That's Life 

Four masters of photojournalism discuss their craft in Emeryville.

Jon Brenneis photographed a wide range of subjects, everything from Willie Mays in the outfield for Sports Illustrated to hummingbirds in flight for Scientific American to candids of the young jazz pianist Dave Brubeck. Loomis Dean's string of more than five hundred Life covers stretched from the '40s to the '60s. Orinda-based Wayne Miller documented families, his own and others', and shot a landmark book on Chicago's Southside of the 1940s. Joe Munroe, famous for his Life photo of '50s college boys stuffing a telephone booth, specialized in showing the American farm in transition over four decades.

The four photographers, appearing for a panel discussion at Pacific Center for the Photographic Arts this Saturday, have more in common than the Life magazine imprimatur. They're all masters of classic black-and-white, film-based photojournalism -- an art form now passed from urgent news currency into the rarefied realm of museums. Those museums are typified in the best sense by the Pacific Center, a nonprofit started a year and a half ago by the late photog Ted Streshinsky, also a Life alum. Since his death, the center -- currently operating out of temporary space at 4221 Hollis St. in Emeryville -- is being run by his daughter, Maria Streshinsky. As she sees it, Life magazine performed a major news-gathering function in its time. "That's how people got what we get off television now," she opines. And the quartet of Brenneis, Dean, Miller, and Munroe, now all in their eighties, were in the thick of it.

Their black-and-white images have a richness of tone that still mostly eludes digitally produced photography, but Streshinsky thinks digital, especially the new Canon systems, is closing that gap. Digital is certainly ubiquitous in print newsrooms. "Loomis Dean told me: 'They all snap and snap and snap, but they never print,'" she laughs. "But since 9/11, there really has been a resurgence of pictures." Saturday afternoon (4 p.m.) at Pacific Center, the four photographers will talk about their careers, accompanied by slides. Kim Komenich of the SF Chronicle will moderate. The center is open Wednesdays through Saturdays, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more info, phone 510-428-9169.

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