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Stephen Joseph

by Nancy Nickerson

Stephen Joseph was born in Oneonta, New York, in 1952. He eventually made his way west to the San Francisco Bay Area where he studied photography, and later earned a Masters degree from the California College of Arts and Crafts. While in college he frequented a nearby recreation area in Contra Costa County known as Mount Diablo State Park. It became his studio for an impressive and extensive series of photographs.

Much of the magic of Joseph's work involves the natural beauty of Mount Diablo. His love for the mountain and all of nature is evident in every frame. His images convey not only the physical beauty, but also the mood of the area. You can almost feel the sun hitting the bark and smell the pine needles. Stephen visually communicates why one particular shade tree is his favorite nap spot.

Joseph's interests include the history of photography itself and the cameras that have made it all possible. He collects and restores vintage cameras of all types, including panoramic and stereographic cameras. Many of these are nothing more sophisticated than a box and a lens.

"Nothing automatic for me," says Joseph. "I feel like I'm part of the history of photography when I use these." The viewer can feel the history as well.

Mount Diablo was one of California's first state parks, founded April 20, 1931. It boasts breadth of views second only to Mt. Kilimanjaro in Africa. The Contra Costa Times (3/24/94) claims that "Stephen Joseph...does for Mount Diablo what (Ansel) Adams did for the Sierra..." He takes great pains to avoid any angle that shows houses on ridges or other signs of encroaching development. Such pristine angles are getting harder to come by. Many of the works in Joseph's portfolio could not be replicated today.

Early on, Joseph realized the vulnerability of the open space and committed himself to preserving the land for generations to come. He is an active member of Save Mount Diablo, a grassroots citizens' action committee that has rallied the business community, as well as surrounding neighborhoods, to acquire and preserve land and educate the public about this special habitat.

A wonderful documentary-style CD-ROM about Stephen was recently completed by Leslie Safarik and Laurence Tietz of Studio Software. For a directory of Stephen Joseph's photography, check out his webpage, Stephen Joseph Photography.

Is it a coincidence that Earth Day was founded in San Francisco in 1969 by John McConnell? Check out the University of California, Riverside's Museum of Photography page.

Page created on 7/28/2014 6:22:43 PM

Last edited 1/4/2017 10:05:35 PM

Related Links

Museum of Photographic Arts - in San Diego, California
Masters of Photography - Great place to learn more about Ansel Adams and other landscape photographers.
How to "Read" a Photograph

Author Info

Stephen Joseph is my hero because he is a talented landscape photographer who has combined his art with his dedicated concern for the environment. He has spent the last twelve years lovingly documenting the beauty of Mount Diablo in the San Francisco Bay area. He works mostly with antique cameras that he himself has restored.

Stephen is also an active member of "Save Mount Diablo," a non-profit organization dedicated to protecting the land. Stephen is the ultimate preservationist, preserving the beauty of Mt. Diablo through his photographs, the history of photography through camera restoration, and the mountain itself from encroaching developers. He succeeds on all counts and that makes him a hero.