Travel Photo Thursday: Shooting at Libraries

Travel Photo Thursday: Shooting at Libraries

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At home, a library is place to borrow books.

On the road, such as in Seattle during a two-night stopover on the way to Southeast Alaska, a public library can present a compelling “photo op.”

Reading Room, Seattle Public Library

And while wandering the streets of Carmel-By-The-Sea on Monday morning, looking for places that might have existed when I lived in the area back in 1968, I took “visual note” of the town’s library just to remind me that it had not been replaced by a women’s clothing boutique.

Travel the country just to photograph libraries? Not likely I’d do that.

But Robert Dawson did so, shooting with a view camera, ala Ansel Adams, one of his mentors.

Dawson’s 11,000 mile road trip with his son left him with many memories of libraries seen and shot, and the rest of us with his book, The Public Library: A Photographic Essay.

The day after I returned from Carmel, I read about Dawson’s journey and his book in a San Francisco Chronicle story by Sam Whiting. Two things immediately struck me.

First, without reading the caption, I knew exactly where the first of Dawson’s library photos that accompany Whiting’s story was taken: Allensworth, California, a Central Valley town founded by African Americans in the early 20th century, and now a state historic park that I visited several years ago.

Second, Dawson—who is just a few years younger than me—spent time in Carmel having his work critiqued by Ansel Adams, one of California’s legendary landscape photographers. I never met Adams during my brief residency in Monterey, nor on subsequent visits there or trips to Yosemite National Park, a place made famous by Adams’ black and white photographs.

But on a number of occasions, I had a chance to see Adams’ work close-up, in galleries in Carmel and Yosemite. And like many who cut their photographic teeth shooting the scenic beauty of California, I’m certain that my own images were influenced, at least subliminally, from viewing Ansel Adam’s photographs, some of which, in poster or postcard size reproductions, hung in my home for many years.

El Cap 2

But enough about me. Back to Robert Dawson and his library project.

Dawson spent twenty years working on The Public Library: A Photographic Essay, eighteen shooting photos at over five hundred libraries, and two years editing the work.

One of the 150 color and black and white photos in the book is of a Carnegie library in Braddock, Pennsylvania. Although of a different architectural style, reminded me of the one (in the photo at left) that I frequented in Seattle when I was a junior high school student.

Dawson discusses his epic photo project in this brief San Francisco Chronicle video. You can learn more about Robert Dawson and his work on his Website.

(Click on an image to enlarge to full-size. Visit Budget Travelers Sandbox for more of this week’s Travel Photo Thursday shots. The Public Library: A Photographic Essay is available through Purchases of the book made through links on this page helps Tales Told From The Road continue to bring you a wide range of travel-related stories.)

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4 Replies to “Travel Photo Thursday: Shooting at Libraries”

  1. I’ve spent a lot of time working in and simply enjoying libraries. I think this is a fantastic project! Thanks for linking up to Travel Photo Thursday!

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