The Modesto Junior College Department of Art presents Iconic Vintage Leica Film Images of Modesto by James Curl, running through Thursday, March 1 in the MJC Art Gallery on the East Campus, 435 College Ave., Modesto. The gallery is open 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Thursday and admission is free.
The photography show celebrates Curl’s 50th year as a math professor at MJC. After retiring from full time teaching in 2011, Curl acquired several vintage Leica cameras and lenses and returned to film to take pictures of Modesto. He spent the past year taking more than a thousand pictures of the iconic images of Modesto and selected 50 of those pictures for the exhibition in the Art Gallery.
As Curl explains, “In this day of digital photography using vintage Leica film cameras and lenses provides an “old school” look to the iconic images that define Modesto. It is often about the out of the way scenes that we pass by daily without seeing. My effort to capture images of the past and present gave me a new perspective of Modesto, one that I would like to share with others.”
Curl began taking pictures when he was 10 years old using an old Kodak bellows camera. In high school he worked at a local camera store and quickly learned how to control depth of field and aperture settings. In 1959 he bought a vintage 1938 Leica D that had been used by a professional photographer to take pictures in Yosemite.
Curl worked during the holidays for Jack Broome at the Camera Center while attending MJC. In 1961 he transferred to San Francisco State, and spent many hours photographing images that defined the sky line of San Francisco with his Leica D. After achieving a Master’s degree from Santa Clara University in 1968, Curl joined the mathematics faculty at MJC. During the next two decades as a parent he used a Nikon F to take hundreds of soccer pictures.
Curl eventually obtained a digital Nikon D100 camera and spent a decade taking pictures of birds, a number of which are on display in MJC’s Science Community Center on West Campus. He also published several books of the bird pictures which are on display at the Great Valley Museum gift shop.
He also made several trips to Europe, taking photos of Marseille, Paris, Berlin, Rome, Florence, Tuscany and Venice, which influenced his recent images of Modesto on display at the MJC Art Gallery