What the heck is going on here? I’m not sure, but I like it. This image is from a set of negatives labeled “Fancy Dress Ball.” From what I can gather, the Ball is an annual event that takes place at the Eseeola Lodge at Linville Golf Club. Attendees dress up in wacky and sometimes incredibly elaborate costumes—or at least they used to. Images from the 2007 Ball on this photo blog seem to indicate that the costumes are a thing of the past. Too bad!
I would love to know more about the origins, history, and purpose of this event, for which Hugh Morton seems to have been an “official” photographer (primarily during the 1960s and 70s). The earliest marked negatives I see so far are from 1958. What can you tell me?
For fun, I’ll include a few more sample images: another from the 1974 Ball, followed by one I think is from the 1950s (though it wasn’t labeled, and may not even be from the Ball at all—I’m just guessing).
One of the many titles bestowed on Hugh Morton over the years is “the father of North Carolina photojournalism education.” He was a charter member of the National Press Photographers Association and president of the North Carolina Press Photographers Association. Appealing to a broader audience, Morton founded in 1952 the annual Grandfather Mountain Camera Clinic for amateurs and professionals, and the Nature Photography Weekend, also hosted by Grandfather Mountain.
Perhaps most notably, Morton was a founder and the first chairman (1950-1965) of the Southern Short Course in Press Photography. Now known as the Southern Short Course in News Photography, this training program for students and professionals is the country’s longest-running seminar in photojournalism. The images below are from the early years of the Short Course, probably 1951-1953, when it was held at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The first image shows Joseph Costa (left, in bow tie), well-known American newspaper photographer, photography lecturer at Ball State University, and a founder of the National Press Photographers Association; the other man presenting (back to camera) appears to be Hugh Morton. Since most audience members are wearing name tags, this image is handy for identification purposes. (Few of the names are legible, however, and none at the resolution presented here.)
The next image shows unidentified instructors presenting about darkroom procedure. (Sharp-eyed readers of this blog might notice Burlington photographer Edward J. McCauley in the third row, third seat from the left—see Patrick Cullom’s recent post, A Contemporary of Morton).
Our blogging compatriot over at the Blue Ridge Blog says, “I’ll always remember Hugh Morton as a photographer’s photographer. He understood the needs of a working photojournalist and went out of his way to make the job easier for us.” Do you have any photojournalism- related memories of Morton to share? Can you provide any information about these early Short Course images?
I’m enlisting the help of these waving Santas to wish readers Happy Holidays, and to bid farewell until “A View to Hugh” returns in 2008.
Morton took this photo and many others at Wilmington’s Hilton Park, home of the “Largest Living Christmas Tree”—an oak tree, believed to be more than 400 years old, that has been lit up annually since 1928 (with one break during World War II). The crowd in the image above was presumably gathered for a lighting ceremony, sometime in the late 1940s. The image of carolers below was taken around the same time (this negative has deteriorated some with age).
This last image of the tree itself was taken a bit later, probably in the late 1950s. As always, please let us know if you can provide any information about the scenes/people depicted. Hope these help put you in the holiday spirit!
I don’t have to go far to get “A View to Hugh”—all I have to do is literally look over my shoulder. Perhaps I should explain what I mean by first introducing myself. My name is Patrick Cullom and I was hired this past October as a Visual Materials Archivist; I share an office and processing space with Elizabeth Hull. I grew up in North Carolina and had seen images taken by Morton in books, posters, and other places without fully appreciating who he was or what his work had done for the state. Now I have the unique opportunity to be present while the collection is processed.
I have often heard my position in the photographic archives described as “Processing the photographic collections that are NOT Hugh Morton.” That’s sort of accurate, I suppose. The first collection I have been working with consists of photographic materials created by Edward J. McCauley, a newspaper photographer for the Burlington Times-News (NC). McCauley took photographs for the Times-News from 1949-1974 as well as running his own personal photograph studio. The collection consists of approximately 100,000 images and presents an encompassing view of Burlington from the 1950s-1970s.
Even though the scopes of our collections are quite different, Elizabeth and I often discuss similar topics and issues that arise when working with each of our collections. Morton and McCauley were contemporaries, so it makes sense that they might have been at some of the same events with statewide importance, including political and sporting events. At this point in my work, I cannot not say definitively that McCauley and Morton knew each other well, but it is clear from some of the images I have processed so far that they did cross paths at least a few times. I know that McCauley attended some of Morton’s famous camera clinics.
I have included two images in the McCauley collection that show a connection between the two collections. The first is a detail cropped from a group portrait of photographers attending the Miss North Carolina Pageant sometime in the 1950s. Morton is in the passenger seat of the car and McCauley is behind him next to the pageant contestants (third from the left).
To put the detail into its larger context, I have also included a full version:
The other image I have included doesn’t contain McCauley or Morton, but McCauley made the photograph at the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games sometime in the late 1950s. He took this image at of one of the events at the games and it is part of a series that includes members of the McCauley family at Grandfather Mountain.
Who knows where else these two photographers crossed paths (or cameras)? I will be sure to drop a note when such images surface.
In a new article about the Morton photographs from the Fall 2007 issue of UNC Friends of the Library’s Windows Magazine, entitled “Capturing Seven Decades of Life in North Carolina,” author Ginger Travis compares processing the Morton collection to “wrestling a bear.” I find this particularly funny because for the past few days I have been sorting through images of—you guessed it—BEARS!
One set of negatives caught my attention early on—a series featuring an adorable black bear cub up to hijinks at various North Carolina landmarks (Biltmore, the State Capitol, the NC Botanical Gardens, Orton Plantation, etc.). Since these film rolls were cut up and scattered throughout the collection, with no identification, I was a bit mystified as to their context. Did Hugh Morton just toss a cub in the car and drive around the state so he could take pictures of it? If so, um. . . why?
Then, the other day, I came across some of the bear cub negatives in an envelope labeled “Negatives–Zoo Trip with Little Bear–4-72,” in Morton’s hand. So, I’m guessing that Grandfather Mountain gave this bear cub to the North Carolina Zoo in April 1972, and these photos were taken on the (somewhat circuitous) trip to deposit him/her there. Can anyone confirm or deny that? Were the images used in some sort of promotional campaign?
They give us those nice bright colors
They give us the greens of summers
Makes you think all the world’s a sunny day
Slip sliding away, slip sliding away
You know the nearer your destination
The more you’re slip sliding away
No, I’m not going to jump off a cliff, although I did do that once—and then a bridge later that afternoon—in New Zealand during my younger years. Instead I’ve taken my adventuresome spirit to the computer keyboard and scanner. I’ve already written about six pages in a strategic plan and several longish emails about my exploration of this topic—and there’s likely more words to come. And I’ve sat in front of flatbed and film scanners running tests, because we are trying to bring 21st century technology into the solution to make processing the Morton collection more efficient. But when I try to think the process through completely, the solution seems to get more difficult. On one level—a bird’s eye view—the idea is very basic; as I start to apply more details to the picture—as I drop in elevation to reveal more nuances in the landscape—the technological solution seems to slip away.
During my afternoon break a few days ago I realized that, if I could explain the issues to those of you reading the blog, I could perhaps break this complex topic into simpler parts. So that’s what I’m going to try to do over the course of several blog entries. (I’m afraid one extremely long entry would keep you from ever wanting to return!) So let’s start from the sky and work our way down to ground level.
The ultimate goal of processing these slides is to make them accessible to users, and these days that means online via the World Wide Web in addition to the physical objects. To make the slides accessible, I first needed to sort and organize them because, initially, there was “neither rhyme nor reason” to the way we found the slides. Mostly stored in their original boxes, there were also many loose slides or small batches wrapped in paper, rubber bands, or in odd boxes. And several presentations are still in Kodak Slide Carousels or even the older Cavalcade Slide Trays. Because most of the slides, by far, have a date stamped on the mount by the photographic lab that processed the film, I sorted the original slide boxes by year, one year per shelf in the stacks. Needless to say the boxes stretch from floor to ceiling—and in any other direction I could put them. With that completed, I then started sorting the loose slides by year, then film type (usually Ektachrome and Kodachrome), then by month and, within month by the red or black ink used for the date stamp. I learned I could do this surprisingly quickly, faster than trying to sort scanned images on a screen, so long as I didn’t look at the images. As soon as I pause to look at an image, the sort stalls in the water.
You may be asking two questions: why sort by film type first, and why sort to the level of specificity of red or black date stamps? Well, for the first question there are two reasons. First, whatever scanner we use will likely have different technical settings called “profiles” for different photographic emulsions. If we batch scan a set of slides that are all Ektachrome or all Kodachrome, then the post-scan tonal corrections will be more consistent and more easily regulated. The second reason has to do with reuniting the loose slides with those still in the original box—what I’ve been calling a slide’s “mother box.” If I look at the contents of a box and see that its contents are Ektachrome slides, I can go right to that shorter stack and have fewer slides to examine to see if there any slides that can be returned to their mother box. The specificity of the red and black date stamps follows this same logic: if I open a box and all the slides within it are Kodachromes stamped “May 65” in red ink, then I’ve got far fewer slides through which I’ll have to search. I can make these distinctions much more quickly during the initial sort than I can during a subsequent search.
The traditional way photographers sort slides is on a light box or a light table. Taking a magnifier called a loupe, you look at the images and make selections based upon certain criteria like proper exposure and focus, composition, and people’s eyes being open. Archivists may do the same, calling into play more criteria, such as repetition. Photographers generally work a subject from different angles and with different lenses, and bracket their exposures when they can. This means, for example, that Hugh Morton could have shot an entire roll of film just of a single flower. How many photographs of that single flower would we need to keep? How many would a researcher want to examine? Would an archivist in a history collection keep as many as an archivist in a botany collection?
If I were to look at each slide on a light box for five seconds in order to assess them, here’s the math: 200,000 x 5 = 1,000,000 seconds.
One million seconds! That’s equivalent to about 175 eight-hour work days. (I wonder how hungry or bored I’d be by lunchtime on the first day? Or how my back would feel hunched over a light box all day?) And those five seconds do not include the time to lay the slides on the light box in a readable fashion nor the time to gather them and put them back in the original box. So in round figures, it could take one year to look at all the slides—so long as I did nothing else on those days other than eat lunch.
But what if I digitally scanned each slide without selecting in advance which ones should be scanned? Could I preview and edit images faster (and spare my back) on a large computer screen? From a labor savings standpoint, would scanning everything be more cost effective than the staff time necessary to review each slide and make a decision? What if I threw away the scans I didn’t want to keep because that was faster and cheaper than evaluating and discarding the unneeded slides? Or what if we made all the scans available on the Internet and let researchers decide what was important or useful to their needs? And the most challenging and most difficult question, . . . how do you scan 200,000 slides?
My next post on the topic will explore some of these questions. Who knows? Maybe someday I’ll be able to write a song about all this!
In honor of the recently-opened exhibit, “Showboat”: The USS North Carolina (BB 55), at the North Carolina Museum of History, and since I just happened to be “passing” through this particular batch of negatives, I decided to highlight a few of my favorite Morton images related to the USS North Carolina.
Morton was enlisted in 1960 by his good friend and then-governor Luther Hodges to spearhead the ultimately successful campaign to preserve the battleship as a memorial to World War II veterans. The article “Saving Our Ship” on the USS North Carolina Memorial Web site provides background on the campaign and Morton’s leadership, noting in particular that “Morton’s drive to control the administrative costs of undertaking such a large campaign led to savings such as using his young son on campaign posters rather than paying for a model.” The image below must be a mock-up of one of those posters. [The boy in the image below is not one of Morton’s sons, but there are images in the collection showing Jim Morton holding a model of the USS NC that were possibly used on campaign posters.]
This last image depicts John Weaver working on two busts for the USS NC Museum (likenesses of FDR, Chester Nimitz, MacArthur, and Truman were made—not sure which two these are). [Correction: This is not John Weaver, but a Linville artist named Coffey, and these heads were not created for the USS NC. Just goes to show that an archivist can’t always trust the contextual information that comes with a document! Thanks to Julia Morton for clarifying.]
One last note: as I was just proofreading the contents of this post, I happened to notice today’s date: December 6. Tomorrow is the 66th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. Crazy coincidence strikes again on “A View to Hugh!”
I know you will be relieved to hear that I am no longer suffering from the processing anxiety attacks I referred to in my first post. I’m still anxious, but it’s more like continuous fretfulness than bursts of panic.
I am now in the midst of my second “pass” through the Morton negatives. The first pass involved going through the whole lot of them (estimated at 33,000 items—strips, rolls, or individual frames) and sorting roughly by subject (e.g., Grandfather Mountain, Basketball, Hang Gliding, Nature). In my second pass, I’m refining those initial sorts into smaller categories (Grandfather Mountain—Events; Grandfather Mountain—Grounds and Facilities, etc.), getting all loose material into envelopes, and describing the resulting groupings in a spreadsheet. This, I must say, is a pretty satisfying stage—I’m bringing like materials together and starting to build descriptive tools that can be used to navigate the collection. Order is beginning to emerge!
Of course, most of my excitement is squelched when I remember that I’m less than one-third of the way through the second pass, and there’s still a third and probably fourth pass to be completed. Not to mention those pesky prints, transparencies, slides and films that still await attention. Take it easy, Hull. One pass at a time . . .
Hugh Morton’s energetic promotion of travel and tourism in the Southern Appalachians is well known. This High Country Press article provides Spencer Robbins’ first-hand perspective on Morton’s tourism work, which included helping found both the Southern Highlands Attractions Association and the High Country Host. (Please note: the Goodman article reflects personal perceptions of events, and contains at least one inaccuracy when it states that Morton considered a run for governor in the mid-1980s; it was in 1971 that Morton announced his candidacy for the 1972 election, but he dropped out before the primary.)
Morton’s boosterism is definitely reflected in the images he produced. In addition to the hundreds (thousands?) of shots in the collection taken of, on, or around Grandfather Mountain, there are numerous photos of other attractions including outdoor dramas, lighthouses and other coastal landmarks, the Barter Theatre in Virginia, Georgia’s Rock City, The Blowing Rock, Tweetsie Railroad, and the wonderful Land of Oz on Beech Mountain. (Some of these will be featured in a later blog posts, so stay tuned!)
But here’s one we just can’t figure out. This splotchy negative appears to show a re-creation of the giant’s house from the Jack and the Beanstalk story, shown with a real-life boy to provide perspective. The calendar on the wall reads, “Jack & Co. We Grow ‘Em Big! Dealer in Beanstalks at Magic Mt. Blvd. Pho.: Fe Fi Fo Fum.” The date on the calendar (oddly) is “Augustus 1063,” a month which apparently had 33 days. I know the J & B tale is old, but that old?
Part of my fascination with this image is that it seems vaguely familiar, as if I might have visited this place as a kid. Help me out—do you know why, where, when, or of whom this picture was taken?
Tomorrow, Thanksgiving Day, marks the forty-fourth anniversary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Six months after his death, on Sunday, 17 May 1964, the state of North Carolina held a memorial service for Kennedy in Kenan Stadium on the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill campus.
In an effort to raise money for the Kennedy presidential library, “a living memorial,” each state pledged to raise funds. Governor Terry Sanford set the state’s goal at $230,000 (the eqivalent of $1.5 million in 2007 dollars), and Hugh Morton chaired North Carolina’s fund raising effort. An estimated 12,000 people attended the memorial, paying $10.00 (about $65.00 today) to attend and contribute toward the goal. As the date drew near, the governor announced that students were to be admitted free of charge because it was determined that sufficient contributions from the community had been raised. The News and Observer noted in its report the following day that no other state in the country had yet to raise money by public subscription, and that eighty percent of the state’s goal had been met.
The memorial featured a tribute by Billy Graham and addresses by Governor Terry Sanford; Luther H. Hodges, former North Carolina governor and then current United States Secretary of Commerce; and Senator Edward Kennedy, brother of John F. Kennedy. In the photograph above, Rose Kennedy, mother of the former president, is seated on the platform with Hugh Morton (left) and Terry Sanford (right). There are several slides of the event in the collection, but the photographer is unknown.