Looking back at what West Virginia used to look like

Oct 19, 2011 by

A heads up if you’re within striking distance of Charleston, W.Va., this Thursday, Oct. 20. This month’s free Charleston ArtWalk features a superb exhibit of remarkable historic West Virginia photos, some of which were previously profiled in two audio slideshows on WestVirginiaVille. The free exhibit, titled “100 Years of Location Photography in Appalachia,” can be seen at the The Good News Mountaineer Garage Gallery, 221 Hale Street in Charleston.

I have added to this post the two musical slideshows (above and at bottom) I did of some of these black-and-white photos, which were compiled by West Virginia photographer Mark Romano (the collection also includes some of his own contemporary black-and-white photos of West Virginia coal miners.) Romano has been able to get his hands on  some stunning and precious early 20th century photos by Finley Taylor (1917 to 1949),  shot with a 5-by-7-inch format camera, and photos by the staff of Jim Comstock’s Richwood News Leader from the ’40s through the ’60s, whose superb camera gear included 4-by-5-inch Speed Graphics.

One of the photos from "100 Years of Location Photography in Appalachia"

As you will see, these photos provide a glimpse of the faces, homes and daily life on the backroads and in the backwoods of West Virginia. The big cameras used provide stunning detail (and put to shame much contemporary run-and-gun digital photography). Mark is at work on a book of some of these photos. Given that he is sitting on archives full of thousands of such quality images, maybe several books? Let’s hope so.

For more on the photos and where they come from, see Rick Steelhammer’s Feb. 12, 2011, story in the Charleston Gazette, written in conjunction with a showing of some of the photos at Glenville State College Fine Arts Gallery. | Douglas Imbrogno

The Good News Mountaineer Garage is one  good cause. They take donations of used cars, fix them up and sell them at low cost to folks who need vehicles to get their lives back on track. The organization’s annual Garage Ball takes place on an entire block of Hale Street (between Quarrier and Lee streets) starting 4 p.m. this Saturday, Oct. 22, with music by the Carpenter Ants and guests Bud Carroll and Larry Groce. The fundraiser features a 5 p.m. auction of eight vehicles, including four vintage luxury cars, a boat and trailer.

Inside the Good News Mountaineer Garage Gallery at 221 Hale Street, Sista’s Rib Shack will serve heavy hors d’oeuvres and microbrews and wine will be available, so gallery entry is restricted to adults age 21 and over.  A suggested donation of $35 per person will be collected at the gallery door to defray the cost of the band and food. The vehicle auction and music on the street are free. “100 Years of Location Photography in Appalachia” will remain on view in the gallery that day. For more info and to arrange to preview the to be auctioned, call 866-GIVE CAR or 304 344-8445, or visit www.goodnewsmountaineergarage.com.


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