A unique collection of photographs on exhibit at the Washington State History Museum not only portrays day-to-day life of local communities in the early 1900s, but they also prove to document the evolution of photography overall. The photographs on display in “Click! Classical Photographs from Washington” were taken with the sole purpose of attracting people and businesses to invest in our state. According to curator Maria Pasqualy, these images are less about art and more about capturing a way of life that is appealing and stunning in images completely untouched by the magical forces of Photoshop, light filters and Instagram. These artists relied on talent and skill alone.
Professional photographers during this time were tasked with the challenge of presenting Washington as an alluring place to live, work and invest, to ultimately motivate people from across the country to head out west.
“Our state developed right along with photography,” Pasqualy said. “As a result, we have a good record of the early 1900s in Washington.”
Stunning photographs of logging crews clearing out forests are on display, with many images portraying optimistic young men making a solid living for themselves, and others of crews completely clearing out forests – under the impression at the time that our natural resources are unlimited. “These photos are infinitely interpretable,” Pasqualy said.
The work of Tacoma photographer Marvin Boland is showcased as well through the many images of minorities he captured on film. “He helped us document the minority communities of the time,” Pasqualy said.
Although to many photographers of the time capturing the way of life of the Native American community was often seen as another “product” to sell in order to inspire people to visit Washington, one photographer in particular managed to document more natural, everyday moments. Photographer Samuel Gay Morse worked on the Makah Reservation as an Indian agent and formed close ties to the locals. “His work had a very un-posed quality to them,” Pasqualy said. “Today, many Indian nations often use his images in their museums and publications.”
“Click! Classic Photographs from Washington” also features the work from some of the state’s more prominent artists, including Edward Curtis, Asahel Curtis and Darius Kinsey. The exhibit also features displays showcasing early camera equipment, including famed photographer Curtis’ view camera and glass plate negatives.
The exhibit opened Sept. 22, and runs through May 5. The museum is open Wed.-Sun. from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. General admission is $9.50 for adults, $7 for seniors, students and military, and children 5 and under are free. For more information about the exhibit, visit http://www.washingtonhistory.org.