Collection “highlights”: NC Lighthouses

Ocracoke Island Lighthouse, circa 1950s

As I’m currently making my third and final “pass” through the negatives in the “North Carolina Places” series, I couldn’t help but note the many fine Morton images of our state’s famous lighthouses (nor could I resist the pun in this post’s title — “high lights,” get it? Ugh, sorry).

All three of the images in this post are testaments to Hugh Morton’s artistic eye. Lighthouses are photographed so often, and usually in highly mediocre fashion. It is, admittedly, difficult to bring visual interest to a tall, skinny object — but Morton achieves it here through framing, pattern, and the use of models.

In the photo above of the Ocracoke Island Lighthouse (notably, the second oldest lighthouse in the U.S. in continuous service), the shadow, shape and texture of the tree in the foreground draw the eye powerfully to the image’s primary subject. Meanwhile, in the Cape Hatteras image below, the placement of the female models and the patterning of the foremost model’s bathing suit provide dramatic variation and contrast with the lighthouse’s famous stripes. (Ladies in swimsuits usually don’t hurt in terms of visual interest, either — as Morton was keenly aware).

Cape Hatteras Lighthouse with female models, circa late 1940s-early 1950s

The Oak Island image below may be my favorite. There’s just something very charming about the stance and placement of the model (who I suspect is a young Jim Morton), the jaunty angles of his arms, and the way the stripes of his t-shirt echo the stripes of the lighthouse. Well played, Mr. Morton.

Oak Island Lighthouse, circa late 1950s

10 thoughts on “Collection “highlights”: NC Lighthouses

  1. Great follow up to your Bodie Island Lighthouse post of July 18, 2008, Elizabeth. There are several Morton lighthouse photo sources in a comment following that entry.

  2. Yes, the boy in the Oak Island picture is Jim Morton.
    My favorite lighthouse picture of Hugh’s is of the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse,the one on page three of “Hugh Morton’s North Carolina”.The transparency would be in the part of your collection identified as having been used in that book

  3. We live in Wilmington, NC and have visited “Old Baldy”, absolutely a must see if you’re ever in the area. It’s a great day trip, or if you’re here during the month of August, stop by during the Pirate day…Awesome event!

  4. On the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse photo, the model in the foreground is my aunt, who was a young teenaged Sara Burrus from Hatteras Village, born I think in 1939. The middle model may be her sister, Mary, but I can’t see the detail clearly enough. Both modeled for several postcards in the early/mid-50′s. And even in their mid-70′s, they are still beautiful.

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