Archive for Sunday, November 15, 1992


November 15, 1992


John Charlton, a photographer with the Kansas Geological Survey, took a different approach from other entrants with his photographs in the Douglas County Architectural Photography Contest.

Charlton, who learned of the competition through the Lawrence Photo Alliance, entered selections from a rephotography project of Douglas County views taken in 1867 by famous Civil War and Abraham Lincoln photographer Alexander Gardner of Washington, D.C.

Charlton's 1992 photographs of several Lawrence locations, along with copies of Gardner's 1867 photos of the same site, constitute his entry.

In an interview last week, Charlton said he was working with fellow Kansas Geological Survey staffers Rex Buchanan and Jim McCauley on the project and thought entering the contest might be a good way to introduce it to the community.

IN 1867, GARDNER began his picture-taking in Kansas at the Kansas-Missouri line and continued to the railroad's end, which then was just west of Fort Hays. The contemporary trio is retracing his steps.

"It's almost like solving a puzzle," Charlton said of the work. "It's a huge job."

The three men also have a rephotography project of the Grand Canyon under way, and they've completed another of the chalk formations in Western Kansas. Their Grand Canyon project is to be exhibited at KU's Museum of Natural History and the chalk formations will be featured in the winter issue of the Kansas State Historical Society's quarterly "Kansas History, a Journal of the Central Plains."

Charlton noted the Douglas County contest shots graphically show that the same locations look very different today because of built structures and natural changes namely many more trees.

THE GARDNER prints Charlton initially used came from the Elizabeth M. Watkins Community Museum, he said, and were copies of Gardner stereographs in the collection of Lawrence attorney George Allen. The originals are in Kansas University's Kansas Collection.

Taken together, Charlton said, the 1867 and 1992 photographs tell an interesting story and should fascinate anyone interested in studies of the American West.

He said he hoped the completed Gardner project, which is being supported in part by the Kansas State Historical Society, would allow people interested in Kansas history to focus more sharply on changes since the state's settlement.

He added county-by-county displays of the photos were planned for communities along the old rail line, including one at Watkins Museum here.

Rephotography long had been used in earth studies to understand changes, Charlton said, but this sort of historical application is new.

"It really is about the Western expansion after the Civil War," he said. "Having those pictures makes a big difference. It's hard to explain."

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