1960's Alaskan Photographer: Who was he?

(Edited from the March 9th entry)

What do this mystery photographer, Ansel Adams, Felix Bonfils and myself have in common?

Can you help me identify any of these people from Alaska in the 1960's? These negatives were in a box of items I purchased at an auction in the early 1980's, I did not make any of these photos.

I'm fairly certain that this photographer was a serious amateur as opposed to a professional photographer. It appeared that this was an estate auction of pre- 1960's photographic gear. Included with the old and dusty photographic gear were a couple boxes of cool negatives, one of which turned out to be quite fascinating.

Most were large format 4x5 black & white negatives of various Alaska scenes, like the Fur Rendezvous celebration from the mid-1960's. There is a fairly large collection of negatives from the 1964 Good Friday Earthquake of downtown Anchorage. The 1964 Earthquake negatives in particular are historic and high quality. These negatives are not as good as the Steve McCutcheon earthquake photographs, but are an interesting supplement to them.

There are some intriguing negatives made at an Ansel Adams workshop too, which tells me that in addition to maybe shooting a few assignments, this photographer was enthusiastic about photography for it's own sake. There are what I would describe as meditative nature scenes of Yosemite.

Jackpot → Prize → Laurels → Laurence → Larry

It's a bit amusing, but the Latin translation of laurel means from the laurel tree, or to be crowned with laurels, as victors. One could say that finding these negatives was kind of a jackpot, prize or a "Larry" kind of thing. Latin trivia for the day.

At any rate, the really cool box of negatives were nearly 9 inch x 11 inch glass plate negatives from what appeared to be Palestine of the late 1800's. What the heck? How did these get in here? You can see the name "Felix Bonfils" handwritten in what appears to be French script in gold on the emulsion side of the negatives. Did this mystery photographer get the negatives in his travels to California in some obscure camera store? I'd like to identify the photographer so I could get some clue as to how he acquired the Felix Bonfils negatives.

Link to the Portfolio of Bonfils Negatives.

Link to Essay about the Bonfils Negatives.

The name Capernaum is Hebrew for "Village of Nahum," and is the name of an ancient village on the Northwest shore of the Sea of Galilee. It was deserted around the seventh century BCE (Before the Common Era). Capernaum is of interest because it is where Jesus performed his ministries around Galilee. A fourth century synagogue has been excavated there, among other historical sites. There is a great deal of scholarship from various people and entities regarding Capernaum.

These ten Felix Bonfils negatives are the only ones in existence as far as I know. The other more contemporary negatives look like the ones below.

I used to spend a lot of hard-earned money at Stewart's Photo when I was in high school in the early 70's and they'd even rent out their darkroom to me when I couldn't use the school darkrooms in the summer. Let's hear it for the good guys at Stewart's! I hear they retired a number of years ago.

Around 1968 I remember seeing this little Amphicar in the middle of Resurrection Bay outside of Seward during the Silver Salmon derby in August. It had to be one of the most surreal scenes I'd witnessed in quite some time because it looked just like a little car cruising around the middle of the bay. The two guys were trolling for silvers, bobbing along peacefully in the three foot waves.

Who are these guys? This 4x5 negative was amongst all the others. Please email me if you have any clues as to the identity of any of these people. Here's to all you Alaskan photographers!

Story Copyright Larry McNeil, All Rights Reserved, 2011

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  • GuyGlacier_4x5Neg_60s.jpg
  • FurRondyNeg_60s.jpg
  • Amphicar_Seward_4x5.jpg
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