Review by Bill Edwards •
Thomas Livingstone’s Historic Treasures of the San Juan Mountains provides a visually stunning journey through the abandoned mines and ghost towns of Southern Colorado. The historical anecdotes provided by Stephen F. Rich, P. David Smith and Beverly Rich equally engage with tales of vast mineral discoveries defining these remote often forgotten locations throughout the San Juan Mountains. This seven-year project compiles amazingly detailed images in an impressive monochromatic homage to the nineteenth century miner.
Tom’s dedication to landscape photography documenting these pioneer era historical locations encompasses high altitude hiking, the challenges of quickly changing weather as well as an extreme love of the outdoors. Encouraged from a young age by his parents, he began his visual endeavors with a Nikon film camera at the age of ten. After a go with business school, he realized his true passion resided in photography. In 1994 Tom was accepted at Brooks Institute of Photography in Santa Barbara, California as a commercial photography major. While refining his extensive technical skills he felt the need to return to the outdoors seeking the freedom to photograph for himself. In 2011 he opened Kendall Mountain Gallery in Silverton, Colorado, specializing in large prints of surrounding landscapes as well as the Durango & Silverton Railroad.
Tom’s Historic Treasures of the San Juan Mountains is a collection of black and white photographs with outstandingly reproduced tonal range. Tom approaches his locations as living historic portraits. Each site is depicted with a visual acuity illustrating not only the feats of engineering but the unique characteristics carved out of nature. These abandoned structures evoke a magical sense of place and frozen time amongst gorgeous high altitude vistas. He wants us to have a sense of what time has played upon these heavily weathered wooden mine structures, rusting iron relics as well as the wonderment of their epic backgrounds.
Tom’s style balances a powerful marriage of landscape and documentary photography. His photographs are engaging, thoughtfully composed as well as technically masterful. His choice to produce this project entirely in black and white provides an authentic historical bridge documenting the past while evoking the feel of a traditional silver gelatin sourced imagery. The palette of selections provide a variety of wide vistas while attending to the engaging details of a decaying abandoned Americana.
The historical essays by Stephen F. Rich, P. David Smith and Beverly Rich cannot be understated in their importance tying Tom’s work into a cohesive flow. Each prominent area of the San Juan Mountains has a dedicated section of discussion that provides integral insight to the struggles of mining at extreme altitudes and harsh wilderness. Preservation of these locations in the back country remains a formidable challenge both against souvenir pickers as well as the elements. “Take only photographs, leave only footprints! … please remember our wilderness and primitive areas must be protected and preserved for all of us, as well as future generations.”
Most importantly, Thomas Livingstone’s collection of images provide a comprehensive endeavor to record some of the last remnants of an important era in our nation’s history. He has achieved this monumental task engaging his viewer with beautiful alpine views, deep monochromatic moods rich in textured features as well as highly refined compositions. Lastly as with most titles printed by Dual Graphics, formerly Gardner Lithographic, the reproduced image quality of the Fultone® process is exceptional in detail as well as wide tonal range. The rich blacks and superb shadow detail will draw one into reviewing this collection historical images over and over again.
Historic Treasures of the San Juan Mountains – The Photography of Thomas Livingstone
Photographer: Thomas Livingstone, resides in Silverton, CO
Publisher: Western Reflections Publishing Company, Lake City, Colorado; Copyright © 2019
Foreword and Essay: Stephen F. Rich
Additional text by: P. David Smith and Beverly Rich
Hardcover book, paper sleeve with 4 images; 142 pages with 130 black and white photographs; 12” square; printed by Dual Graphics, Brea, California, utilizing a three color Fultone® process.