Hamilton College Presents Retrospective of LIFE Magazine Photographer's Work
The images of prize-winning LIFE Magazine photographer George Silk (1916 – 2004), in the first retrospective of his work in the U.S., will be on exhibit at Hamilton College's Emerson Gallery from Thursday, June 2, through Sunday, Sept. 11. His photographs will be accompanied by those of his daughter, Georgiana Bulfinch Silk, who is a graduate of Kirkland College and a professional photographer in her own right.
On Saturday, June 4, at 3 p.m., Georgiana Silk will present a talk and tour of the exhibition. A reception will follow her presentation. The exhibition, presentation and reception are free and open to the public.
George Silk began his career as a combat photographer, first as the official war photographer for the Australian Department of Information and later as a war correspondent for LIFE Magazine. His duties took him to Europe, the Pacific, Japan and China. In Japan, Silk was the first to cover the 1945 destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and thereafter he did essays on the occupation of Japan. In 1946, he covered the great famine in Hunan, China.
After the war, Silk became best known for what he called "outdoors photography," his adventure, exploration and sports photography. He was extremely intuitive and innovative, providing perspectives and distortions that challenge the traditional view of athletes and objects. His assignments included many Olympics, many America's Cups and Trials, the Coast Guard landing on the ice island T-3, the Grenfell Mission in Labrador, North American wildlife, conservation and children. While he was the originator of continuous motion photography, Silk was still the exemplary model of stop action photography.
LIFE's former managing editor Philip Kundhardt, who once worked as a reporter with Silk, identified him as the "best and most imaginative photographer he had ever known." The National Press Photographers Association, the University of Missouri's School of Journalism and World Book Encyclopedia presented Silk with the Mathew Brady Trophy and recognized him as Magazine Photographer of the Year in 1960, 1962, 1963 and 1964. Silk also received the New York Art Directors Gold Medal in 1961. His work can be found in museums around the world and has been shown at the Museum of Modern Art ("The Family of Man," 1955 and "The Photo Essay" in 1967) and the Baltimore Museum of Art ("Man in Sport" in 1967-1968). Silk was the honored photojournalist at the Fourth International Festival of Photojournalism in Perpignan, France in 1992. In 2000, the National Gallery of Australia presented a one-man show, "Going to Extremes, George Silk, Photojournalist."
Georgiana Bulfinch Silk was in the first graduating class of Kirkland College. (Kirkland College was a sister institution founded in 1968 and merged into Hamilton 10 years later.) Like her father, she used the camera to build her career. Georgiana first collaborated with him in a 1972 photo-essay for LIFE on Kirkland's first graduation. After a successful career as a magazine assignment photographer, shooting for People, TIME, Fortune and others, Georgiana ventured into the corporate world. In addition to her corporate work, Georgiana has concentrated on children's portraiture for the past 14 years.
"He has instilled in my siblings and me a love and respect of the earth," says Georgiana about her father. "He rode the wave of excitement after World War II in the growth of the country, and also saw, towards the end of his career, the demise of the big magazine era."
The exhibition is curated by rising Hamilton senior Kelsey Knight and alumnus David Nathans, acting director of the Emerson Gallery, with the assistance of Georgiana Silk. Loans are from the collection of Georgiana Silk.
The exhibition, tour, talk and reception are free and open to the public. The show is open through Sunday, September 11. The Emerson Gallery is located on the Hamilton College campus in Clinton, New York, in the Christian A. Johnson Hall, directly behind the Chapel. Gallery hours are Monday through Friday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday and Sunday 1 to 5 p.m. For further information, including information on parking and wheelchair accessibility, please contact the gallery. For updated information call 315-859-4396.