Happy one hundredth, Hugh

Hugh Morton posed holding camera in snowy scene
Hugh Morton

On this day 100 years ago, Hugh Morton was born.

Every time I sat down to write about the significance of today I got serious writer’s block, becoming a bit overwhelmed about needing to say something, well, significant. I kept digging through the Morton collection’s finding aid and period newspapers available online, looking for something that had yet to be said. In short, there is just too much to say about a person’s seventy-one years with a camera without writing a book for a blog post.

Photographers work one frame, one exposure, at at time. They often explore a subject by creating multiple images—varying their distance, changing their angle of view, switching to a different focal length lens, and altering the plane or depth of focus.

A View to Hugh launched on November 1, 2007, more than fourteen years ago. During that time, we have deliberately focused on stories told through Hugh Morton’s photographs. I decided during the blog’s early days to “focus on the photographs, not the person.” The arrival of one’s one hundredth birthday, however, finds one looking more at the person. Enough time has passed since beginning the blog. Our distance from the subject has lengthened. We can now change our angles of view, switch lenses, alter our focus. A 100th anniversary provides the space to do so.

Over the course of this coming year we hope to bring more biographical perspective to our writing. It befits the celebration of someone’s 100th birth year—and it is certainly less daunting than trying to squeeze a tome into a short story. Our subject will still be the photographs of Hugh Morton, but we aspire to bring more biographical perspective to the storytelling. For example, I have been exploring how and when Morton began his involvement with the Carolinas Press Photographers Association, eventually becoming its vice president and then president. Another example will be a story on the newspaper column he briefly wrote.

And what about next year? Shall we get back to basics and call it Morton 101? We shall see.

7 thoughts on “Happy one hundredth, Hugh”

  1. Hey Stephen–interesting stuff. I would be interested in what you find out about the Carolinas Press Photographers Assoc., as luck would have it I’ve been digging into that history as well–only the general history of news photographers in the state from the 1920-60s. Enjoy your posts, keep up the good work–Kent Thompson

    1. Thanks, Kent! I’m researching early history of news photography in the state going back to 1910s so far, with a deeper dive into Ben Dixon MacNeill at the Morning Star in Wilmington and then the News and Observer. I’ll be in touch soon!

      1. Stephen–small world then-please do get in touch. I’ve been compiling quite a large roster of staff photographers working in the state during the early to mid 1900s, and have spent countless hours searching microfilm. I have used the archival collections I have access to as well to try to piece together who some of the “firsts” were in terms of women and minorities. I’ve found the collections you all have at UNC to be helpful such as the McCauley collection, Killebrew, Sturkey and Durham Herald. I started down this path around 8 years ago during some conversations at work about possible photo exhibits. I wanted to find the “first” news photo reproduced in a NC newspaper. That led me to trying to learn of the other “firsts” as well as early technology like wire transmission and the like. I have been a member of the NPPA since the 1980s and actually started my career in the days of film so I have some experience and contacts still with those in the biz. I would love to get you back onto FB and into the N&O photographers group that Gene Furr runs. Harold Moore and other old-timers are active in this group and there is a lot of interest in Hugh Morton there. I look forward to chatting with you sometime & comparing notes. Feel free to contact me anytime–KT

        1. Hello again, Kent. Looks like we both jumped into the deep end of the same pool about the same time. I started my research with an exhibition I curated back in 2012 titled “Photographic Angles: News Photography in the North Carolina Collection.” I wondered back into the water most recently for a paper I wrote for the North Carolina Association of Historians Annual Meeting a couple weeks ago titled “News Photographs that Weren’t: The Early News Photography of Ben Dixon MacNeill.” Sorry about disappearing from Facebook. I found I just couldn’t stomach the company’s philosophy or algorithm anymore!

          1. Gotcha–I understand. Still I have found it interesting some of the conversations from old-timers who held office in the CPPA and knew those founders like John Hemmer, Bugs Barringer, June Glenn and others. Speaking of which-the NCPPA is no more, but there is a FB group now that’s closed, but is called Carolinas Press Photographers–like the CPPA it represents both NC & SC. A friend added me to the group. I was never a member of the NCPPA but have been in the NPPA for a long time. The CPPA had a long history with the NPPA and the SSC which I’m sure you know about it as well. It sounds like you’re interested in some of the same photogs as I am. For a long time we’ve been mining the NC C&D Collection at A&H, and the new exhibit “Variety Vacationland” takes a look at some of that work. One of the first staff photographers I really got into was John Hemmer and there’s a lot of connections between him and Morton, the CPPA, SSC and all that. If you ever want to chat–send me an email. you know where to find me.

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