LEWISTON — The past lives on in old photographs but often the photographer is lost to time.
The history of photography in the Lewiston-Clarkston Valley is the focus of “Stories We See: Visions from the Valley,” opening Friday, Sept. 9 at the Lewis-Clark State College Center for Arts & History.
“I always feel that each picture tells a story. I had no idea. If I had known what I know now, I would have given myself another year,” said Cassidy, who obtained a grant from the Idaho Humanities Council to research and plan the exhibit.
Cassidy worked with local historians, photographers and curators to create an interactive exhibit telling the stories behind photos taken over the last 150 years. A dark room, once commonplace before the arrival of digital photography, was installed in one of the gallery’s old bank vaults. One can see the actual camera used to take Clarkston High School yearbook photos in the early 1900s. Through a larger-than-life prop camera aimed at Main Street one can gaze at past views from the same vantage point.
Here are a few other highlights of the exhibit that runs through Dec. 3 and includes lectures, discussions and workshops.
GLASS PLATE NEGATIVES MYSTERY
Organizers hope the public can help identify people featured in 71 glass plate negatives discovered in the basement of a Lewiston building which has been a photography studio for at least a century.
Photographer Mike Ridinger of Ridinger’s the Art of Photography
inherited the negatives when he took over the building that once housed Engstrom’s photography, which opened in 1917. That is the time period the negatives appear to be from, Cassidy said.
“Mike knew what they were but he’d never really seen what they were,” said Cassidy, who had some of the negatives scanned. “What we found were some gorgeous beautiful portraits.”
He taught a student to do darkroom printing so some prints could be made. Negatives will be on display with lights underneath so people can view them. Classes in dark room photography and pinhole photography will be offered in November.
In the late 1800s and early 1900s women had very limited job opportunities in society but in the valley they played an important part in photography, Cassidy said.
Among them was E. Jane Gay, a photographer who followed Alice Fletcher through the Nez Perce Reservation. The U.S. government
assigned Fletcher the task of dividing the reservation into allotments and Gay photographed the process.
“In the course she created some amazing images of the Nez Perce people in transition from 1889-1892. They were in the process of at least trying to accommodate the ways of the white people. Here they are in this very stressful moment being told we’re going to take away your land,” Cassidy said.
Another professional photographer was Daisy Evans Brown, whose father homesteaded in Genesee. She grew up in Lewiston and the Clarkston area. Evans documented daily life in the early 1900s with uncommon photos from an era when people usually sat stiffly for the camera.
“She really excelled in getting people in playful moods,” Cassidy said.
One of her photos shows women submerged up to their necks in
the river. One standing in the back with a stick looks like she is about to thrash the others.
“It looks like a Facebook picture, it’s so modern in its spontaneity.”
Amelia Strang opened one of Idaho’s first photography studios in Lewiston in 1865. Terry Ownby of Idaho State University will speak about Strang Sept. 29 at the center. Other talks include the history of Nez Perce and early valley photographers Nov. 3 and women photographers Nov. 17. All are at 4:30 p.m.
For 124 years photographers for the Lewiston Tribune have kept a daily record of the valley’s history. The exhibit features some of their best work from past to present.
“We don’t get to see them in their glory because they’re on newsprint,” Cassidy said of the photos. “You really get a chance to look at the photography the photographers are doing and see them as nice, fine
quality images rather than as a supplement to a support a story.”
The history of Tribune photography will be discussed at 4:30 p.m. Nov. 10.
Edward S. Curtis is world renowned for his photographs documenting American Indian life before modern culture altered it forever. Lesser known is his younger brother, Asahel Curtis, also a photographer. The two were estranged, Cassidy said, and Asahel was much more successful during their lifetimes. Asahel worked for the Lewiston Clarkston Improvement Company and took photos of Vineland, now Clarkston, around 1905. The original photos are on loan to the exhibit from the Asotin County Museum.
If You Go
What: “Stories We See: Early Photography from the Valley”
When: 5 to 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 9 opening reception. Exhibit runs through Dec. 3, 2016.
Where: Lewis-Clark State College Center for Arts & History, 415 Main St., Lewiston
Cost: Free, donations welcome
Of Note: Gallery hours are 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday. A complete list of events is online at: www.lcsc.edu/cah/