905–1998) was one of America’s most distinctive photographers. Born in Germany where he trained as an artist and art teacher, he fled the Nazis in 1933 and settled in San Francisco, reinventing himself as a photo-reporter. Gutmann captured images of American culture, celebrating signs of a vibrant democracy, however imperfect. His own status as an outsider—a Jew in Germany, a naturalized citizen in the United States—informed his focus on individuals from the Asian-American, African-American, and gay communities, as well as his photography in India, Burma, and China during World War II.
This handsome book acknowledges Gutmann’s place in the history of photography. Drawing on his archive of photographs and papers at the Center for Creative Photography, it presents both unfamiliar works and little-known contexts for his imagery, linking his photography to his passionate interest in painting and filmmaking, his collections of non-Western art and artifacts, and his pedagogy. In addition to a major essay by Sally Stein, the volume includes an introduction by Douglas R. Nickel, and an overview of the Gutmann archive by Amy Rule.