It's hard to imagine how powerfully photographers shaped perceptions of daily life in the first half of the 20th century. Their black-and-white images defined a city, a region, a nation. It didn't take long for newspapers to realize that good photographs sold papers.
A. Aubrey Bodine, whose work is the subject of Phototroph's latest show, worked from 1923 until his death in 1970 as a photographer for the Baltimore Sun. He took thousands of photographs of his beloved city and state, and his work was always competent and occasionally brilliant.
As the photo editor of the Sun's Sunday supplement, Bodine had access to resources unavailable to most photographers. As his daughter Jennifer notes in the preface of Chesapeake Bay Country, a compilation of her father's photographs, "He had planes, helicopters, boats, and anything else he needed at his disposal. Only the laws of physics prevented him from taking any picture he desired ..."
Twenty of Bodine's original images currently hang in Phototroph Gallery, and they're not cheap. That's because his original prints are extremely rare, and many of them still belong to the Sun. But if you'll settle for a digitally restored, reprinted picture (created by his daughter's company) from Bodine's archive, you can own one for as little as fifty bucks.
As Phototroph's Elaine Bean notes, Bodine would have been delighted by today's technology.
"He was a Photoshop guy before there was Photoshop-scraping negatives, inserting clouds from other images, anything to get the picture right. He wasn't really a news photographer. As the supplement photo editor, his pictures were on the cover every Sunday for decades. He was an artist. He kept his darkroom door locked, so nobody would know just how he manipulated images."
And that room is where he died, felled by a massive stroke at 64, while happily fiddling with the next week's cover image. We all should be so lucky.
-- John Hazlehurst
American Pictorialist: The Photographs of A. Aubrey Bodine
Phototroph Gallery, 16 Ruxton Ave., Manitou Springs
Through Sunday, Dec. 4
Call 685-1313 or check phototroph.com for hours or more information.