David Vestal 1924-2013

David Vestal passed away this week at home in Bethlehem, Connecticut. Born in Menlo Park, California in 1924, Vestal studied painting at the Art Institute of Chicago before becoming involved in photography in the late 1940s through the Photo League in New York. Rather than working in photographic essays like many of his New York School contemporaries, Vestal captured singular moments of life in the city through his emotive and atmospheric images—a lone figure passing along a snowy sidewalk, a twilight drive over the George Washington Bridge, or the bustling traffic in Flatiron Square at night.

Vestal received two John Simon Guggenheim Fellowships in photography in 1966 and 1973. He wrote extensively for various photography publications, and published two classic books on photographic craft and printing: The Craft of Photography, 1975, and The Art of Black-and-White Enlarging, 1984. A lifelong educator, his illustrious teaching career included positions at Parsons School of Design, the School of Visual Arts, and Pratt Institute, as well as numerous lectures and workshops around the country. His work is included in such notable public collections as the Museum of Modern Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, and the Art Institute of Chicago.

Portrait of David Vestal taken by Len Kowitz, 2004.