Portrait of Ruth Asawa
Hazel Larsen Archer (1921-2001) had polio as a child and for the remainder of her life was confined to a wheelchair.
She was a photographer, painter and teacher closely associated with Black Mountain College where she was both a student and teacher. She was the school’s first full-time instructor in photography and remained at the school until 1953. While attending BMC as a student, she was able to study with Buckminster Fuller, Robert Motherwell, Walter Gropius, and the photographers Beaumont and Nancy Newhall. During the nine years Archer spent at BMC, she created a comprehensive photographic document of the school and its students, community, atmosphere and performances. Due to a fire in the science building which housed the college’s darkroom, most of the photographer’s early negatives were destroyed. However, her photographic documentation remains the most comprehensive of any photographer of life at Black Mountain College.
During the summer of 1948, she documented what was an incredible collection of talent assembled at BMC, which included artists such as Buckminster Fuller, Merce Cunningham, Elaine de Kooning, Willem de Kooning, John Cage, Kenneth Noland, Ray Johnson, Pat Passlof, Kenneth Snelson, Joe Fiore and Arthur Penn. She is recognized for her important photographs of dance routines performed at BMC, by students and instructors including Merce Cunningham. The grace and movement of the dancers was frozen by her camera; conveying the sense of motion without having to blur the movement. She was a teacher for most of her professional career, first in North Carolina and then in Arizona. Though her work had been shown at the Museum of Modern Art and the Photo League in New York, she stopped exhibiting after 1957, instead solely focusing on her career as a teacher. Hazel Larsen Archer was present at Black Mountain College during the era which is assumed by many to be the college's peak in terms of intellectual and artistic activity.