The work of John Gutmann (Breslau, Germany [currently Wrocław, Poland], 1905 – San Francisco, 1998) reflects the singularity of a gaze educated in the European interwar avant-garde aesthetic that captured North American realities with fascination.
After graduating from the Arts and Trades school in Breslau, Gutmann moved to Berlin in 1927 where his pictorial work was exhibited. In 1933, with the rise of Nazism, the artist immigrated to the United States. Before his departure he reinvented himself as a photographer: he bought a Rolleiflex camera and signed a contract with Presse-Photo, setting off his extensive career as a photojournalist. When he arrived in San Francisco, the city where he would spend the rest of his life, he encountered a new, surprising, and liberating reality that he portrayed with his camera. Shortly after, his work appeared in the pages of magazines such as Time, Look, and Life. In 1936 he became a professor at San Francisco State College where he founded the Department of Photography.
Over time Gutmann’s work has become increasingly recognized, especially since the 1960s with exhibitions such as a joint-show with Walker Evans at the Phoenix Gallery in San Francisco, or the solo exhibition As I Saw It, hosted at the Museum of Modern Art in San Francisco, both in 1976. His work belongs to the collections of institutions such as the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Fotomuseum Wintherthur in Switzerland.