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Photographs at Portland Art Museum put history of gorge in focus.

Byline: Bob Keefer The Register-Guard

It was seeing Carleton Watkins' 19th century glass-plate photographs of the Columbia River Gorge that first piqued Terry Toedtemeier's interest in becoming a curator as well as a photographer.

For the last three decades he has collected old photographs of the gorge, gradually building a unique collection of images that trace the history of one of the most iconic parts of Oregon.

You can see the results of those labors this fall at the Portland Art Museum, where Toedtemeier is curator of photography, in a show he put together, "Wild Beauty: Photographs of the Columbia River Gorge 1867-1957."

The show's 250 images neatly span much of the history of the European settlement of Oregon. That's because photography and the American West grew up together, as Toedtemeier points out.

The exhibit starts with Watkins, who made four trips to the gorge in the mid to late 19th century, carrying a large-format camera and a set of collodion wet-plate glass negatives that were in use at the time. Toedtemeier has long been passionate about Watkins' work, calling it some of the most significant landscape photography made in the 19th century.

Moving forward in time, the exhibit includes work by other 19th century photographers including Benjamin Gifford and Edward Curtis.

In the early 20th century, Lily White and Sarah Ladd, associate members of Alfred Steiglitz's Photo-Secession Movement, spent three summers living on and photographing the Columbia in a houseboat, which was equipped with a darkroom; the resulting platinum prints are in the exhibit.

"Wild Beauty" includes hand-colored photographs from the early 20th century, and winds up with documentary photography of the construction of the river's massive dams in the 1930s, '40s and '50s. Some of the images in this section were shot on the then-new film Kodachrome.

Across the park blocks at the Oregon History Museum, a complementary exhibition is showing 100 stereoviews of the gorge taken by Watkins, taken from its own collection.

Watkins shot more than 150 stereoviews - small pairs of photographs mounted side by side on a card, for viewing through a stereoscope - while traveling in the gorge.

See them both and save: Buy a ticket for either show and get half off the other one.

Exhibit preview

Wild Beauty: Photographs of the Columbia River Gorge 1867-1957

What: About 250 historic photographs from the museum's collection

Where: Portland Art Museum, 1219 S.W. Park Ave., Portland

When: Opens Saturday and runs through Jan. 11

Admission: $10, $9 students and seniors, for museum admission. Half-off with a ticket stub from the "Stereoviews" show at the Oregon History Museum.

Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday; 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday and Friday; noon to 5 p.m. Sunday.

Carleton Watkins: Stereoviews of the Columbia River Gorge

What: About 100 stereoviews by the 19th century photographer

Where: Oregon History Museum, 1200 S.W. Park Ave., Portland

When: Opens Saturday and runs through Jan. 11

Admission: $10, $8 students and seniors. Half-off with a ticket stub from the "Wild Beauty" show at the Portland Art Museum.

Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday.
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Title Annotation:Arts and Literature
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Sep 28, 2008
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