The Historical Society of Greater Lansing
150 Years of Lansing Photographic History
Library of Michigan
Sponsored by the Library of Michigan, Central Michigan University Clarke Library, and Studio de Danse, Lansing
The Historical Society of Greater Lansing, the Library of Michigan and Central Michigan University’s Clarke Historical Library are presenting “From Sepia to Selfies: 150 years of Lansing photographic history,” an exhibit that explores the roots and evolution of photography in Lansing.
Included in the exhibit are more than 300 rare, iconic and vernacular photographs representing virtually every aspect of Lansing from selfies to early cabinet photographers. The exhibit is free and on display until December 31. It also includes examples of rare, unusual and everyday cameras and photographic equipment.
Valerie Marvin president of the Society said more than 60 photographers, collectors and individuals loaned photographs and equipment for the exhibit. The Clarke Library provided interpretive panels on the history of photographic processes which provide an important timeline for the advancement of photography.
One highlight includes more than 60 cabinet cards from 60 individual Lansing photographers representing the full spectrum of portrait photography from the 1850s to 1930s in Lansing. The collection is from Jacob McCormick of Holt who has set his goal to collect a photograph from all of the 130 Lansing photographic companies who plied their trade in Lansing from the 1850s to 1930s.
Another segment of the exhibit focuses on Demonstrations and Celebrations at the State Capitol which was assembled by photojournalist David Olds and features both black and white and color photography of demonstrations as varied as bikers rallying against the helmet law to the massive right to work demonstrations.
Marvin said what is unusual about this exhibit is it blends both professional and vernacular (amateur) photography in showing events across Lansing’s history. She said an example is the photographs of the 1951 Cass fire which includes numerous images shot by bystanders and a professional photographer.
One particular Lansing amateur photographer Clara Heldemeyer was discovered through “lost” photo albums that turned up at an out-of-city estate sale. The three albums show some of Heldemeyer’s rare ability which led her to become a celebrated salon photographer and to exhibit at the 1939 World’s Fair in New York. A number of her salon photographs including a portrait of Anais Nin are in the exhibit an on loan from.
The exhibit also has several salon photographs of Gerald Granger who competed and won recognition world-wide for his photography. At one time in the 1940s Granger was recognized in the top five of salon photographers, world-wide. Granger is also considered the first full time Lansing State Journal photographer.
Marvin said any exhibit on Lansing photography would not be complete without showcasing photography of Leavenworth Photographics which documented the 20th century history of Lansing as the premier commercial photographer. “
Their slogan “Anything Photographed. Anytime. Anywhere” does not give their talents and breadth of work justice. The firm, in its ninth decade, continues under the third owner Roger Boettcher who loaned several rare images and a panoramic camera belonging to the R.C. Leavenworth.
Other topics covered in the exhibit include Lansing disasters; daredevils; planes boats and trains; parades; aerial photography by Abrams; I-496 construction and deconstruction; how we see photography and how photography was used to record important events and life passages.
“Photography is one of the ways we have of recording and analyzing our history and this exhibit has opened the door to many more similar exhibits for the Society,” Marvin said.
“Visitors to the exhibit will walk away with their own favorite image and the photos will help us recall both good times and difficult times,” she said.
Two special events are planned focusing on news photography and photography of the American Indian.