Picturing the Past Workshop

720 Fay Powders Library posterI had to take my eye off Cape this evening to produce some promotional material for a Picturing the Past workshop I’m doing in Athens, Ohio, at the end of the month. Regular readers have seen most of these pictures, but I’ll be working with a fresh crop of viewers.

The workshop, something dreamed up by Curator Jessica at the Athens County Historical Society and Museum, is going to work with photographers to get them to see how pictures they shoot today may have historical significance in the future.

It’s a challenge for me

720 Poster with Frank RicheyI have to admit that I’m a little nervous about this event. I’m used to taking photos, and I’m used to talking about MY photos, and I’ve gotten more comfortable about thinking how my news photos have grown enough whiskers they have become history, but I’m facing a big unknown here. I have no idea how many people are going to sign up (we capped the class at about two dozen), I don’t know what kind of equipment they are going to be using nor how experienced they are going to be.

It’s not a nuts ‘n’ bolts photo class where we’re going to talk about f/stops and shutter speeds, but it will be more about “seeing” a good story-telling photograph. Jessica will explain how the best photograph from an aesthetic standpoint may not be the most useful to a historian trying to ferret out little factoids about a community.

I’m sure you’ll hear more about this as I mull over different approaches during the next week.

Take a giant step backward

720 Ordinary People bio PosterI used to tell reporters, amateurs and bureau folks that the best way to take a good photograph was to compose it until it looked perfect in the viewfinder, then take one giant step forward. In this workshop, I’m going to ask folks to take one giant step backward so they can capture the world around the subject in at least a few frames.

“And,” I’m going to say, “if you feel compelled to shoot 500 duck-face selfies, PLEASE turn the camera around at least once.”

Jessica said I had to provide at least minimal biographical information, so here it is. You can click on the photos to make them larger if you want to read the copy.

Thanks to Jessica for convincing the Ohio Humanities Council to give us a grant that will cover part of my travel and lodging expenses, and to the Athens Public Library for providing a space for the programs.

Old Man’s Cave

Old Man's Cave 01-24-2013

I don’t care how much you like your job, there are days when you get hit with the “I gotta get outta town blues.” The great thing about being a newspaper photographer was that you had a ready-made excuse to cruise. When I got that “gotta get out of Athens” feeling, I’d either call Ruthie, our Logan bureau reporter, and say “Need anything shot in Hocking County?” or I’d tell Messenger Photographers Chuck or Bob, “I’m headed up to Logan today.” Nobody much cared where you went so long as you brought back a picture for the next day’s paper.

Hocking County was the home of Old Man’s Cave, one of the most peaceful places I’ve ever been. Even if other people were around, the gorge twisted and turned so much that it gave you the feeling of being alone. It was a place of beauty in any season, but it became magical when the dripping water and waterfalls turned to ice in the winter.

Lila had a winner

Lila Steinhoff photos of Old Man's Cave 04-20-1970There was some kind of photojournalism conference in Ohio where spouses could enter a photo contest. Wife Lila selected this one shot at Old Man’s Cave on April 20, 1970. I’ve always liked the image of a child running across the bridge at the bottom of the gorge. Unfortunately, we arrived too late to get the photo entered. You don’t need some judge to give it a ribbon, it’s a winner in my book. I’d be happy to have MY name under it.

A younger Ken at Devil’s Bathtub

Lila Steinhoff photos of Old Man's Cave 04-20-1970She also caught a much younger me photographing the Devil’s Bathtub.

The Bathtub looks the same

Old Man's Cave 01-24-2013The Devil’s Bathtub looks much the same in 2013. I, alas, do not.

Fun to share with friends

Old Man's Cave 01-24-2013No telling how many people I hauled up to the area during my stay in Athens. Even though it took us quite a few miles off our path from Ohio to Cape, I couldn’t resist giving Friend Jan a look at the place.

Coincidences

Old Man's Cave 01-24-2013I had another case of those get outta town blues in the early 1970s in Florida. I took off with no destination in mind. Lila either couldn’t come with me or she saw the crazy look in my eyes and decided this might be a trip better taken solo. I picked roads at random until I finally ended up on Cedar Key, a tiny spit of land sticking out into the Gulf of Mexico more than half-way up the state.

Walking down the main (probably only) drag, I thought I spotted a familiar face. It turned out to be former Central High School debate partner John Mueller. He had the same desire to escape from his job reporting for the Associated Press in Tallahassee as I had to get away from The Palm Beach Post for a weekend.

There is no telling where Cape Girardeans will turn up.

Grandma Gatewood

Grandma Gatewood walking through the Hocking Hills in OhioThis is also the place I shot Grandma Gatewood when part of the trail was dedicated to her.

Photo gallery of Old Man’s Cave

Black and white photos were taken in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The color shots were from our recent visit January 24, 2013. Click on any photo to make it larger, then click on the left or right side of the image to move through the gallery.

Mrs. George Ketcham, Backpacker

The August 8, 1967, Missourian caption said “Even Charles, son of Mr. and Mrs. George A. Ketcham, wants to assist his mother with her back pack, a 20-pound weight that she has been wearing for months in preparation for a hiking vacation next week when she will travel about 10 miles a day, walking over the Appalachian Trail with her husband, and her father.” Click on any photo to make it larger. You can read the full Emily Hughes’ story here.

Hike will start at Nantahala, N.C.

I guess someone thought the shot that ran in the paper was cuter than this one that shows Charles’ face. Mrs. Ketcham’s mother was going to keep the six-year-old while the hikers start out north of the Georgia border at Nantahala, N.C.

“Mother will drive us to where we get on the trail, 30 miles away,” Mrs. Ketcham said, “and then we’ll take three days to get back, rest and repack. Then she’ll drive us to the other end and we’ll hike the 20 miles back in two days. After that, well see how we feel. If we’ve had enough, we’ll turn around and head home.”

She had been working up to carrying a 20-pound pack since May. She wore it when she was working as a counselor during the Junior Cadet Day Camp so she wouldn’t lose conditioning.

Grandma Gatewood

I’ve been scanning photos of  another hiker, Grandma Gatewood, for a future story. This is a shot you’ve seen before.

This remarkable woman was one of the first extreme hikers and an ultra-light hiking pioneer who was the first woman to hike the whole 2,168-mile Appalachian Trail in one season. She did it in 1955 at age 67, wearing Keds sneakers and carrying an army blanket, a raincoat, a cup, a first aid kit, one change of clothes and a plastic shower curtain, all stuffed in a homemade bag slung over her shoulder.

She hiked it again in 1960 and then again at age 75 in 1963, making her the first person to hike the trail three times (though the final hike was completed in sections). She also walked 2,000 miles from Independence, Mo., to Portland, Ore., averaging 22 miles a day.

This was shot in 1969 when she was walking in Hocking Hills State Park

“That’s My Girlfriend”

Here is my obligatory Valentine’s Day post.

I followed Bill Robinson and Jesse King out to their home on Robinson Road, just outside Athens, Ohio, on a cold, snowy January day in 1969. You’ll be hearing more about what I was doing there and see more photos in the coming weeks. Click on the photos to make them larger.

If there had been a Hoarder’s TV show back then, these old farmer bachelors would have qualified. Not long after I picked my way through a maze of tunnels of debris inside the house, they led me to the kitchen. It was piled high with dirty dishes and food of  indeterminate origin.

“Have you ever tried one of these before?

Jesse, who did most of the talking for the duo, reached onto the table, wiped off a fork on his overalls and thrust it into my hand. With the other hand, he pulled a bowl off the table. It contained something that was sort of lumpy. In the dim light, I couldn’t quite pull out what color it was, but it glowed vaguely green.

“Boy,” he said. (Remember he was the talkative one.) “Have you ever tried one of these before?

I could see where this was going and it didn’t look good.

  • If I said “yes,” I knew he he would say, “Well, I bet you’ve never had any as good as these.”
  • If I said, “no,” he’d say, “Well, dig in. You won’t find any better than these.” I was a gonner either way.

I looked at the dish and the fork and did a mental calculation: These old goats eat this stuff every day and it hasn’t killed them. “No, Jesse, I haven’t.”

“Well, dig in, You won’t find any better than these,” he said, predictably.

The ghostly apparition

I forked up a small quantity of the unknown dish. Before I could say anything, I noticed a ghostly white form floating into the room. “WOW! This stuff really works fast. I bet I could make a fortune selling this stuff on campus,” I thought.

Jesse turned to the apparition and said, “That’s my girlfriend.”

I never found out the girlfriend’s name nor what the mystery green dish was. (For the curious, it was sort of like a pickle, with a strange gritty crunch that was either some kind of seasoning or, more likely, sand. I didn’t ask for the recipe. There are some things you’re better off not knowing.)

Here’s MY girlfriend

I ran across this frame from a shoot of Grandma Gatewood, an extraordinary woman who, at the age of  67 was the first woman to hike the 2,168-mile Appalachian Trail in one season. When I shot her on the Buckeye Trail near Logan, Ohio, in January of 1969, she was 81 and had done the Appalachian Trail two more times.

The day was beyond miserable. The rain aspired to turn cold enough to become snow; it was so foggy you couldn’t see 100 yards; there was icy snow melt ready to fill your shoes and the trail was a quagmire that would suck your boots off.

When I was editing the film, I was surprised to find two frames of Lila Perry before she became Lila Steinhoff. I hadn’t remembered that she had come along on the assignment. Let me tell you, even someone as dense as I am knew that if you could find a woman who would give you a look like this under those conditions, she was a definite keeper and you shouldn’t let her get away.

We were married in June of 1969.

Valentines past

If you want to see the ones who DID get away, check out my grade school Valentines rescued from Mother’s attic last year.