Remembering Hal Gould, Famed Owner of Camera Obscura Gallery
Last week on June 25th, at the age of 95, Hal Gould passed away. Gould was the owner of the well known Camera Obscura gallery, which closed in 2011. He was also one of the founders of Colorado Photographic Arts Center and the Upper Level Gallery. The Western History / Genealogy department owns a collection of his photographic prints as well as a portrait of Gould done by photographer Glenn Cuerden.
Aside from our collection, his photographic work is included in many other collections, including that of the Denver Art Museum. He has won numerous awards for his photos and for his photo-advocacy, and in 2012, the Colorado Photographic Arts Center established the Hal Gould Vision in Photography Award to recognize those in the community who, like Gould, have worked to promote the medium.
Hal Gould was born in 1920 in Wyoming and grew up in New Mexico on his father’s ranch. He attended Baylor University to study dentistry, but was drafted into the Army during World War II. He had an interest in photography and after his discharge, in 1946, he took courses at the Art Institute of Chicago.
Eventually ending up in Denver, Gould opened a commercial studio, The House of Photography, in the Cherry Creek neighborhood in 1955, and the logo above is from his commercial work. He also pursued selling his artistic photography, but never found much profit from his original images.
In 1963 Gould and more than a dozen other photography enthusiasts formed the Colorado Photographic Arts Center (CPAC) and the Upper Level Gallery. Then in 1980, Gould who had been presenting shows in the Upper Level Gallery since the start, pulled out of CPAC, at the time an unfriendly split. It was then that he also closed his commercial studio and opened the famous Camera Obscura Gallery which he ran until 2011.
Camera Obscura was noted for feeling like a museum rather than a commercial gallery. Gould was often praised for having a wealth of knowledge about fine art photography and curating shows around photography he liked, rather than what might sell for the highest price. He was known for treating every visitor to Camera Obscura as his personal guest, inspiring others to share his enthusiasm for his exhibits. He was a much loved member of the Denver arts community and well respected for his knowledge and passion for sharing the photographic arts.
There is a documentary in the works about Hal Gould, but release date is unclear from the website, www.themaninthedarkroom.com
You can also search Hal Gould in the DPL catalog to see exhibition catalogs and other materials.
Too bad we find these things out after people die. Thanks for posting.
Hal was a real treasure for us all.
His daughter Caroline (Gigi) Gould also worked for the Denver Public Library for many years before she died of cancer at a young age after just giving birth to her son.
Saw a great Annie Leibovitz exhibit at Camera Obscura and Hal was always very helpful if you had photo questions.
Great stuff, Morgan. I'll be looking forward to that documentary!
Hal Gould was truly a Denver Treasure and everyone who knew him, admired him for his knowledge and expertise. He will be missed by many, but never forgotten for all he contributed to the art world and the Denver Scene.
I first met Hal in 1990. He shared his knowledge of photography with me, became a wonderful friend and helped me to grow a collection which covers every wall in my albuquerque home. I look at these images everyday and remember that warm friend who changed my life and the way I see. I will miss him.
I volunteered at Camera Obscura for a few years in the mid to late eighties. The quality and depth of Hal's collection was extraordinary. The value of his insights and observations on the art and artists was priceless, many of them coming from his first-hand knowledge. I'm deeply indebted to him as my primary mentor. His gentle critique of my early work (never ever saying anything bad, but often not saying volumes!) guided me from being a dedicated amateur to a serious artist. When I decided to relocate to Chicago, Hal was kind enough to endorsed my application to the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
Although I haven't seen it mentioned in the various remembrances, his Chicago education was primarily at the Institute of Design under Arthur Siegel. He had some involvement with Harry Callahan, but didn't particularly care for him (I don't remember if the disagreement was personal or artistic).
Thank you for this comment, it's so nice to hear from someone who knew him so personally.
I didn't see a direct e-mail address, so I'll paste this here. I took this portrait of Hal in 1988, shortly before I left for Chicago:
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