Old and New Photos of Downtown Logan and Welch on Display Through Monday, June 25
Athens, W.Va. – Downtown: Logan, Welch--West Virginia Urban Coalfield Life in 1946 and 2006, The Photographs of Russell Lee and Earl Dotter is open for viewing by the public now through Monday, June 25 in the Alexander Fine Arts Center Memorial Lounge, Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. through 3 p.m..
Supported by a Coalfields Grant from the West Virginia Humanities Council, the Clifford M. Lewis, S.J., Appalachian Institute at Wheeling Jesuit University has mounted this exploration of life in the two mining communities utilizing photographs taken by Russell Lee in 1946 and photographs taken by contemporary photojournalist Earl Dotter during the summer of 2006.
As part of a medical survey, Mr. Lee was tasked with taking pictures of residents in Logan and Welch, W.Va., in 1946. Mr. Dotter repeated the photography assignment process in 2006 to provide a contrast to the photos taken in 1946.
“We hope that this exhibit captures much of urban coalfield life at its height just after World War II and today, as the communities struggle with the loss of industry and jobs,” said Dr. Jill Kriesky, Appalachian Institute executive director. “We hope it will impel viewers and especially coalfield residents to consider what lies in their future.”
Lee trained as a chemical engineer, and in the fall of 1936 became a member of the team on photographers assembled under Roy Stryker for the federally sponsored Farm Security Administration (FSA) documentation project. He is responsible for some of the iconic images produced by the FSA, including photographic studies of San Augustine, Texas, in 1939 and Pie Town, N.M., in 1940. After funding for the FSA was discontinued, Lee continued to work under Stryker, producing public relations photographs for Standard Oil of New Jersey. He moved to Austin, Texas in 1947 and became the first instructor of photography at the University of Texas in 1965. Lee died in 1986 at the age of 83.
Dotter was raised in Philadelphia and began his photographic career after completing studies at the School of Visual Arts in New York City. In 1968, he joined Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA) and was assigned to the Cumberland Plateau Region of Tennessee. He came to know and respect the culture and struggles of coal-mining families. After his VISTA assignment concluded, Dotter remained in the area to photograph the rank-and-file movement to reform the United Mine Workers union, then under the leadership of Tony Boyle. He was invited to join the staff of the reformers’ newspaper The Miner’s Voice, and then became the photographer for the campaign to unseat Boyle, called “Miners for Democracy.” When the election effort proved successful, Dotter went to work for the United Mine Workers Association Journal, where he remained until 1977.
Throughout the 1980s, Dotter photographed a variety of occupational subjects. His photographs are noted for not just showing the work but the whole worker and his or her life on the job, at home and in the community. As he met and photographed the cultural life of Logan and Welch during June and July of 2006, Dotter put his commitment to this exhibit in the context of a lifetime.
CONCORD UNIVERSITY NOTES: Persons with disabilities should contact Nancy Ellison, 1-304-384-6086 or 1-800-344-6679, extension 6086 if special assistance or help is required for access to an event scheduled by the University on campus.