Saturday, November 3, 2012

"I See Beauty in This Life"

The current exhibit at the California Historical Society (CHS) in San Francisco is I See Beauty in This Life:  A Photographer Looks at 100 Years of Rural California.  The exhibit was curated by photographer Lisa M. Hamilton under the auspices of Curating California, a new program that encourages researchers to explore the collections of the society.  The photographs on display are a combination of ones taken by Hamilton during the past two years as part of her own work, Real Rural, and of ones she chose from the CHS collections.  The CHS photographs are from the 1880's through the 1960's and even the 1970's.

The exhibit shows an interesting variety of almost 150 images from many definitions of "rural."  Not only are there photos of operating farms and 4H events, but also logging, rodeos, wilderness, and simply people from rural areas.  Hamilton's modern images are fully identified (and I recognized several, which have appeared on the BART trains I operate), but unfortunately most of the historical photos from the CHS collections are not.  For many even the photographer's name is not known.

There are wonderful photos of so many people who are not named.  To me, each of those photos represents someone's family history that has been lost.  Every photo I saw that was unidentified made me wish that by some chance a descendant who would recognize the image comes to see the exhibit.  I know the odds aren't good, but I can hope, can't I?

The exhibit opened October 28 and will run through March 24, 2013.  On Friday, November 16, CHS will host Poetry and Photography:  Five Poets on "I See Beauty in This Life".  There will be a walkthrough with curator Lisa Hamilton on Thursday, December 13.  And on Saturday, January 12, I plan to attend Rural California in Farm Records, Letters, and Ephemera, which will probably draw on more material from CHS' collections.

The California Historical Society is at 678 Mission Street, San Francisco, CA 94105.  The gallery is open Tuesday–Sunday from 12:00 noon to 5:00 p.m.  The library, from which the historic images came, is open Wednesday–Friday from 12:00 noon to 5:00 p.m.

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