Leo Holub founded Stanford’s photography program in the Department of Art & Art History in 1969, and taught 4,400 students from 1970 to 1980. Stanford Report noted that students camped out in the art building to register for the first course he taught, and his classes were remained in high demand during his decade-long teaching career. “He had a warm, personable teaching style that attracted hundreds of students each term,” said the Stanford Report.
Holub was born on a bee farm in Arkansas and followed in his father’s footsteps to work as a blacksmith, as well as a sawmill apprentice in gold mines, until he had earned enough to put himself through school at the Art Institute of Chicago. He attended the California School of Fine Arts (now the San Francisco Art Institute), where he later taught drawing. During WWII, he took a hiatus from photography to work as a Navy ship rigger.
Holub first arrived at Stanford for a post in the university planning office in 1960 and began photographing students all over campus. His first Stanford exhibit, Stanford Seen, featured 325 of these photos of students at the Thomas Welton Stanford Art Gallery in 1964. Holub became known for his documentation of Stanford students and architecture as well as the city of San Francisco.
After Holub’s retirement, 14 of his former students who had become accomplished photographers themselves put on Thanks to Leo, an exhibition of their works at the Thomas Welton Stanford Art Gallery in thanks to their professor. In 1982, the Alumni Association published Leo Holub: Photographer, a compilation of his works, and in 1994 the Leo Holub Award in Photography was established for outstanding photography students.
Holub was commissioned to photograph more than 100 modern artists whose work can be found in the Anderson Collection, the same collection that will be housed at in a new building at Stanford in 2014. He traveled around the country taking portraits of artists in their studios.
The Smithsonian Archives of American Art has collected over 100 of Holub’s original prints as well as correspondence with his close friends and luminaries Ansel Adams, Imogen Cunningham, and Wallace Stegner (founder of Stanford’s Creative Writing Program).
Holub was living in Noe Valley when he died in May of 2010 at age 93.
- Read an interview with Leo in Sandstone and Tile – Winter 2012 (PDF; begins page 13)