Henry Wessel

American (Teaneck, New Jersey, 1942)

Santa Barbara, California

photograph | gelatin silver print
Not on view at this time; find out where you can see works from our collection at locations around the Bay Area while our building is closed for expansion
  • Santa Barbara, California

    Henry Wessel, Santa Barbara, California, 1977; gelatin silver print, 16 in. x 19 3/4 in. (40.64 cm x 50.17 cm); Collection SFMOMA, Gift of Dr. and Mrs. William R. Fielder; © Henry Wessel

Wessel once said of his work, "I am delighted when a photograph is muscular and at the same time beautiful." This powerfully elegant arrangement of horizontals and cast shadows certainly meets his criteria.

Unposed, the photograph is the result of Wessel's direct approach to the medium: he goes out to shoot without a preconceived plan and lets his eye serve as his guide. There is something magical about this spontaneous scene — the angled light of a Southern California morning, the flock of birds frozen in mid-flight, the ordinary man observing it all. Although it appears to suggest a larger narrative, it is merely a moment captured on film.

16 in. x 19 3/4 in. (40.64 cm x 50.17 cm)
Acquired 1985
Collection SFMOMA
Gift of Dr. and Mrs. William R. Fielder
© Henry Wessel


Santa Barbara, California, trees, grass, men, back views, pigeons, birds, flocks, flying, sidewalks, buildings

From June 3, 2013, through early 2016, SFMOMA's building on Third Street in San Francisco will be temporarily closed for expansion construction. Selected artworks in our collection are included in a range of off-site exhibitions during this period. We regret that the remainder of the collection will not be available for study during this time.

In the meantime, we invite you to explore a wide selection of our collection online. Please note that the information presented online is subject to revision. Please contact us at collections@sfmoma.org to verify artwork details.

This resource is for educational use and its contents may not be reproduced without permission. Please review our Terms of Use for more information.