The best of times
New York Times’ historical archives come to Durango

Jazz great Louis Armstrong plays for his wife in front of the pyramids of Giza, 1961.

Perhaps there is no medium better suited to capturing history in the making than the common newspaper. And when it comes to newspapering, few would argue with the clout of that bastion of tradition and excellence, The New York Times.

Over the last 100 years, the Times has amassed an impressive collection of more than 7 million photos from its own archives as well as those of other institutions including George Eastman House and Hulton-Getty. And for a few weeks, Durangoans will have a chance to view a small sampling of these photos, ranging from Abraham Lincoln on the battlefield to Louis Armstrong playing his trumpet at the pyramids.

The exhibit, “Icons and Everyday People: The Texture of Our History,” will be on display at Gallery Ultima from April 5-30. And in addition to being a first for Durango, the exhibit will be a first for the entire country. The Durango show will be the traveling exhibition’s inaugural public stop before hitting the road.

Stan Rabbe, Gallery Ultima owner, said being chosen as the show’s first stop was an unexpected honor. He said he first saw the exhibit during ArtExpo, an international trade show for art galleries and artists, in New York City in February. He approached the woman who was exhibiting the photos, and next thing he knew plans were being made for its maiden voyage to his gallery.

“It’s kind of neat to be the premiere showing,” he said.

Rabbe said the 50-photo exhibit contains works by such legendary photojournalists as Alfred Stieglitz, Edward Curtis and Berenice Abbott. The photos represent a cross-section of history, running the gamut from transportation and sports to political figures and personalities. He also said the collection is not just limited to photos from this side of the Atlantic.

President Abraham Lincoln, left,
stands with his troops at Antietam, 1862. These photos and 48
others from the ‘New York Times’ archives will be on display starting
Friday at Gallery Ultima.

“With the 50 they put together they tried to show the history of the United States but show other things as well,” he said.

And while the collection contains some of the more powerful images from modern times, including the mid-flight explosion of the Hindenburg to the haunting Spanish Civil War scene of a fallen soldier on a barren hillside, it also features some lesser known ones.

Rabbe said one of the more memorable photos was an 1862 shot taken of Lincoln with his troops at Antietam that captures the famous president’s commanding physical stature.

“He’s about a foot taller than everyone else,” he said.

The exhibit also showcases the history of flight, from the first airborne journey at Kitty Hawk to the first space shuttle launch in 1981. Rabbe said it is the former endeavor that holds particular significance today. “This year is the 100-year anniversary of Orville and Wilbur Wright’s first powered flight,” he said. “The photo that will be on display here will be the same one featured in Smithsonian magazine.”

For those looking for a more personal perspective, the exhibit also contains photos of the people that shaped the times, from leaders of disappearing American Indian tribes circa the turn of the 19th century to American icon Mark Twain and Claude Monet looking over his famous water lilies.

Rabbe said all the photos on exhibit were hand-processed on silver-gelatin matte prints, the gold-standard of fine-art photography. Reprints will be on sale at the gallery.

And whether people leave with a memento of the exhibit or not, Rabbe said he hopes they at least walk away with a better understanding and appreciation of the world we live in.

“I think it’ll be really educational,” he said. “This is stuff that doesn’t come around all that often. It’s pretty special.”







News Index Second Index Opinion Index Classifieds Index Contact Index