Ron­dal Par­tridge was a na­ture pho­tog­ra­pher known for his ir­rev­er­ence.

Los Angeles Times - - CALIFORNIA - By Elaine Woo elaine.woo@latimes.com Twit­ter: @ewooLATimes

‘He was the last of the peo­ple who got all this great tu­tor­ing from these in­cred­i­ble pho­tog­ra­phers, then spent his life do­ing it.’

— El­iz­a­beth Par­tridge,

Ron­dal Par­tridge’s daugh­ter

Ron­dal Par­tridge ap­pren­ticed him­self to Ansel Adams as a teenager, lug­ging the master pho­tog­ra­pher’s heavy equip­ment up and down Yosemite’s ma­jes­tic peaks.

He also was fired on sev­eral oc­ca­sions, in­clud­ing the time he tied Adams’ shoelaces to­gether and made him fall on his face.

Such ir­rev­er­ence be­came a hall­mark of Par­tridge’s work.

Like Adams, Par­tridge pho­tographed many of the West’s nat­u­ral won­ders. But un­like his men­tor, he worked to show hu­man­ity’s en­croach­ments — power lines mar­ring a vista, tire tracks criss­cross­ing a pris­tine beach and parked cars clog­ging the foot of Yosemite’s grand Half Dome.

Adams “al­ways jumped over the fence … walked past the garbage. He al­ways wanted to get an im­mac­u­late view,” his stu­dent once said, “and I spent my life step­ping back to in­clude the garbage in my pho­to­graphic view.”

Par­tridge, one of the last links to a defin­ing era in Western pho­tog­ra­phy who learned not only from Adams but Dorothea Lange and his mother, Imogen Cun­ning­ham, died of nat­u­ral causes June 19 in Berke­ley. He was 97.

“We used to call him the last man stand­ing,” said his daugh­ter El­iz­a­beth Par­tridge, who con­firmed his death. “He was the last of the peo­ple who got all this great tu­tor­ing from these in­cred­i­ble pho­tog­ra­phers, then spent his life do­ing it.”

Dur­ing a ca­reer that spanned more than six decades, Par­tridge ranged widely for his sub­jects. Much of his work chron­i­cles the de­vel­op­ment of free­ways and sub­urbs. Dur­ing the 1950s and ’60s, he was a pho­tog­ra­pher for prom­i­nent Mod­ernist ar­chi­tects, in­clud­ing Thomas Church and John Carl War­necke.

But he also was drawn to por­trai­ture, pro­duc­ing in­ti­mate stud­ies of friends, fam­ily, rodeo cowboys, mi­grant work­ers and Navy of­fi­cers. He made still lifes of plants, of­ten chron­i­cling their de­cay.

“He was formed by that clas­sic gen­er­a­tion of Cal­i­for­nia pho­tog­ra­phers who prized and cel­e­brated na­ture,” said Sally Stein, a re­tired his­to­rian of pho­tog­ra­phy at UC Irvine, who col­lab­o­rated with El­iz­a­beth Par­tridge on “Quizzi­cal Eye: Pho­tog­ra­phy of Ron­dal Par­tridge” (2003). “At the same time, he was com­ment­ing on it and … say­ing if you’re go­ing to talk about na­ture you’ve got to see na­ture in all its phases.”

His best-known pho­to­graph, taken in 1965, was the view of Half Dome, the Yosemite land­mark, spoiled by row upon row of parked cars. He called it “Pave It and Paint It Green.”

Adams “ide­al­ized ev­ery­thing.… He pho­tographed pu­rity,” Par- tridge said in the San Fran­cisco Chron­i­cle in 2003, when the Oak­land Mu­seum of Cal­i­for­nia and the Cal­i­for­nia His­tor­i­cal So­ci­ety in San Fran­cisco each mounted shows of Par­tridge’s pho­tog­ra­phy. “I made fun of the vir­ginal pu­rity that he in- sisted on.”

Par­tridge was born in San Fran­cisco on Sept. 4, 1917, and grew up in a bo­hemian world. His fa­ther, Roi Par­tridge, was an ac­com­plished etcher who taught at Mills Col­lege. His mother, Cun­ning­ham, was a pho­tog­ra­pher and free spirit known for her por­traits of artists, botan­i­cal stud­ies and nudes. She also was a found­ing mem­ber of Group f/64, the inf lu­en­tial col­lec­tive that in­cluded Adams, Lange and Ed­ward We­ston and pushed for greater re­al­ism in pho­tog­ra­phy.

Ron­dal was 5 when he be­gan help­ing Cun­ning­ham in the dark­room and was at­tend­ing high school in Oak­land when he be­gan join­ing her on photo shoots.

“My mother taught me to be alert and aware — to pho­to­graph any­thing,” he told the Fresno Bee in 2006.

When Ron­dal was 17, his par­ents di­vorced and he be­gan his ap­pren­tice­ships.

Lange paid him $1 a week to be her dark­room as­sis­tant and driver across miles of Cen­tral Cal­i­for­nia’s back roads, where she doc­u­mented lives worn thin by the De­pres­sion. He con­sid­ered her a more in­flu­en­tial teacher than Adams and took one of his most mem­o­rable por­traits at a mi­grant camp like those he vis­ited with her. Shot in Kern County in 1940, it shows a young woman in a sun­bon­net and work clothes, strik­ing a saucy pose. Par­tridge called her “Potato Field Madonna.”

Par­tridge took that photo when he was work­ing for the Na­tional Youth Ad­min­is­tra­tion, a New Deal jobs pro­gram for young Amer­i­cans. He later worked as a pho­to­jour­nal­ist for the Black Star agency in New York and served as a pho­tog­ra­pher in Navy in­tel­li­gence dur­ing World War II.

His wife of 68 years, the for­mer El­iz­a­beth Woolpert, died in 2009. He is sur­vived by their five chil­dren, Joan, Josh, El­iz­a­beth, Mar­garet and Aaron; three grand­chil­dren; and a great-grand­child.

He never grew rich off his pho­to­graphs and cared lit­tle about recog­ni­tion.

“He was al­most al­ler­gic to the whole art world scene,” El­iz­a­beth Par­tridge said, “some­times to his own detri­ment.”

In his last years, he de­voted him­self to mas­ter­ing hand-coated plat­inum print­ing, a chal­leng­ing process used by his mother that pro­duces archival qual­ity prints. He fo­cused on im­ages of plants, an­tique tools and dead an­i­mals.

“I don’t want the money. I don’t need the fame. I don’t need the ad­mi­ra­tion. I’d like all of those things, but I don’t need them,” he once said. “Be­cause what I get from pho­tograph­ing is learn­ing. I have spent my life learn­ing by look­ing through a lens.”

Ron­dal Par­tridge Autr y Na­tional Cen­ter

RE­VEAL­ING HU­MAN­ITY’S EN­CROACH­MENTS In “Pave It and Paint It Green,” Par­tridge showed Yosemite’s Half Dome and a crowded park

ing lot, in­stead of a pris­tine vista typ­i­cal of his cel­e­brated men­tor, Ansel Adams.

Dorothea Lange Oak­land Mu­seum of Cal­i­for­nia, g if t of Paul S. Tay­lor

A LINK TO A DEFIN­ING ERA Par­tridge in a 1954 photo by another of his men­tors, Doro

thea Lange. He was her dark­room as­sis­tant and driver.

Ron­dal Par­tridge

PHOTO MAS­TERS Par­tridge took this shot of Adams in the Sierra in 1938.

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