Beautiful Photocroms by William Henry Jackson capture the pristine beauty of the 19th century American West. (Photo from the collection of Dave Butler)
The premiere exhibition of a stunning collection of photographs by William Henry Jackson will be on exhibit this month at the Teeple Hansen Gallery, 108 W. Broadway, Suite 206, beginning on June 1 at the 1st Fridays Art Walk.
William Henry Jackson (1843-1942) is considered to be the premier landscape photographer of the 19th century. Traveling with heavy, fragile equipment and enduring daunting hardships in the wilderness, Jackson brought back the first photographic evidence of the West’s greatest natural treasures: the Grand Tetons, Yellowstone, and the Colorado Rockies. In fact, his early photographs of Yellowstone largely inspired Congress to create America’s first national park in 1872.
As Jackson’s reputation spread, more photographic opportunities came his way. In 1893 he was chosen to be the official photographer for the Chicago World Columbian Exposition. He also spent several years traveling Asia, Europe, Africa, and Australia, photographing for the Field Columbian Museum. Today, his photographs are found in museums and archives around the world, including the Smithsonian and the Library of Congress.
In 1897, with his collection of 20,000 black and white negatives, Jackson became part owner of the Detroit Photographic Company, which specialized in photographs for advertising, books, and magazines. The company had just purchased the rights to a secret patented process that produced richly detailed color photographs known as “Photocroms.” The technique used as many as 14 lithographic stones to produce color prints from black and white negatives in an expensive and time-consuming process that remains a secret to this day.
The Jackson Photocroms and black and white photos on display in the current exhibit at Teeple Hansen Gallery are from the private collection of Dave Butler. Some Photocroms will be offered for sale. The exhibit runs through July 21.
I saw my first W. H. Jackson photograph while studying Western History at my high school in Colorado. I remember being drawn into the old black and white photo and longed to visit the place where the picture had been taken. I saw myself standing in the exact same place where Jackson had stood 100 years earlier, just to see what had taken place over the last century.
Over the years I visited many of those places. Not only was I taken by the historical significance of each image, but by Jackson’s determination and courage to weather extreme hardships, just to make the perfect shot. His uncanny ability to capture every minute detail on film made each photo a true work of art.
Later, when I discovered his first color photographs, produced by the Detroit Photographic Company, I saw how adding these rich colors brought out even more of the beauty and life of every image.