REMEMBERING HENRY GILPIN
November 10, 1922 ~ December 11, 2011
Learn more about Henry's remarkable life in the touching obituary that was published in the Monterey County Herald.
Henry Gilpin: A Passion for Photography
Henry Gilpin's photographs mirror the quiet, yet vital, man that made them. With a consistency of vision that spans nearly four decades, Henry's respect for his photographic subjects reflects his reverence for the planet and his dedication to the process and tradition of photography. Whether seen from across the gallery, or as you turn the pages of this publication, the boldness of contrast and design in his images invites you to come closer. If you accept this invitation, you will be richly rewarded with subtlety and nuance.
In the interplay of form, space, light, and shadow that Henry's keen eye reveals, he celebrates the essence of a complicated world distilled into a concise visual statement. From the ballet of steelworkers on a web of construction, to the serpentine silver ribbon of Highway One folding sensuously through shadowy ridges, Gilpin unveils an element of magic in his subjects. He has the ability to transform the patterns of tractor tracks into a swirling nebula of the heavens and discover the mystery in the simplicity of water grass.
In addition to making photographs, Henry has spent over thirty years educating and inspiring others in photography -- both as an instructor at Monterey Peninsula College and as a teacher at numerous photography workshops. I first met Henry in 1973, when he was a teacher, and I was a student, at an Ansel Adams Yosemite workshop. I was immediately impressed by his ability to share his knowledge and love of photography with others. Over the years, my respect and appreciation for Henry as a photographer, educator, and person has grown immensely.
Henry's versatility as a photographer is illustrated by the way he has translated a wide variety of subject matter and geographic locations into a unified body of work. Looking at Henry's life outside of photography, we see a person with the ability to integrate numerous activities. Henry spent twenty-five years with the Monterey County Sheriff's Department–retiring in 1976 as Captain of Detectives. His careers in law enforcement and education, combined with his devotion to his family, left little time for photography. Yet Henry, with the support of Doris, and his two children, made time for photography, and the rewards of this effort are seen in his images. The ability to successfully blend the complexities of life's required activities with one's art is a rare gift.
In addition, Henry has been successful at balancing the technical and aesthetic elements of photography. His images are memorable because they seamlessly combine his conceptual viewpoint with meticulous craft. The palette of tones that he includes in his exquisite prints adds to the wonder and lyricism of his images. This synergistic combination of personal vision and skillful expertise has created photographs that are quickly etched into one's being. Today I can vividly recall Gilpin's images that I saw nearly twenty-five years ago. He has the ability to see beyond the surface of the subject–whether dramatic or prosaic–discovering universal qualities and revealing these in his photographs.
It is evident in Henry's art that he derives a great deal of pleasure from the process of making photographs. Though he approaches photography with a professional commitment to excellence, it is his passion for photography that breathes life into his images. As he celebrates his seventy-fifth birthday with this exhibition and publication, it is exciting to know that he is still actively making photographs and influencing students with his instruction. His images and exuberant love of the medium have inspired many to higher levels of achievement in photography.
Henry Gilpin's photographs give us the privilege of seeing the world in a different way. These images allow us to discover the inner beauty that is always present, but often overlooked. Through Henry's eyes we stand in awe of the subject, realizing that there is so much more to see and experience in life. His images enrich us and allow us to see, not just that which was in front of Henry's camera, but also the spirit of the man behind the camera. The photographs form a mosaic portrait of a compassionate and sensitive human being.
©1997-2012 John Sexton. All rights reserved.
In 1997 the Monterey Museum of Art presented the exhibition, Henry Gilpin: Photographs. The exhibition was curated by Executive Director, Richard W. Gadd in honor of Henry Gilpin’s seventy-fifth birthday. This essay, written by John Sexton, was included in the exhibition catalog.
Site last updated January 31, 2012