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Indepth Arts News:

"Camera Over Hollywood: Photographs by John Swope"
2000-06-10 until 2000-08-13
Santa Barbara Museum of Art
Santa Barbara, CA, USA

The Santa Barbara Museum of Art will present an exhibition of approximately 60-65 photographs by the American photographer John Swope (1908-1979). Opening June 10, 2000, this will be the first one-man show of Swopes work in the Museum since 1963. This exhibition focuses on an intimate and personal aspect of John Swopes work: his insiders view of Hollywood during its Golden Age. Swopes photographs are noted for their inherent aesthetics, as well as their acute vision of the human condition. Swope captured a broad spectrum of subjects during his long career as an artist.

Swopes entry into the world of film and theater began in the early 1930s while he was a student at Harvard University, where he joined the University Players, a theatrical group whose members included Henry Fonda, Josh Logan, and Jimmy Stewart. These men were not only close friends for life, but had a strong influence on Swopes career.

Taking up photography in 1936, Swope used his position as production assistant to Leland Hayward to capture images of behind-the-scenes Hollywood. His work led to the publication of his first book, Camera over Hollywood (Random House, 1939). Collaborating with John Steinbeck during World War II, he produced the book entitled Bombs Away (Viking Press, 1942) about the Navys pilot-training program. In 1944, famed photographer Edward Steichen selected Swope as one of the elite members of his prestigious U.S. Navy photographic unit assigned to cover the war in the Pacific. During this time, Swope documented the Declaration of Surrender of Japan and the release of American and Allied POWs. He went on to make an extraordinary portrait of the people of a war-torn country.

In 1943, Swope and Dorothy McGuire were married. After the war, he joined LIFE magazines stable of freelance photographers, concentrating on the film industry and travel assignments to foreign countries. A Hollywood insider, Swope made photographs that show not only the celebrated figures but also the less famous actors, as well as the crews and extras of behind-the-scenes Hollywood. As intrinsically interesting for their subjects as for their perceptive view and formal elegance, Swopes images are a uniquely private view of a highly public industry.

A catalog accompanies the exhibition, with an introduction by Dennis Hopper.


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