Baer, Morley 1916-1995

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BAER, Morley 1916-1995


Born April 5, 1916, in Toledo, OH; died of cancer, November 9, 1995; married, 1946; wife's name Frances M. Education: University of Michigan, B.A., 1936, M.A., 1937.


Photographer for San Francisco and West Coast architects, architectural editors, and book publishers, beginning 1946; Ansel Adams Workshops, instructor, 1969-79. Taught photography classes at University of California Extension, Santa Cruz. Exhibitions: Work included in collections at New Orleans Museum of Art, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and M.H. de Young Museum, San Francisco, CA. Military service: U.S. Navy, photographer during World War II.


Gold Medal in Photography, American Institute of Architects, 1965; fellow, American Academy in Rome, 1980.


(With Elizabeth Pomada and Michael Larsen) Painted Ladies: San Francisco's Resplendent Victorians, Dutton (New York, NY), 1978.


Augusta Fink and Amelie Elkinton, Adobes in the Sun: Portraits of a Tranquil Era, Chronicle Books (San Francisco, CA), 1972.

(With others) Sally Woodbridge, editor, Bay Area Houses, introduction by David Gebhard, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1976.

Mary Austin, Room and Time Enough: The Land of Mary Austin, introduction by Augusta Fink, Northland Press (Flagstaff, AZ), 1979.

David Rains Wallace, The Wilder Shore, foreword by Wallace Stegner, Sierra Club Books (San Francisco, CA), 1984.

Light Years: The Photography of Morley Baer, Photography West Graphics (Carmel, CA), 1988.

James Karman, editor, Stones of the Sur, poetry by Robinson Jeffers, Stanford University Press (Stanford, CA), 2001.

Bright Eastman, Patrick Jablonski, Frances M. Baer, California Plain: Remembering Barns, Stanford University Press (Stanford, CA), 2002.

Architectural photographer for magazines such as House & Garden, House Beautiful, and Architectural Record.


Photographer Morley Baer was known as the leading architectural photographer in Northern California, but his personal photography interests were of rural areas and the landscapes of California. American Photographer contributor Owen Edwards claimed, "What Baer represents is a generation or two of photographers whose aesthetic interest in the landscape was inseparable from their love of the land itself." Over the years Baer did not succumb to the advances in photography equipment. His main equipment during his entire career, which spanned forty-eight years, was an old wooden8x10Ansco view camera that weighed approximately fifteen pounds.

Two of Baer's influences were the photographers Edward Weston and Ansel Adams. He first came to California in 1939 in search of Weston, whose photographs he had first seen in a Chicago art gallery at the beginning of his career. Baer became a friend of Weston and learned a great deal from him. Baer is quoted in Petersen's Photographic as saying "A couple of things changed my life and my photography. One was meeting Edward Weston, who, I think, finally brought it home to me that photography is a very personal kind of expression that comes from your reactions to the world you live in and not a world you'd like to live in."

Baer provided the photographs and nature writer David Rains Wallace wrote the text to The Wilder Shore. Included are thirty-five color and forty black-and-white photographs that depict the varied landscapes found in California. Wallace's accompanying text describes those photographs and the natural history of California. "It is lovely," noted AB Bookman's Weekly contributor Franlee Frank. Los Angeles Times Book Review contributor David Graber described the book as "marvelous medicine for besieged lovers of the Golden State."

Before his death in 1995 Baer had been planning a book that combined his photographs of the Big Sur coast in California with the poetry the region's jagged rocks and cliffs inspired in Robinson Jeffers. Stones of the Sur was completed by James Karman and published after Baer's death. Included in the book are fifty of Baer's photographs of the Big Sur accompanied by some of Jeffers' poems. A Virginia Quarterly Review contributor claimed, "A haunting collection of image and verse that celebrates the intoxicating beauty of this region."

California Plain: Remembering Barns was also published after Baer's death. Baer's wife Frances was going through his things and came across a box of seventy-three black-and-white photographs, all depicting barns in California. Also included in the box was a note from Baer describing how he wanted to make a book featuring the barn photographs. That is just what his wife accomplished for him. Bright Eastman provides a essay on the history and styles of barns, and Patrick Jablonski, Baer's final assistant, describes the way Baer took his photographs and how he developed them. Frances Baer also provides her own essay on what it was like to be a student and wife of the noted photographer.



Browne, Turner, and Elaine Partnow, Macmillan Biographical Encyclopedia of Photographic Artists and Innovators, Collier Macmillan, 1987.


AB Bookman's Weekly, October 29, 1984, Franlee Frank, review of The Wilder Shore, p. 2998.

American Photographer, May, 1988, Owen Edwards, "Baer's Essentials," pp. 30-39, Evelyn Roth, "Simply Baer," p. 74.

Booklist, November 1, 1984, review of The Wilder Shore, p. 332.

Library Journal, December 15, 1978, Paul E. Bell, Jr., review of Painted Ladies: San Francisco's Resplendent Victorians, p. 2508; November 1, 2002, Joseph Hewgley, review of California Plain: Remembering Barns, p. 84.

Los Angeles Times Book Review, November 25, 1984, David Graber, review of The Wilder Shore, p. 8.

Modern Photography, February, 1985, Howard Millard, review of The Wilder Shore, p. 34.

Petersen's Photographic, January, 1986, "Meet the Masters: Morley Baer," pp. 26-27.

Science, November 9, 2001, "Browsings," p. 1289.

Virginia Quarterly Review, spring, 2002, review of stones of the Sur, p. 67.


Apogee online, (January 20, 2003), John Sexton, "John Sexton Remembers Morely Baer, 1916-1995."

Monterey Herald online, (January 20, 2003), Lisa Crawford Watson, "Remembering Barns."*