Saturday, January 17, 2009

A thought, a time, a soul

A photograph, well done, can capture a thought, a time, and a soul.
Looking at the black-and-white image transported me back there to isolated northwestern Colorado in1895. The three Shaw brothers lounge in hard backed chairs, rifles in hand; out in front of a rustic cabin as a deer carcass hangs from the crown beam in front of the door.
An alternately dark-and-light colored dog (its name could easily be spot) rests in front of one of the gun-toting brothers, another white bulldog occupies its own chair, and a black cat independently, and disinterestedly, stares off into space in the corner. A buck saw, several pack frames and other miscellaneous tools hang from the outside of the cabin.
The three brothers all wear narrow-brimmed hats, suspenders and riding boots. The Shaw brothers’ homestead on the Williams Fork near Craig was part of the last area of the state to be settled. The relatively famous shot of my great, great uncles is not the only image in my mind that says Colorado.
A photographic comparison of the southwestern Colorado town of Dolores in 1893 and then again in 2000, in John Fielder’s popular coffee table book “Colorado: 1870-2000” shows the main street with many of the same buildings. Sometimes things don’t change much. The one building I note as missing, I can remember well the night it burned.
In a Monument office where I once worked, several photos hang on the walls that I recognize as Bill Kezziah’s handiwork during his 19-year tenure here as editor and publisher of the Tribune. One of those, a photo of the Westcliff School down in the southeastern part of the state caught the attention a visitor one day. “Hey, I know where that is. I grew up near there.”
“Does it still look like that,” I asked.
“I have no idea. I haven’t been back there in 25 years, but that is how I remember it.”
Maybe that is why it is important what pictures we take today.

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