Bob Kolbrener

Bob Kolbrener's work is elemental. He works with American water, rock, lightning, sky, mist, trees, snow, and shadow.


An established US photographic artist, Bob Kolbrener (b.1942) was inspired, then protégé, then a colleague to the great landscape maestro Ansel Adams, and is himself now one of the USA's most distinguished contemporary black and white photographers of its incredible vistas. His work shows the essence of the Great American West, the cathedral-like Yosemite National park, and seascapes of California's churning Pacific coastline.


Represented for the first time in Europe, The Bosham Gallery is privileged to introduce you to his evolving collection of these iconic landscapes, in his own words 'raising the bar beyond the literal'.


Bob Kolbrener has always wanted to inspire in others a response, and across the decades as photographer and teacher, his searching for the dramatic using longer exposures has given him unique insight into the huge American landscapes he has come to know so well. He and his wife's original dedication across thirty years to give part of their year over as photographic nomads within those landscapes has given a photographic reward that others could not achieve. And now, since 1996, Bob has been able to further explore the Carmel Highlands on a daily basis. Take, for example, his interest in night lightning in the seascape '9/9/99 #3, California 1999' or the isolated desert buttes 'Clearing Storm, Monument Valley, Arizona 1984', or the great bands of light and shadow of 'Sierra Wave Cloud, Yosemite National Park'. 


Some of Bob Kolbrener's best known images have titles that may incorporate significant events in the region by date, such as a legendary Monterey lightning storm in 1999, or a subject with photographic terms, such as controlled burn forest management with his own controlled burn and dodge technique for his silver-gelatin prints.


"Bob Kolbrener is certainly one of the very last great masters, proudly carrying on the great tradition of fine black and white printing in his studio darkroom.  And with most photographers joining this digital age, Bob may well be the last great master of photography's traditional era."  Brian Taylor, Centre for Photographic Art, Carmel, USA


"In my opinion, Bob Kolbrener is the most brilliant California landscape photographer since Ansel Adams."  Gary F. Kurutz, California State Library Foundation


"A lost practice to execute photographs in the way Kolbrener continues to. When looking at his body of work you realise what a priority it is to shoot anything and everything with an impeccable awareness to composition and skill."  Rachel A. Magnus, Bakersfield Museum of Art, California


From Missouri originally, and a keen amateur photographer from 1964, Bob Kolbrener was inspired in 1968 by six large Ansel Adams photographs he found himself viewing after wandering into the Best Studio within the Yosemite National Park, now the Ansel Adams Gallery. The gallery ambience of classical music and incense surrounding the photographs created a lasting intense memory.


In 1969 he attended his first Ansel Adams workshop in Yosemite, started his own commercial photography business, and within eight years a second and third workshop with Adams followed.


From 1973 to 1977 he progressed in these workshops with Ansel Adams from student to assistant instructor to full instructor, all within the Yosemite National Park, being taught or working beside photographers Wynn Bullock, Imogen Cunningham, and Yousuf Karsh.


From 1977 to 1993 he acted as Director, instructor, guest lecturer, and guest instructor, to a multitude of workshops across Missouri, California, and Utah, whilst still running his photography business.


1996 led to a change of location, moving to the Carmel Highlands on California's coastline and closing the business, to photographing landscapes for Fine Art on a full-time basis. This continues today in parallel with gallery and museum exhibitions, some outside the USA, with guest speakerships.


Bob Kolbrener has exhibited extensively across the USA since his first exhibition in 1974 with Brett Weston, as well as in China, Russia, Japan, Indonesia. In 2019 a highlight was the unique Booth Western Art Museum's exhibition 'Bob Kolbrener: 50 years in the West' shown in Cartersville, Georgia. The museum's Western Art exhibits paintings, sculpture, photography, and historical artefacts that now allow America's great story to be seen.


Bob Kolbrener esteems 'straight' photography in the direct tradition of Ansel Adams. In his commitment to achieving this he goes out into the landscape as a prepared mind, often reacting quickly to make compositions in response to the fast-changing light and weather events in places of swirling character, such as Yosemite National Park. His photographs are made on film with two medium 2 1/4" and large format 8x10" cameras and tripod, and forgo any enhancement or modern photo-editing to either negative or print.  His deep skill in the darkroom shows in the final print.


Limited Edition silver-edition prints are available from the Gallery up to size 40 x 50" inches on traditional fibre-based paper, hand-printed by Bob Kolbrener himself. Each is selenium-toned for longevity and effect. Edition size can number either 49 or 50.


"Bob Kolbrener is one of a few special artists who take us beyond the literal in a traditional manner using 'straight photography' without the need for contemporary techniques such as multiple exposures, intentional camera blur and manipulated exposure. It is a formidable challenge to make this happen."  Luke Whitaker, Curator


"I look for something which excites me, generally these are short-term weather-related situations which require me to make decisions asap - which lens, which filter to use while trying to organise the composition and visualise the finished print for tonal values. There is no time to waste because the situation in front of me is changing so quickly. After I find the subject which is of interest, I then try to implement Edward Weston's concept of 'seeing plus'. This simply means that I need to find some way of presenting the subject that raises the bar, since everything on this planet has been photographed already, then the GREAT photograph is one that goes beyond the literal. It is a real challenge to succeed and I concur with Edward Weston's concept of 'significant presentation'."  Bob Kolbrener.