More Stockton, More Folger-Shakespeare and the Public Library Project Finds a Permanent Home at the Library of Congress

October 26, 2015

More Stockton, More Folger-Shakespeare and the Public Library Project Finds a Permanent Home at the Library of Congress

Since my last post in May I have continued to photograph with my wife Ellen in Stockton and San Joaquin County. We are looking at efforts to bring literacy to one of the least literate places in the country. We started the project in 2014 with the expectation that it would last for one year. We are now trying with all of our might to wrap it up at the end of two years. However, it is such an interesting yet difficult project that the longer time makes sense. Here are a few photos I’ve made on the project since my last post:

Farmland, Clifton Court Rd, SJ County copy Linden branch library, Linden copy 2 Lunch crowd, St. Mary's Dining Room, Stockton copy No One Is For Sale sign, Stockton copy 2 Painting on Mexican food truck, Stockton copy People and shadows in front of Sikh Temple, Stockton copy 2 Lightroom (DSC_7893.NEF and 1 other) Lightroom (DSC_7103.NEF and 4 others) Lightroom (Back of Stockton Motor Inn pano.psd and 1 other) Lightroom (DSC_6875.NEF and 5 others) Tile mosaic, Manteca Mosque, Manteca copy 3

Ellen and I continued our project in Washington, DC at the Folger-Shakespeare Library. We spent our last ten day session photographing in DC. We hope to produce a book from this work next year in collaboration with the Folger-Shakespeare Library in celebration of the 400th Anniversary of Shakespeare’s death. The Library will also be touring a set of Shakespeare’s First Folios to all fifty states in the US. More will be written here about this work as we get closer to the date.

Washington, DC

I gave several talks about my work throughout the last five months including the American Library Association National Conference in San Francisco, the Los Altos Public Library, Stanford University and the San Mateo Public Library – all in the Bay Area. I had my work in a group show at the fabulous Nevada Art Museum in Reno. I recently did an exhausting but fun all-day workshop for PhotoAlliance in San Francisco.

The biggest event during these last five months has been the purchase of my entire public library project by the Library of Congress. I spent all of July (on our vacation in Vermont) and August scanning negatives, spotting the scans and finally printing all 681 prints.

21 years of libraries + Robert Dawson, San Francisco, CA

21 years worth of public library photographs

IMG_1295 copy

Cottage industry – Ellen at work

Drawing LRT map copy

Bob and Walker mapping the Library Road Trips

We shipped them off to the Library of Congress at the beginning of September and I was very happy that the Republicans didn’t shut down the government before I got my check! I am also happy to have my work permanently housed in one of the largest and most important libraries in the world. I have included below a few photos from the new scans from this summer that have never been seen before by the public. These were some of the many images I made for the project that never made it into the book. Once these images are all scanned they will be available for viewing on the LC website or by appointment to researchers at the Library of Congress in Washington. Here is link to an article about the purchase:


Eminence, MO

Eminence, MO

Entrance, Rainbow branch library, Las Vegas, NV

Entrance, Rainbow branch library, Las Vegas, NV

Fairplay, CO

Fairplay, CO

Lightroom ((left) Gillette, WY015.tif and 1 other)

Gillette, WY (diptych)

Grafton, NH 1994

Grafton, NH

Mulberry St. branch, New York, NY

Mulberry St. branch, New York, NY

West Hartford, VT 1998

West Hartford, VT

Willow, AK

Willow, AK

As Summer turned to Fall I returned to my teaching at Stanford. We are all fortunate in the Art Department to be teaching at the brand new McMurtry Art Building. It is quite an adventure to be teaching in such a highly designed and considered space. It is a work of art and we will see how it works as a teaching space. So far, so good.


Finally, our son Walker spent 11 months in 2014-2015 traveling, filming and photographing with his friend Nick Neumann throughout Latin America. Walker also did a more recent trip in August by himself to Sweden and northern Mexico. In addition to many other subjects Walker was photographing public libraries. These will be combined with my earlier photos of overseas libraries to start a new project called The Global Library. Stay tuned to see what Ellen, Walker and I have learned from our earlier projects and how we apply that knowledge to the world.

Interior, Kolding Bibliotek, Denmark

Interior, Kolding Bibliotek, Denmark

Stairway, Kolding Bibliotek, Denmark

Stairway, Kolding Bibliotek, Denmark

Library, Montreal, Quebec, Canada

Library, Montreal, Quebec, Canada

Interior of library, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil by Walker Dawson

Interior of library, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil by Walker Dawson

To be continued…

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From Stockton to Shakespeare

May 11, 2015

From Stockton to Shakespeare With Lots of Lectures in Between

A lot can happen in eight months. At the time of my last post I had just published the book The Public Library A Photographic Essay by Princeton Architectural Press. I had also just received a Guggenheim Fellowship to work on my current project in Stockton, CA. I spent much of the Spring and Summer giving lectures on the book in the Bay Area, New England, New York City and the American Library Association National Conference in Las Vegas.


Ellen in the San Joaquin copy 3

Ellen in San Joaquin County

RD at Altamont Pass copy 3

Photographing at dawn at Altamont Pass

Cambodians dancing in temple on New Years copy

Cambodians dancing in Buddhist Temple on New Years Day, Stockton

Deuel Prison Library copy

Deuel Prison Library, San Joaquin County

Commuter traffic at dusk, Altamont Pass copy 5

Commuter traffic at dusk, Altamont Pass

Dusk, Chavez Library, Stockton copy

Dusk, Chavez Library, Stockton

Lightroom (DSC_6582.NEF and 1 other)

Drought Food Giveaway, Thorton Community Center, Thorton

Homeless child, one.TLC school copy copy 2

Homeless child reading in public school for homeless children, Stockton

Lightroom (DSC_2919.NEF and 15 others)

ESL students, Adult School, Stockton

Punjabi language lesson, Sikh Temple, Stockton copy

Punjabi language lesson, Sikh Temple, Stockton

Pray for Rain sign, Farmington copy

Pray for Rain sign, Farmington

My wife Ellen Manchester and I have spent the last year working together on our project “Raising Literacy” in Stockton and San Joaquin County, CA. It is a photographic project looking at libraries and literacy in one of the least literate places in the country. In September, Ellen got an offer from her sister Martha that she couldn’t refuse. They traveled together doing a historical tour of Turkey for three weeks. Meanwhile, I spent much of that time traveling to Stockton. I am not sure which was more interesting but I would place my bets on Stockton.

Ellen and Martha Wright in Turkey

Ellen and sister Martha in Turkey

RD BPL Honored Author 2015 copy copy

Honored Author, Berkeley Public Library, Berkeley, CA

During the last eight months I have been giving lectures about my book The Public Library throughout California and in other parts of the country. A partial list of public libraries where I lectured include San Mateo, San Francisco, Long Beach, Pasadena, Los Feliz, San Rafael and Campbell, CA. I lectured on my general work at Napa Valley College in Napa and California State University at Fresno. I was the keynote speaker at the Santa Clara Library group, was an Honored Author at the Berkeley Public Library in Berkeley, and was honored at the Stanford Humanities Center Publication Celebration at Stanford University. I lectured at the California Library Association Annual Conference in Oakland, CA and also at the Texas Library Association Annual Conference in Austin, TX.

Professor Dawson working twice as hard at Stanford. Photo by Craig Weiss

Professor Dawson working twice as hard at Stanford. Photo by Craig Weiss

Of course throughout this time I was teaching my usual course load in the Art and Art History Department at Stanford. After retiring last June from teaching photography for twenty-eight years at San Jose State my current teaching assignment feels much lighter. This allows me the time to plunge into these new projects and lectures.

In December, Ellen and I started working on a new commission from the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, DC. They have asked us to photographically document their entire library and programming. They are one of the world’s great scholarly libraries and archive of Early Modern northern European history. They also have a wonderful education department, a renowned Shakespeare Theater and exciting exhibition program. This project and the Stockton project both come out of my large national public library project. It is exciting to now work on these two parallel projects that seem to represent the opposite ends of the library spectrum. We hope to produce a book and exhibition from both projects.

RD at Folger copy

Photographing scholars at Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington, DC

Lariat Motel sign, Fallon, NV

Fallon Art Center, Fallon, NV

Finally, in January a group of friends of photographer Jack Fulton all secretly took the Amtrak train over the Sierras to surprise him at an opening of his work at the Fallon Art Center in the little western Nevada town of Fallon. It was a great adventure with a great group of friends and even Jack was a little choked up. Pure fun!

Stay tuned…

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Two old posts you may not have seen




One would think that as I retired from teaching photography at San Jose State University after twenty-eight years (and my wife Ellen retired from her long-term job at Earth Island Institute) that we would settle back and enjoy our “golden years”. But nooo. Not even close. Years ago we spent our honeymoon visiting the toxic waste sites of the American West so I guess our current crazy schedule makes some sense.

Our son Walker is enjoying his trip to South America with his friend Nick Neumann. They are taking a year trying to figure out if becoming a photojournalist can work. Here is Walker giving it his best shot in Rio. They also covered the protests outside the World Cup. Check out their blog at

Walker in Rio

I did a number of speaking engagements in the late Spring, early Summer. They included talks at Hattery in San Francisco, the Main Library in San Francisco (with Chief Librarian Luis Herrera), the Main Library in Oakland (with Librarian Dorothy Lazard), and the national conference of the American Library Association in Las Vegas, NV (imagine 18,000 librarians in Vegas!).


During our 2½ weeks of vacation and family in Vermont I only gave one lecture at the Howe Library, in Hanover, NH. (After all, I was on vacation!) After that we went to New York City where I gave a talk at the 92nd St. Y and at the fabulous Strand Bookstore. Most of the people that we dealt with there were young, wore skinny jeans and had piercing over their tattoos. But they were all self proclaimed “book nerds”. I love it when young people love books! Finally, we took the train down to Washington, DC and stayed with our friends Jeff and Suzie. We met with the Prints and Photographs Division of the Library of Congress which may collect my public library project for their permanent archive. We also met with the National Endowment for the Humanities about possibly funding a nation-wide traveling exhibition. I will let you know how these efforts develop.

Strand Bookstore, NYC

Strand Bookstore, NYC

Bob and Ellen, Cocoran Restaurant, The Bowery, New York City

The Stockton project continues to be fascinating, but hard. We were working intensely there before our East Coast trip. Since we returned we have gone many times to photograph libraries and literacy efforts in one of the least literate cities in the country. Here are some recent photos from the project. I will keep you posted as the “Raising Literacy” project grows over the next year.

Astronaut Hernandez grew up nearby as a child of migrant farm workers. By showing low-income kids a film of him floating in space he is trying to promote education and literacy, Sierra Vista Housing Project, Stockton, CA

Photographing future astronauts, Sierra Vista Housing Project, Stockton

Letters to Stockton City Councilman Michael Tubbs by young children complaining about the gun violence they endure, Sierra Vista Housing Project, Stockon

Bob photographing a Little Free Library, Wilson Way, Stockton

Little Free Libraries, Stockton

Democracy in action -Overflow audience at meeting defending their public library, Stockton City Council chambers, Stockton


  1. 9/18/14 Napa Valley College, Napa, CA
  2. 10/9/14 San Mateo Public Library, San Mateo, CA 6:30 PM
  3. 10/11/14 Noe Valley Branch Library, San Francisco, CA 2PM
  4. 10/19/14 Long Beach Public Library, Long Beach, CA 12:30 PM
  5. 10/20/14 Pasadena Public Library, Pasadena, CA 3 PM
  6. 10/20/14 Los Feliz Public Library, Los Feliz, CA 6:45 PM
  7. 10/24/14 Main Library, Marin Civic Center, San Rafael, CA
  8. 11/7/14 California Library Association conference, Keynote Speech, Marriott City Center, Oakland, CA 8:15 AM

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The Library Road Trip Goes to Denmark, Tucson and Back

12/2/11 – Greetings to all the new people that recently subscribed to this blog and hello to everyone else. It has been a long time since I last posted here (August 21st) and I wanted to bring you up to date on this project. Much of the last three months have been filled with my academic life teaching photography. When my teaching begins it is a little like being hit with a tsunami where everything gets swept up in the current. I now see the tide is beginning to subside and I can return to the public library project.

Even though I have been working full time quite a few things have been happening with the project. I began by developing a mountain of medium and large format film. I sent the color film out to be processed but all the black and white film I developed in my darkroom. I then began the enormous task of making contact prints of the black and white negatives and digital color photos of the color film negatives. That process took several months. It is slow and tedious but really fun to see the final results. Looking at the contact sheets is a little like opening Christmas presents. It is always exciting because I never know what I am going to get. All the images you see posted on this blog were made with our little digital Canon G-10 cameras. They are perfect for posting on blogs but the real final product are the images made with my medium and large format cameras on film. I have found that these larger film based images are still the best way for me to get the most beautiful results. I have finally picked the images I will scan into digital files. Now I am beginning to undertake the big job of scanning approximately 300 images from the Library Road Trip. I imagine that this will also take several months. With a little break coming soon with my teaching I hope to have this all done by the end of January. I have attached a few images of the process of developing film, selecting and scanning the negatives.

Many of you know that during this summer’s Library Road Trip I was conducting a Kickstarter campaign to help finance the trip. Fortunately, we reached our goal of $8,000. Many of the people that contributed got something from me for their donations. Most were prints of various sizes and books for the larger donations. In addition to everything else, I spent some time this Fall printing, signing and eventually mailing out all of these rewards. The unsung hero in all of this was my wife Ellen who helped enormously by keeping track of the 189 gifts that were mailed. I couldn’t have done it without her. Thanks Ellen! I have attached a couple of images of the Kickstarter work.

Last Spring I had an American Public Library project exhibit at the Main Library in San Francisco. After the show I received an email from Lars Olson who works for the city of Fanoe in Denmark. His daughter lives in San Bruno and while he was visiting he went to see the Library exhibit. He is a city manager in Fanoe and said that they were about to open a new school/community center/public library and wanted to have a permanent installation of my library work there. They also wanted to pay for us to spend a week in Denmark as their guests, give a few lectures and teach a workshop. Ellen and I gladly agreed and spent the first week in October on the beautiful little island of Fanoe off the southwest coast of Denmark. We also traveled to cities on the mainland where the show will be displayed in two other public libraries. It was fascinating to see the Danish public libraries where the work will be displayed.  It has been reported that the Danes are the happiest people on earth. Although they are heavily taxed they do get universal health care and free education through college. And they also have the least disparity of wealth. Do I see a pattern here? We were treated like royalty but when we got back I craved a fresh California salad!

At the end of October Ellen and I gave a presentation at the Center For Creative Photography at the University of Arizona in Tucson. It was a panel on our Water in the West Project that is now housed in their archive. This was a collaborative group project with twelve other photographers and the rest of the weekend we participated in a conference on the nature of archives. While we were there we went with writer Rebecca Solnit and Water in the West photographers Sant Khalsa and Geoff Fricker to the Occupy Tucson site. Of course, while I was there I had to photograph their library.

Besides scanning the images from this summer the next BIG part of this project is producing a book and a traveling exhibition. I have begun working with Princeton Architectural Press in New York to publish the book. We are currently investigating possible writers for the book. Please let me know if you have any suggestions. We are also open to some possible connections with other groups to help produce the book. I will keep you posted on the upcoming developments. In the next post I will also include some of the new work from the scans.

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Welcome! We’ve moved our blog — to read all about photographer Robert Dawson’s road trip across America photographing public libraries this summer, please visit us at:

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Lots of water under the bridge since I last wrote. Quite simply, it has been one of the more amazing times of my life! And one of the more rewarding times as well.

I mentioned in the last blog that we had applied for a large-scale Creative Work Fund grant. It is a San Francisco Bay Area based grant for people working at the intersection of art and social change. They are very difficult grants to get and to our absolute amazement we received the award last Fall for our project in Stockton, CA. Stockton is the second largest city in the country to declare bankruptcy and one of the least literate cities in the nation. My wife Ellen Manchester and I will be looking at efforts to bring literacy and hope to this very dysfunctional place. We are working with a group called the Library and Literacy Foundation of San Joaquin County and also the San Joaquin County Library system. The grant will help get this project started but we will need to raise additional funds to complete the project. More grants to write! After 18 years of looking at libraries throughout the United States we will spend the next year looking at one library system. From the macro to the micro. The following are some preliminary images from Stockton including a portrait of me with Mas’ood Cajee who is our contact with the Library and Literacy Foundation. He has a remarkable life story and his day job is being a dentist.

Ellen at Stockton Asparagus Festival, Stockton, CA

Ellen at the Stockton Asparagus Festival, Stockton, CA

Hmong videotapes, Angelou Library, Stockton, CA


Hmong videotapes, Maya Angelou Branch Library, Stockton, CA

Lightroom (DSC_0339.NEF and 5 others)

Languages, Main Library, Stockton, CA

Masood and Bob, Stockton, CA

Mas’ood and Bob, Main Library, Stockton, CA

Trivia Bee, Stockton, CA

Five hundred people supporting literacy at the Stockton Trivia Bee, Stockton, CA



We officially launched the book The Public Library A Photographic Essay in New York City in mid-March. Ellen, our son Walker and I flew back and I gave the kick-off lecture at the main library in Brooklyn on March 20th. I also gave another slide show/lecture at the Mid-Manhattan library on the 26th. Both were well attended and really gave me the idea that the book will be well received. During this week the publisher, Princeton Architectural Press, told me that they are already starting to do a second printing of the book just from all the pre-sales. Yikes! We met and had dinner with several dear friends during our time in New York. One of the highlights of the trip was meeting and delivering a book to Bill Moyers at his office in Manhattan. Ellen said that meeting him was one of the great moments in her life. The photo of her being hugged by Moyers shows her beaming! The books finally hit the bookstores at the beginning of April. After a twenty year gestation period it was nice to see it finally out in the world.

The week in New York began a long series of interviews and articles about the book and the project. These include stories in the New Yorker online, the Wall Street Journal, the Library Journal, Publishers Weekly, The Christian Science Monitor, ArchNewsNow, Goodreads, New York Journal of Books, Seattle Pi, Book Page, Design Observer, The Morning News, SF Gate blog, FastCompany, Gizomodo, NPR Books tumblr, Architecture and Artisnas, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Bob Edwards show on NPR, the Scott Simon show on NPR, CNN, radio station WICN in MA, BYU Radio, the Los Angeles Times, Parade Magazine, Lost at E Minor, Scratch, Lonny, The Dish at Stanford, the Paris Review blog, Shelf Awareness, Next City, the Findery, etc. This is certainly my fifteen minutes of fame! I am sure that there will be more to come.

Book cover

Bob at NYPL

Bob at the New York Public Library, New York, NY

Bill Moyers and Ellen

Bill Moyers and Ellen, New York, NY

Books for sale, SF

The Public Library A Photographic Essay on sale at Folio Books, San Francisco, CA

One of the strangest things to come out of all this shows the reach of the media. I received an email from a retired lawyer in Texas saying that he had heard my NPR interview with Scott Simon. He asked if I had ever photographed the library in Deer Lodge, MT. I sent him a photo of the Kohrs Library in Deer Lodge that I had made in 2000. I explained to him that my mother came from an old pioneering family that had first settled the area in the 1860s. He wrote back and asked me her name. It turns out he is a long-lost cousin from a branch of my mother’s family that I was unaware of. Talk about six degrees of separation! When I had a reception at the University of California at Santa Cruz of a show with Joel Leivick and David Pace another long-lost cousin showed up and we met. Here is a photo of Alan Burns from Missoula, MT (brother of Dennis Burns, the retired lawyer from Texas), my sister Jane Dawson and I at a coffee shop in Santa Cruz.

Alan, Jane and RD

Alan Burns, Jane Dawson and Bob



During the same week that the book was officially launched it was announced that I had received a Guggenheim Fellowship. I had known about the Guggenheim for about a month before they announced it. I had wanted to jump up and down and let everyone know that I had received it but they have a policy of waiting until they officially announce it. The following week one of my former Stanford photography students, Josh Hanner received a Pulitzer Prize in Photography. Needless to say, April was a very good month. A friend of ours, Greg Conniff had received a Guggenheim Fellowship several years ago. More importantly than the fame or money associated with the Guggenheim was the energy receiving the Fellowship gave him. I am very humbled by knowing the long list of great photographers that got this award in the past. I hope that the work I do over the next year will be worthy of this endorsement.



This has been a period a great transitions and accomplishments, large and small. One large effort that I was a small part of is the new exhibit and book from Stanford’s Cantor Art Center called Carleton Watkins The Stanford Albums. I have one essay in this beautiful book. In writing the essay it was nice for me to be able to combine my art history background with being a working photographer.


I finally went to one of my James Marshall high school class reunions. I was in the class of 1968 and at the reunion I was somewhat overwhelmed at talking with people I hadn’t seen in 46 years. Fortunately we all had nametags. Ellen gets the award for bravery for spending the evening at a VFW hall in West Sacramento with a room full of strangers and me. We did drive up to the reunion with my friend and classmate Nils Ohlson. Here is a photo of us in our letter sweaters. They still fit!

RD&Nils Marshall High reunion

Bob and Nils, West Sacramento, CA

One of the biggest transitions for me right now is retiring from teaching photography at San Jose State after 28 years. I’m sad to leave my colleagues there but glad to have more time to work on my projects. I will continue to teach photography at Stanford. Because of all this Ellen and I decided to take a weekend vacation to one of our favorite places, Camp Richardsons at Lake Tahoe with our friends Thom Sempere and his wife Susan. Four days of riding bikes, hiking, great conversations and doing nothing was bliss! Here is a photo of Ellen and I on the beach and me chillin’ under the pines.

RD and Ellen, Lake Tahoe, CA

RD chillin' at Tahoe

The following is a list of upcoming talks I will be giving in the Bay Area in June.


June 5, 2014

Architecture of Knowledge: A Photographic Survey of America’s Libraries

Photographer Robert Dawson in conversation with SF Chronicle architecture critic John King about Dawson’s 18-year project and new book “The Public Library: A Photographic Essay by Robert Dawson”

Book signing to follow

7:00 pm Tickets $10-$15


414 Brannan St


June 11, 2014

Photographer Robert Dawson in conversation with Luis Herrera, City Librarian about Dawson’s new book “The Public Library: A Photographic Essay by Robert Dawson”

Book signing to follow

6:00 pm FREE

San Francisco Public Library

100 Larkin


June 12, 2014

Photographer Robert Dawson in conversation with Dorothy Lazard, Librarian at the Oakland Public Library about Dawson’s new book “The Public Library: A Photographic Essay by Robert Dawson”

Book signing to follow

6:00 pm FREE

Oakland Main Library

125  14th Street at Oak



Here are some other talks I will be giving throughout the country this summer and fall. You are invited to attend any of these if you are in the area.


Sunday, June 29, 2014

Artist’s talk, panel discussion and book signing

American Library Association annual conference

3:00 pm

Las Vegas, NV


Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Artist talk and book signing

7:00 pm FREE

Howe Library

Hanover, NH


Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Artist talk and book signing

92nd Street Y

12:00 noon Tickets available

1395 Lexington Ave

New York, NY


Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Artist talk and book signing

Strand Bookstore

Tentative date. TBD

828 Broadway

New York, NY


Saturday, October 11, 2014

Artist talk and book signing

Noe Valley/Sally Brunn Branch San Francisco Public Library

2:00 pm FREE

451 Jersey St

San Francisco, CA 94114


Friday, November 7, 2014

Artist talk and book signing

California Library Association annual conference

Oakland City Center Marriott

Oakland, CA


Walker will be leaving next month for a yearlong trip throughout South America with his friend Nick Neumann. They will be photographing, filming and blogging from the road. Ellen and I will be spending the rest of our free time working on the library and literacy project in Stockton. We look forward to hearing from you and, as always, would appreciate any feedback you may have on this blog. We always enjoy hearing from you. To be continued….

Ellen and farm worker school, French Camp, CA

Ellen photographing a school for children of farm workers, French Camp, San Joaquin County, CA

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It has been a long time since I posted a blog on my Public Library project. I wanted to bring you up to date on this amazing journey and let you know about upcoming events. My last post came shortly after my 2012 summer Library Road Trip with Walker. Later, after looking at my work from the whole project I realized that I had photographed a lot of libraries in poor communities but few in wealthy ones. Some of the wealthiest communities in the nation are right here in the San Francisco Bay Area. Walker and I photographed several libraries in Silicon Valley and Marin County. It helped to balance out the project.

I soon became caught up in my normal, crazy academic schedule teaching five classes at two universities. I also came down with what turned out to be a long-term staph infection in my sinuses. I am finally over most of it. In the Fall, 2012 and Spring, 2013 I began working closely with Princeton Architectural Press producing the book. Late in the Fall we spent the Thanksgiving holiday in New York and later in New England with Walker, Ellen, her brother John Manchester and his wife Kate. We were in New York City two weeks after Hurricane Sandy had devastated the area. Our friend Stanley Greenberg took us out to the Rockaways along the Brooklyn shoreline. The branch library there had just been emptied of its water-soaked books. Parked in front was a Queens Library bookmobile. It was one of the few places around where people could recharge their cell phones, get on the internet of just get warm. I took the last photographs for the project of that sheltering mobile library.

The Spring of 2013 was probably the busiest and most stressful time of my life. In addition to my academic responsibilities and being sick I was working full-time on the book. I also applied for and received a Graham Foundation grant to work on the Public Library project. I also applied and am currently a finalist for a Creative Work Fund grant to document the library and literacy campaigns in the distressed city of Stockton, CA. If I receive the grant it could provide a new direction for my project beyond the publication of the book. Added to all this I produced a 30 year retrospective exhibition of my work for a show at the Thomas Welton Stanford Gallery at Stanford University. Whew! No wonder I felt exhausted all Spring.

Putting together all the parts of this very complex book took up all of my free time. Throughout the Spring I was literally working seven days a week. Working with my two editors at Princeton was a delight. Sara Bader and Sara Stemen are real professionals and have been very patient with all my distractions. It is nice to work with people that know the English language so much better than I do and, at the same time, penetrate the complexity of legal contracts with writers and publishers. And they did this with humor and wisdom! I know that I have been lucky working with the two Saras. Equally important was the help and encouragement from my wife Ellen and our son Walker. I literally could not have done this project without them. The production of the book involved selecting and sequencing the images; finalizing the text, labels and extended captions; getting permissions from the writers, their agents or publishers and countless little details that needed attention.

The big day arrived in mid-April when Ellen and I finished everything, put all the book parts in a box and sent it off to Princeton. Afterwards, we even had time for dinner and a much-appreciated glass of wine. Later in the Spring we received the first two edits of the book by email. We met with Princeton in New York in mid-July when they had literally just printed out the first hard copy of the book mock-up. We took it with us to our little cabin in the woods in Vermont and sent it back a few weeks later. In early September I sent back the second version of the mock-up to Princeton. After approving the cover design I have been working with Princeton’s publicity person to develop a plan to publicize the book. I have also been working on lots of little details since then.

A website and traveling exhibition are part of our future tasks. I will keep you informed as we get closer to our publication date of April, 2014. Until then, please stay tuned and stay in touch.


Redwoods, Mill Valley library, Mill Valley, CA


Bookmobile, Rockaways, NY


Print selection, San Francisco, CA


Assistant print selector, San Francisco, CA


Laying out the book, San Francisco, CA


Final design and layout, San Francisco, CA


Initial mock-up, San Francisco, CA


Last details, April, 2013, San Francisco, CA


Last proof read, April, 2013, San Francisco, CA


Ellen packing it up!, April, 2013, San Francisco, CA


Editing first print out, Vermont


Swatting flies and editing book, Vermont


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7/15/12 – We headed west from Durango to the Ute Mountain Indian Reservation. We knew that this was a poor tribe and we wanted to see if they had a library. We found it in a low office building shared with other tribal agencies. As far as we could tell the town was completely empty. I photographed the library and the surrounding desert including some far-off buttes. Just as I finished, out of the empty streets came a Ute man who asked if we had gotten permission to photograph. I explained that we hadn’t seen any signs stating that we needed permission but we certainly would have asked had we known we needed it. Plus everything was closed and there were no people to ask. He then said that we would have to pay a fine and he would have to confiscate my film. I could see that he was quite serious. I started talking about the library project and how it was intended to point out the importance of public libraries across the country. I told him how I came out of a working class background in West Sacramento and how my local library and my education helped show me a bigger world. He started to soften. His name was Seleyin White Skunk and he had served as an Army Ranger. He too had found that reading and education were essential to broadening his own worldview. He was now Tribal Chairman and he said that they were struggling to get their kids to read or use the library that I had just photographed. It was interesting to see how the library project became a way to bring us together. We both understood how essential education was for rising above our pasts. In the end he gave us permission and wished us a safe trip. We drove west under increasingly cloudy skies. Bluff, Utah was a fascinating town made up of Navajos, Mormons and Mormon Navajos. The library was housed in the old jail with a sign still above the door saying “Obedience To The Law Means Freedom”. It was made of very solid bricks. It was an interesting building with the Mormon Church and bright red desert buttes in the background. As I focused the 4X5 camera for the last shot a huge desert sand and rainstorm hit like a slap. I quickly put one foot down on my dark cloth that was starting to fly away. At the same time I reached over to grab my tottering camera on its tripod before it blew away. Just then Walker came running over and I yelled for him to put my large camera backpack in the car. I threw the 4X5 in the trunk and got wind blasted and soaked as I retracted the legs of my tripod. We were all shocked at how quickly and furiously the storm hit. We tried to wait out the storm in the car but eventually drove off into the wind and rain. Like the title of the Gary Nabhan book the desert smelled like rain. We continued west excited about seeing Monument Valley Tribal Park. The rain came in waves of violent downpours followed by cloudy darkness. As we approached the famous desert buttes of Monument Valley the sky was black except for a small light part in back of the buttes. Even thought it was raining we jumped out of the car and took what may be very interesting photos of the ironic rock formations. The Visitors Center was interesting because the Navajos, not the National Park Service, ran it. The Navajo Nation is one of the largest Indian Reservations in the country and includes the Hopi Reservation within it. The last library of the day was in the Navajo/Hopi town of Tuba City, AZ. Originally built as a Trading Post it now contained what a local Hopi man called “a lot of history”. Etched against a bright blue sky and sharp desert light I wished that this beautiful building could tell me its stories. We continued on into the changing weather. As we approached the eastern edge of Grand Canyon National Park we were treated to another whopping downpour followed by a weird lightshow in the sky. It was fantastic and unlike anything any of us had seen before. We made it to the Rim of the Grand Canyon in the last light of the day. Flashes of lightening were visible in the east from the storm we had just passed through. Nature never ceases to be endlessly fascinating.



7/16/12 –  Grand Canyon – one of the Earth’s most powerful, inspiring landscapes – overwhelmed our senses. Its story tells of geologic processes played out over unimaginable time spans was a unique combination of size, color and dazzling geologic forms. It was a mile deep and 2 billion years in the making. We started the day with an early morning 3-mile hike to Ooh Ahh Point in the Grand Canyon. It was a thousand foot drop to a spectacular panoramic overview inside the Canyon. Of course, it was a thousand foot climb back up to the Rim. Walker did it in flip-flops dodging a giant rock that almost smashed his skull. The only library of the day and the last one for this year’s Library Road Trip was the Community Library in the Grand Canyon Village. Like Death Valley and Yosemite this was a public library within the National Park. It was actually a branch of the Flagstaff, AZ library and the librarian was an employee of the Flagstaff Public Library. It was originally built as a one-room schoolhouse in 1906. Its rustic cabin features fit nicely into the surrounding pine forest. The librarian apologized for the scaffolding on the front but I explained that I liked to photograph libraries as they actually are rather than an idealized version. We then drove straight for 500 miles over eight hours until we arrived in Bakersfield, CA. Our only stop was in Needles, CA where we got ice cream at the local DQ. It was 110 degrees outside but it felt great to be back in California. After seeing much of the country on these two big Library Road Trips we are still fascinated by the diversity of our home state including the strange desert of culture of places like Needles. We had the interesting realization that the two Library Road Trips touched here in Needles. The first night of last year was spent here. It was only 109 degrees then, but it was at night. Now we were traveling through here again on one of the last days of this trip. As we entered the San Joaquin Valley we thought of the Joad family as they first glimpsed this agricultural paradise in John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath. We drove into Bakersfield listening to Willie Nelson and mariachi music. According to the American Lung Association’s 2012 study this city has the worst air quality in the nation. Fortunately, we escaped most of the heat and pollution with a cool breeze blowing through the streets of Bakersfield.

Last year we photographed 189 libraries in eight weeks traveling over 11,000 miles. This year we photographed 110 libraries in four weeks traveling over 10,000 miles. In other words we traveled almost as many miles as last summer in half the time. No wonder we are exhausted! This year’s journey was much faster paced. In addition to photographing white culture this year we focused more on Indian culture. Last year we focused more on black and Hispanic culture. I am now ready to go home and develop and edit the film from this trip. After that I will be working 24/7 on the book. More on that later. Thanks for following this blog. Your comments are appreciated. I will be uploading some of the film images once I get them developed. I will also let you know the progress of the book. Until then, happy trails. And give your local librarian a hug.


10,000 miles of bugs!


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7/12/12 – Calling the eastern edge of the Rocky Mountains the Front Range has always been surprising to me. Coming from California I would have called it the Back Range. The name reflects the Eastern orientation of the first American settlers in the area. Kiowa, CO was located in the prairie of eastern Colorado. Ellen felt that this was where the mid-West ends and the West begins. The library was housed in a beautiful former church. The crosses were still on the steeple and the stonework was magnificent. Walker discovered that the owner of a local store was from Iran but now mostly lived in San Jose, CA. This was surprising in this region of a mostly white state. Colorado Springs, CO is a hotbed for Christian conservatism. Years ago the town leaders wanted to diversify the economy from its dependence on the military. They invited in a conservative Christian mega-church that wound up being a magnet for like-minded people. We met our friends from Minneapolis, JoAnn Verberg and Jim Moore, in a great little café in Colorado Springs. JoAnn was one of the three principle members of the Rephotographic Survey Project along with Ellen and Mark Klett. We went to one of their rephotographic sites in the beautiful Garden of the Gods State Park. This area had incredible uplifted sandstone rock formations that contrasted nicely with the nearby Rockies. JoAnn set up her 5X7 camera by the side of the trail and did a diptych portrait of our family with the red cliffs as a background. As she was setting up the camera and posing us 192 cross country runners from all over the country came by in their multi-colored running gear. As they posed for their portrait we posed for ours. After we left JoAnn and Jim we drove west into the Rockies under a darkening sky. By the time we got to Hartsel, CO it was just about to rain. The old looking library was beautiful in the gray light with the red clouds glowing off in the distance. I made the last shot just as the rain began to fall. Fairplay, CO was located high in the mountains almost at 10,000 feet. I was stunned at the beauty of its tall, old library. I scrambled to set up the 4X5 in the last light of dusk. The automatic lights went on in the closed library as I made my last shot. We drove on in the dark and landed in the mountain town of Buena Vista, CO.


7/13/12 – Ellen lived in Colorado during the 1970s. Since that time many of the quaint, funky mining towns of the area had changed, sometimes drastically. Crested Butte was a case in point. It was almost abandoned in the 70s with dirt streets and tumble down stores. Because of that it possessed a great deal of charm and character. Ellen almost cried when she saw it again today. It really had become a theme park of an old mining town. It was jammed with tourists who were mostly middle and upper middle class and all white. What had once been interesting was now replaced by made-safe-for-the-tourists blandness. The library was one of the few buildings in town that retained its original character. It seemed real as opposed to the fantasy of the rest of the town. I set up my 4X5 outside. Just as I clicked the shutter a homeless guy wandered into the frame, two young women continued what seemed like an endless conversation and a guy on a mountain bike zoomed by. It may make for an interesting photograph. Crested Butte was out of our way so we had to quickly move on to our next stop. The Black Canyon of the Gunnison was an outstanding natural landmark in an area full of them. We peered down 2,000 feet to the canyon floor with the fast-flowing Gunnison River looking like a silver sliver. Geologist Wallace Hansen wrote “Some are longer, some are deeper, some are narrower, and a few have walls as steep. But no other canyon in North America combines the depth, narrowness, sheerness and somber countenance of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison.” We were overwhelmed by the beauty of the place and spent far more time here than we had planned. After a long drive we arrived in the old mining town of Ouray, CO. Like Crested Butte it had become a tourist town. But as Walker explained it didn’t matter because the setting was so spectacular. On top of that the library with its beautiful steeple was one of the best of the trip. I had a hard time doing it justice with my 4X5 camera. The light was flat, it was starting to rain and we were in a hurry. Hopefully, I got something good. Shooting film means that you never know what you captured until the end of the trip. Then it is like opening presents at Christmas. After Ouray we immediately started up the “million dollar highway” to the 11,000 foot Red Mountain Pass. Sheer drops, granite walls, fading light and a rainstorm greeted us as we climbed up this incredible road. The drive was both terrifying and thrilling producing feelings of vertigo along the way. We eventually made it to the very cool mining town of Silverton. In the last light with long exposures I tried to capture the town’s red brick library. I tried to place it in the spectacular setting but the most interesting photo may have been the Hispanic kids playing on the play structure in front of the library. The fast moving children and my one-second exposures may be interesting. Leaving Silverton we crossed over two more 10,000 foot passes in a light rain. We arrived in Durango, CO late, tired and happy after such a rich day of travel. While eating green chili enchiladas and blue corn tortillas in Durango we felt like we had left the Rocky Mountains and entered the Southwest.


7/14/12 – Last night in Durango we felt like we had arrived in the Southwest. Today we went back to the high Rocky Mountains to visit the little mining-town of Rico, CO. Its Library/City Hall was again one of the best of the trip. Dramatic mountains rose high above us on all sides. The sky was getting darker as I set up my camera. After I took one photo the rain starting pouring down. I scrambled to toss all of my equipment back in the car before it got soaked. Two more times I got out to photograph and two more times the sky dumped. Eventually, I finished with the beautiful exterior and then went inside to photograph the interesting, small, dark library. As I did, I looked outside and noticed the rain coming down again in earnest. The library was built when Rico was a very rich boomtown. After the collapse of the mining industry here it fell on hard times. But it seemed to be struggling back while still retaining its unique character. We drove out of the mountains and back to the southwest. We spent the afternoon in Mesa Verde National Park. This area is home to the famous ancient cliff dwellings. Not much is known about them but the structures they left behind speak with a certain eloquence. They tell of a people adept at building, artistic in their crafts, and skillful at making a living from a difficult land. No one knows why they abandoned the area in the late 1200s. Perhaps, like Cahokia in Illinois these Ancient Puebloans overused their natural resources or left because of extended drought. We did a self guided tour of the Spruce Tree House, the best preserved of the ancient structures. Later, we thoroughly enjoyed the hour long, ranger led tour of the Cliff Palace, the largest of the cliff dwellings. We ran out the clock on the daylight, dashing from site to site until dark.


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7/9/12 – Lander was a delightful Western town. It had a great main street with a good coffee shop. Its Carnegie library had a new addition that divided it into old and new. I photographed the Veteran’s Memorial across the street with the library in the background. We drove on into Wyoming’s awesome open space. During our research we had discovered an abandoned library in the abandoned town of Jeffrey City, WY. The town had formerly housed uranium miners and the empty library was in a ghostly, Soviet looking apartment block. Feral cats and kittens were everywhere. While I photographed the library Walker photographed the adorable kittens. Hopefully they won’t starve. Walker and I debated whether or not to go out of our way to photograph one really good library in Lusk, WY. We decided to take a more direct route. I quickly photographed the library in Rawlins, WY with its great sculpture of a saddle in front. Sinclair, WY was an oil town with a huge refinery in its center. It’s small library was very nice, no doubt because of the oil money. The last library of the day no longer existed. We had researched the tiny library in the tiny town of Bosler, WY. When we finally arrived in town we asked where was the library. We were told that it had burned down two weeks ago. I photographed the charcoal remains. I even hauled out my 4X5 camera to photograph a beautiful but forlorned burnt book. We ended the day at the Chautauqua in Boulder, CO.  Everyone there seemed perpetually drunk on happiness and soon we were too. What a delightful place? We had dinner at the famous restaurant Boulder Duchambe Tea House. It was a gift from the city of Duchambe in Tajikistan. We then walked to the amazing Book Store. Boulder rocks!



7/10/12 – It was difficult to leave Chautauqua. I could have spent weeks in this wonderful place. I photographed two libraries in Boulder. The Carnegie library was a history and family archive center. It felt good to have these Carnegies begin to feel familiar. Because of this I know that I am getting near the end of this project. The new Boulder Library was very cool and the outside had features that echoed the shape of the nearby Flatiron Mountains. The interior was quite beautiful as well. Like most libraries that we have seen on our library road trips, this one was packed. We drove to Golden, CO to meet Ellen who had flown in earlier from San Francisco. We stayed with Ellen’s old friend Stephanie Machen who treated us to a fabulous home-cooked meal. We spent the evening enjoying Denver’s sophisticated nightlife.  Downtown Denver is going through an exciting revitalization. The streets were crowded with a whole range of people that night. It was quite exciting for us to see after the mind-numbing uniformity of Denver’s outlying sprawl. Walker and I had seen this urban-suburban divide in many cities throughout the nation. Later that evening while sleeping in Golden I was awakened by the howl of a Bobcat outside our window.



7/11/12 – The Green Valley Ranch Branch library was in Denver but near the endless sprawl of the prairie. It was two weeks old and on the first day 15,000 people applied for library cards. When we were there it was insanely crowded. Surprisingly, the demographics were mostly black and Hispanic. The next branch library that we visited was the Decker branch. Unlike the last library this was an unusual, old Carnegie library. It was a treat to photograph because it was so beautiful and complex. I had a nice conversation with the enthusiastic librarian. She explained their tenuous funding and the nail-biter of an upcoming election that will decide the fate of many librarians’ jobs. I have had depressing conversations like this with many librarians across the country. Libraries are essential yet they are threatened with closure throughout the nation. This is one of the main reasons that I am doing this project. I ended the day by photographing the Central Library in Denver. Here are seven stories of heaven. Everywhere I turned there were interesting things to photograph. I started with the Legacy Table where world leaders met at the 1997 G-8 summit. They took over the Library for a few days and the library got the table as compensation. The Western History Center was the library’s crowning glory. Anyone doing archival research on the American West would eventually come here. I was in awe of what I was photographing. The views looking down into the library were also beautiful. I finished photographing the interior at the dot of 6 when the library closed. There was a huge diversity of people exiting the library at that time including a large homeless population. While I was photographing in the library Ellen and Walker went to the Denver Art Museum. They saw a fascinating exhibit of Indian art from all over the Americas. I finished by walking around the library photographing its interesting exterior. This was one of the great libraries in the country and I was glad to have two hours to record it. We spent the rest of the evening enjoying Denver’s diversity, great public art and good food. We saw a really BIG bear at the convention center and we ate at Root Down, an eco-friendly, progressive landmark.


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7/8/12 – The Carnegie library in Deadwood was spectacular. I carefully photographed it with my 4X5 camera. We then quickly got out of town driving several hours to Devil’s Tower. The writer N. Scott Momaday wrote “There are things in nature that engender an awful quiet in the heart of man; Devil’s Tower is one of them.” This massive rock rising up against the sky has a shocking presence. For obvious reasons it was sacred to the Native Americans.  In 1906, President Theodore Roosevelt proclaimed Devil’s Tower the nation’s first National Monument to protect it from commercial development. It was fascinating to see how these parks help bring people together that normally wouldn’t mix. Christian bikers from the South, a Native American family, a family from France, Amish people all shared an awe-inspiring experience in this National Monument.  The mingling of different people and the shared experience reminded me of the value of the shared commons in places such as parks and public libraries. Wyoming was big and he distances were vast. I spent most of the time writing the blog from the last two days while Walker drove. We visited the library and Starbucks in Gillette, WY. The library was new and quite interesting and Starbucks hit the spot. Gillette is a coal boomtown and one bumper sticker on a pickup said “My coal powers your electric car.” The Public Library in Buffalo, WY was a beautiful Carnegie. I enjoyed photographing such a pretty building in the afternoon light. Surprisingly, it was open on this Sunday afternoon. I walked inside and told the lady what I was doing. She informed me that this building was now a museum and that the library had moved to the very plain building across the street. After that disappointment we drove over the spectacular Bighorn Mountains. The pass was almost 10,000 feet and Ten Sleep Canyon was one of the most incredible drives on this trip. The town of Ten Sleep, WY had a plain library that actually looked good in the late afternoon light. Ellen and I stopped here in 1983 and it hadn’t changed much since then. After finishing writing the blog for the last two days I typed most of it on my laptop in the car while Walker again drove through a Wyoming sunset. After another long drive we landed in Lander, WY. This wonderful, small town on the edge of the Wind River Mountains even had great dining available late on a Sunday night. After finishing most of the blog I crashed at 1 AM.


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7/6/12 – We started the day by going to Mitchell’s World Famous Corn Palace. The outside walls were covered in corn and the design changes every year. It is classic American kitsch but seemed pretty shallow. We quickly drove by the very plain library in Mitchell to the former Carnegie Library, now a Resource Center. I had been looking forward to seeing the 1940s WPA mural on the ceiling of the dome designed and painted by Sioux artist Oscar Howe. Unfortunately it was closed. We then drove quickly across the state to the town of Wall, SD. Its Drug Store is also famous but we were both pretty tired of tourist traps. In contrast to Wall’s phoniness the library was a real gem. It was old and made out of stone and had all the substance that Wall Drug lacked. Soon after we left Wall we entered Badlands National Monument. Here the contrast between kitsch and substance couldn’t be greater. We soaked up the subtle color and beauty. As always the National Park System did a great job of managing this national treasure. As we entered the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation we entered another world. This is one of the poorest places in the country. The average income per capita is $1,500/year. 96% of the population lives below the poverty line. The libraries here are few and far between. In Allen, SD, statistically the poorest town in the United States, there was a library in the Oglala Lakota College. However, it was only for the students, not the public. The town looked poor with crumbling houses and trashed yards. Even though the Tribal Center was open it was dark and felt empty. We drove into the really small Lakota town of Batesland, SD. We heard a weird thumping sound from the car. We pulled into a dirt church parking lot where I used a piece of thin wire tie from a food bag to connect the flapping parts until we could get it fixed later. We drove 20 minutes down a dirt road to a B&B that Walker had found on the Internet. It was owned by a white family and is a working farm. They even had the original deed of ownership signed by President Coolidge in the 1920s framed on the wall. Several people told us that we were very lucky with the timing of our arrival. The Lakota Sioux were having their annual Powwow starting this night back in Batesland. We drove our well-worn Camry down the sandy, washboard road into town. What made this Powwow special was that this was being done by the Indians and for the Indians, not for the tourists. Everyone was friendly in this non-commercial event. We felt totally accepted as we chatted with a Lakota couple that had originally met at the Stanford University Powwow. The man, Kelly Looking Horse became the main MC as the dances began. The beauty of the swirling costumes in the red sunset astonished Walker and me. We sampled Indian tacos that were served in an open Doritos bag with meat, onions and cheese over crumpled spicy Doritos. Delicious! The only other non-Native people at the event were a group of Presbyterians from northern Virginia. They were there to do much needed work on the Reservation. These people gave Christianity a good name. Later, with the haunting sounds of the Lakota drumming and singing in our heads we fell into a deep sleep back at the B&B.



7/7/12 – Walker had never stayed in a bed and breakfast before. We participated in the slightly awkward ritual of having breakfast with our hosts and guests. They all turned out to be great people and even all had a liberal bent. We drove back to Batesland to get the car fixed. The Indian man that worked on it had just come from a memorial service for his daughter who had been killed by a drunk driver. The sky was gray and it was raining as we drove into Wounded Knee, SD, site of the last big massacre of Indians in 1890. The US Army slaughtered over 250 mostly women, children and old men as they were surrendering. This national tragedy felt very current here today. In the 1970s the American Indian Movement occupied Wounded Knee for many days precipitating another tragedy as the government tried to evict them through force of arms. It was drizzling as we climbed the hill to the mass grave for the 1890 victims. Walker and I felt an overwhelming feeling of sadness and shame. We stopped at the unlit and very poor Visitors Center that was basically a monument to the American Indian Movement. We bought a bundle of sage as a gesture to healing. We drove on in silence listening to a Lakota Christian radio station broadcasting hymns sung by local people. The station also broadcast testimonials by locals on why they were Christians. I will never forget the guy with the shaky voice recalling his alcoholic parents who abandoned him, the older man who raped him and his anger turning him to join gangs and worship the devil. He broke into a local house and stole much of what they owned. When the family turned around and prayed for his soul he found God. And then he married the daughter of the family he had robbed. We arrived in Pine Ridge in a dark mood. This town was very poor and filled with problems, especially alcoholism. Life expectancy here is lower than in Afghanistan. We went into the local market and I discovered an amazing photo book on the local area. Walker bought an Oglala Lakota Nation hoodie. We then drove two miles south to the Nebraska border town of Whiteclay. Located just outside the dry Reservation it is a magnet to Indians looking for alcohol. 13,000 bottles of beer and malt liquor are sold here everyday in a town of 11 people. The New York Times did a recent story about this national tragedy (see attached article) and the businesses fueling this addiction. The story states “In February, the Oglala Sioux filed a federal lawsuit against the stores and Anheuser-Busch and several other brewing companies, accusing them of encouraging the illegal purchase, possession, transport and consumption of alcohol on the reservation. Fetal alcohol syndrome, fatal drunken driving accidents and beer fueled murders have cast a pall over Pine Ridge for decades.” It is estimated that 1/3 of the women on the reservation have been raped. I had never been in a town where everyone was drunk all the time. Zombie-like men staggered down the wet sidewalk and collapsed. The gloominess of the day added to the desolation of Whiteclay. Walker went into a food store to get a sandwich while I fended off drunken men rapping on my car window begging for money for booze. I texted Walker that he should get back to the car “quick” but in my haste sent it to my wife Ellen back in San Francisco. She was quite concerned. We couldn’t get out of Whiteclay soon enough and spent the rest of the day trying to recover from this horrible experience. Neither of us had seen anything quite this bad, except perhaps Walker’s trip to Dhaka, Bangladesh. We eventually made it to the Black Hills of South Dakota. Here was the scene of an earlier tragedy and also the creation of an American icon. After signing a treaty with the Indians in the 19th century guaranteeing them ownership of the Black Hills forever gold was discovered. General Custer (yes, that Custer!) was brought in to remove the Indians and make the area “safe for the prospectors”.  No Indians live in the area today. After photographing the old Carnegie library in Hot Springs, SD we wound our way through the length of the Black Hills. We photographed buffalo and antelope by the side of the road in the beautiful Wind Cave National Park and the Custer (yes, that Custer!) State Park. History is indeed written by the victors. We were desperately in need of the solace of open spaces after what we had seen in Whiteclay. The Black Hills were beautiful and we could understand why they were sacred to the Indians. Mt. Rushmore is impressive, even from a distance. The Iron Mt. highway is absolutely insane with its one-lane tunnels, 360-degree hairpin loops and tiny wooden bridges. It was actually fun to drive this crazy but beautiful highway. Mt. Rushmore was even more impressive up close. I was last here with Ellen on our honeymoon in 1983. It was much more chaotic back then and again I applaud the NPS for making this place a great and accessible experience. We ended our drive in Deadwood, SD. This was the colorful 19th century mining town that today is a western theme park living off its past. I called it Disneyland in Deadwood. Walker and I were both overwhelmed by the range of experiences that we had today. The destruction of the Indian tribes continues in Whiteclay and Pine Ridge. Good people are trying to change that but is an ongoing struggle. The Black Hills saved our sanity. The redemptive power of nature is real. But at night as we were trying to sleep both of us were silently crying inside with grief for the insane, third-world conditions that we saw today in this part of Native America. 




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