NOTE: View a 2nd slideshow in this series by clicking here
If a picture says a thousand words, click the start button on the video above for tens of thousands of them. The photos are part of an exhibit up through March 12, 2011, at Glenville State College in Glenville, W.Va., titled “100 Years of Location Photography in Appalachia.” The show features early 20th century photos by Finley Taylor (1917 to 1949), photos by the staff of the Richwood News Leader from the ’40s through the ’60s, and contemporary shots of coal miners by West Virginia photographer Mark Romano, who pulled the show together.
The exhibit was featured in a Feb. 12, 2011 Charleston Gazette piece by Rick Steelhammer. Among the shows many treasures are photos by the staff of the now-defunct Richwood News Leader, including its legendary publisher Jim Comstock, with portraits from the newspaper’s “Past 80” feature on Richwood area octogenarians. “While the News Leader may not have had the best press in the world, they had the best camera gear that money could buy at the time, including 4-by-5-inch Speed Graphics,” Romano told Steelhammer.
I did a short slideshow for the Gazette story that you’ll see at the link below, which featured some of the News Leader shots and Romano photos. I was struck by some of the older photos and wanted to do a slideshow just devoted to them. They capture many lost moments in Appalachian history and settlement. You can see from the piles of logs surrounding a country woman, the workers on the steam shovel and the horse-drawn coal cart photos the ongoing work of harvesting and exploiting the state’s abundant natural resources. You can also see from the faces of the old-timers the weariness that mountain living could produce (but then peevish, slightly pained expressions may also be attributed to the length of time it took the big old cameras to capture portraits – see the excerpt below).
A 1940s photo of John and Ida Carpenter from Erbacon, W.Va., part of the “Past 80” series.
Romano has pulled together a captivating exhibit. He says there is a wider treasure trove of historic photos from the Richmond News Leader files and we hope to share more in the future. An excerpt from Steelhammer’s story notes:
GLENVILLE, W.Va. — A milk cow dines on a tub of grain while a bevy of hens pluck cracked corn from a nearby stretch of yard. Interspersed between the animals, an unidentified Nicholas County family — a man, wife and four kids in their Sunday best — face photographer Finley Taylor with expressions ranging from mild curiosity to mild impatience.
This 1920s-era photo, titled “Dinnertime,” is one of thousands of portraits taken by Taylor, a professional photographer in Richwood from 1917 to 1949.
When not taking portraits in his Richwood studio, Taylor and his 5-by-7-inch format camera could often be found at one of the dozens of railroad-accessible logging camps that sprang up in the 1920s along the Williams, Cherry and Cranberry rivers …
Romano’s work with coal miners and coal mining is a modern-day extension of Taylor’s portraits of logging and logging camp life.
“I have the 5-by-7 camera he used to take the outdoor photos,” he said. “It’s in an old weathered brown case. …About 90 percent of the people in the portraits he shot are unidentified. The reason that most of the people in his portraits didn’t smile was due to the fact that time exposures were used. But another story that my wife’s grandmother told her was if you smiled in pictures, demons would go into your body.” | READ ON
“One Hundred Years of Location Photography in Appalachia” is open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday through March 11 in the GSC Fine Arts Gallery. For information about the exhibit, call Sheri Skidmore at 304-462-6340.
A photo slugged “Early Coal Mining, Williams River WV 1930s
The photo’s caption notes a “WW1 train” is leaving in the distance from Richwood, W.Va.