The California School of Fine Arts in San Francisco was among a handful of institutions in the nation to offer an extensive program in photography and film during the postwar period. Under the new directorship of Douglas McAgy, CSFA's photography program, established by Ansel Adams and taught by Minor White, was the first in the country. The caliber of teachers such as Edward Weston, Dorothea Lange and Imogen Cunningham was unmatched anywhere, and the program soon earned a reputation as one of the most avant-garde art schools.
The first decade of the program, 1945–55, spawned a unique group of photographers who went on to become important contributors to visual culture. The Golden Decade presents imagery from this time period by 32 photographers, among them Pirkle Jones, Ruth Marion Baruch, Philip Hyde and John Upton.