Established in 1979 Camera Obscura Gallery helped to bring fine art photography to Denver and substantially alter public perception during the debate of whether photography should be considered as fine art…
…and be shown side by side with painting, sculpture and other traditional arts. Throughout more than three decades the gallery continued to show the best of internationally known artists, while also championing excellent and emerging locals. Always the consummate presenter, Hal Gould poses for my lens in the front window of Camera Obscura Gallery for the last time.
Director Hal Gould’s depth of experience with commercial photography and collecting meshed beautifully with his love of photographic art. This fusion of knowledge and acquaintanceship with established and new photographers alike brought a wealth of information and anecdote to an eager public. Visitors found Hal’s stories of his relationships and meetings with famous artists to be mesmerizing. It was easy to find an over-time parking ticket slapped to one’s car; time simply got away from you listening to Hal’s stories.
What we’ll always remember…
- Hal’s 8-year old portrait and event studio, House of Photography, was located in Cherry Creek North, closing in 1980 to devote full time to Camera Obscura
- Camera Obscura Gallery was located in Denver’s civic center for 32 years, one of the longest running galleries in Denver history
- The gallery venture opened at a ground-breaking but precarious time in the art market, when the validity of photography as fine art was still being hotly contested
- The hallmark of entering the gallery was an odd, distinctive door chime, like no other I’ve ever heard
- His tonsorial trade mark, Hal was rarely seen without his Native American style bolo tie and turquoise bracelets and rings – his love of Southwest culture and artisans developed early and remained eternal
- On the second floor viewing room, was located the famous green vinyl couch, famous for the scores of notables who sat there to sign books and receive accolades from gallery patrons (I sat there once too, after Hal wrote the forward to a photography book I authored, published by Amphoto)
Hal catered to artists and art lovers alike
“I’ve come such a long way in the many aspects and types of photography! The beauty of it is that photography can be and is a multitude of different meanings and purposes to the public, whether aficionados of fine art or merely users of snap shots and the daily wave of advertising imagery.”
Substantial visitor numbers and crowded first night openings bespoke the level of community interest, yet converting visits into sales, obviously the mainstay of any gallery, was always a challenge, and had become more so in recent years. Most buyers have come from out of town, and sales figures have not rebounded after the economic downturn.
Camera Obscura Gallery was an oasis of photographic art, whose reputation was matched with the best galleries anywhere. Hal’s distinctive approach and open repository of knowledge will be sorely missed.
The famous green couch was the last to go
The end of an era.