37¢ Masters of American Photography
Issue Date: June 13, 2002
City: San Diego, CA
Printed By: American Packaging Corporation for Sennett Security Products
Printing Method: Photogravure
Perforations: Serpentine Die Cut 10.5 x 10.75
The Masters of American Photography pane marks the end of the Classic Collection Series that began in 1994 with the Legends of the West. Works by twenty renowned American photographers are displayed on this pane in chronological order. The selvage shows a photo taken by William Henry Jackson or by one of his assistants. These artists combined daring, craftsmanship, and creativity to enlarge our view of America and the American people.
Albert Sands Southworth (1811-94) and Josiah Johnson Hawes (1808-1901) were daguerreotypists. (A daguerreotype records images on a metal surface.) Their mirror-like pictures had beautiful effects of light, shade, and depth. In 1999, 240 of their daguerreotypes sold at auction for a total of more than three million dollars.
Timothy O’Sullivan (1840-82) was known for his documentary Civil War pictures and western landscapes. O’Sullivan converted a war ambulance into a traveling darkroom to develop his exposed negatives.
Carleton Watkins (1829-1916) was famous for panoramic Western landscapes of superb quality. His mammoth camera made 18- by 22-inch negatives. His photographs helped persuade Abraham Lincoln to declare Yosemite a national preserve in 1864.
Gertrude Käsebier (1852-1934) was a founder of the Photo-Secession movement. Käsebier worked in the soft-focus, pictorialist style characteristic of that movement. Her best-known pictures are of mothers and children.
Lewis Hine (1874-1940) took photographs of immigrants and labor conditions that inspired stricter child labor laws and set the standard for social documentary photography.
Alvin Langdon Coburn (1882-1966) lived and worked in England most of his life. His soft-focus views of London and New York established him as the finest photographer of urban landscapes of his time.
Edward Steichen (1879-1973) was chief photographer for Vanity Fair and Vogue magazines from 1923 to 1938. At one point, he was the highest-paid photographer in the world.
Albert Stieglitz (1864-1946) started the Photo-Secession group of soft-focus pictorialist photographers, but later turned to sharp-focus, “straight” photography. His work and the work of artists he exhibited in his galleries had a strong effect on 20th-century American art and culture.
Man Ray (1890-1976) used photography as an artistic medium. He made “cameraless” prints, called “Rayographs,” placing objects directly on photographic paper and exposing them to light.
Edward Weston (1886-1958) favored the sharp-focused realism of “straight” photography to capture sculptural forms found in nature. His stark, brilliantly printed images are considered among the finest of 20th century photography.
James VanDerZee (1886-1983) took thousands of photos of ordinary people and community groups, recording the emerging Harlem middle class.
Dorothea Lange (1895-1965) was best known for her compelling pictures of victims of the Great Depression. Her images of dislocated farm families in California moved the state to provide relief for the migrants.
Known for his 1930s pictures of sharecroppers, Walker Evans (1903-75) documented the poverty and desolation of Southern rural life.
W. Eugene Smith (1918-78) photographed for magazines in the Pacific theater of World War II. True to his intention, Smith’s images stand as a powerful visual indictment against war.
Paul Strand (1890-1976) learned photography from Lewis Hine. He influenced a generation of photographers to practice realistic, “straight” photography.
Ansel Adams (1902-84) championed the U.S. conservation movement. He received the 1980 Presidential Medal of Freedom for efforts “to preserve this country’s wild and scenic areas, both on film and on earth.”
Imogen Cunningham (1883-1976) joined with Edward Weston and others to form a group called “f/64” (f/64 is the camera lens setting which produces the sharpest image). Group f/64 introduced a style of highly focused photography.
In a career that lasted over 73 years, Andre Kertész (1894-1985) pioneered in small-format photography and demonstrated the artistic possibilities of the hand-held camera.
Garry Winogrand (1928-84) used a wide-angle lens on a small-format, 35mm camera, which allowed him to move about freely. He focused on odd combinations of people and objects and often tilted the frame.
Minor White (1908-76) set out to capture and convey his deep, personal feelings on film. His photography was part of a lifelong spiritual journey. He is recognized as a major figure in the expressive movement of art photography.
Final Issue Of The Classic Collection
On June 13, 2002, the USPS issued the final sheet in the Classic Collection Series.
The series began six years earlier with the infamous Legends of the West sheet in 1994. That sheet and the series that followed it actually developed out of plans to honor the centennial of Ellis Island!
After the Citizens Stamp Advisory Committee requested artwork for the potential Ellis Island stamp, they found the art was “grim and lacked color.” As they continued to discuss the project, their focus shifted from immigration to America’s Westward migration in the 19thcentury. And that, in turn, became a Western Americana project. They initially considered a four-stamp set but had ideas to honor several figures and ultimately decided on 20 stamps. Then the USPS manager of philately and the head of stamp design came up with the idea for the Classic Collection series, of which the Legends of the West would be the first issue.
Each sheet in the series would have the same unique 20-stamp format. Each would have broadly-defined Americana themes, exceptional artwork, a banner printed on the selvage of the sheet, and descriptive text on the back of each stamp. Additionally, postal cards with matching artwork would be issued to coordinate with a few of the sheets.
The series got off to a memorable start when it was discovered before the Legends of the West stamps were even issued that the stamp picturing Bill Pickett actually pictured his brother Ben. The sheets were recalled, but 186 were sold before the First Day of Issue, so the USPS sold 150,000 sheets through a mail-order lottery. The corrected sheet was issued on October 18, 1994.
The Classic Collection series continued in 1995 with two more sheets. The first was the Civil War sheet, which marked the 130thanniversary of the end of the war. The creation of this sheet brought about the most extensive effort in USPS history to review and verify the historical accuracy of each of its stamp subjects. Each of the 16 individuals and four battles featured were chosen from a master list of 50 subjects. The goal of the USPS was to show the wide variety of people who participated in the Civil War.
Also issued in 1995, the Comic Strip Classics sheet honored comics that were created within the first 50 years of comics, from 1895 to 1945. One of these stamps included a rare USPS spelling mistake. In the text on the backside of the Little Orphan Annie stamp, “indispensable” is misspelled “indispensible.”
Next up in the series came the 1996 Olympics sheet. The 1996 Olympic Summer Games marked the 100th anniversary of the modern Olympics. More than 11,000 athletes from 197 countries reached for excellence as they took the Olympic motto, “Swifter, Higher, Stronger,” to heart.
The fifth issue in the series featured Classic American Aircraft. According to the back of the pane, “The aircraft chosen for this Classic Collection are representative of the first fifty years of powered flight in America. They are a chronicle of our aviation history from the days of wood-framed, fabric-covered contraptions to high-flying supersonic vehicles.”
In 1998, the sixth addition to the series honored four centuries of American Art. The text on the back of the pane reads, “The American artists represented here were born in diverse places around this country, as well as elsewhere. Some were self-taught, others were academically trained… These images … reflect some of the enduring themes in American visual arts: a concern with individuality in a democratic society, reverence for the variety of landscape across the continent, down-to-earth realism, and a recurring sense of optimism and energy.”
While the 1999 addition to the series may seem like a departure from the Americana themes of previous issues, the USPS had their reasons for this sheet. Picturing 16 insects and four spiders, the sheet was created to display their educational value and create interest among children. The species represent the wide range of colors, lifestyles, and behaviors exhibited by these amazing creatures.
The first 2000 addition to the series might be the most patriotic yet! It shows the evolution of the American flag from Colonial times to the present. According to the back of the sheet, “The United States flag has evolved over the past 200-plus years from a variety of local, regional, and national designs, including unofficial and semi-official ones… These 20 examples, which are based on the most recent research available, offer a visual sampling of variations on a theme.”
The second sheet of 2000 honored America’s favorite pastime. The Legends of Baseball issue honored 20 baseball greats who were named to the “All-Century Team,” announced after the 1999 season. Votes from fans, as well as members of a special panel, selected the team.
In 2001, the Classic Collection honored the art of 20 American illustrators of magazines, posters, books, and advertisements. According to the USPS, “Advances in printing and publishing made possible by the Industrial Revolution ushered in a new era for American illustrators during the last quarter of the 19thcentury, allowing their work to be reproduced with increasing fidelity and attracting some of the country’s finest talents to the field.”
On June 13, 2002, the USPS issued the final sheet in the Classic Collection Series, honoring 20 renowned American photographers. The sheet adopted a different format, similar to the Legends of Hollywood sheets. The works on the sheet are displayed in chronological order and the selvage shows a photo taken by William Henry Jackson or one of his assistants. These artists combined daring, craftsmanship, and creativity to enlarge our view of America and the American people.