Lantern slides, for those who might never have seen them, were the forerunners of 35 mm slides ... ummm, OK, they're
sort of like transparent digital prints that you can project onto a screen.
If they sound quaint, to some degree they are, but they're also a visual history. The imaging process for lantern
slides used a glass plate coated with photographic emulsion, exposed to light, and later covered with a second piece
of glass for protection, then masked and sealed. The resulting 3-inch by 4-inch photos were projected using a device
such as a kerosene lamp, and later, when electricity became available, used a light bulb.
A new book by author and Durango native Jack Turner, titled Landscapes on Glass, chronicles more than these
photographic relics; it is a partial biography of Turner's maternal grandfather Ansel Franklin Hall (1894-1962).
Hall, among other things, was a photographer, a forest ranger (at age 14), the first chief naturalist of the National
Park Service, a museum founder (Yosemite), general manager of Mesa Verde National Park and, well, you get the idea.
Turner's book not only pays tribute to Hall, it is a journey back in time when his grandparent helped finance the
Rainbow Bridge-Monument Valley Expedition. That expedition, conducted from 1933-38 in the midst the Great Depression, included mapping and surveying a major portion of the Southwestern United States and involved geologists, botanists, ecologists, anthropologists and archaeologists. In addition to gathering data about ancient Puebloans and their
legacy, the expedition photographically recorded the landscape in all its splendor: from mesas and buttes to canyons
and rivers, natural wonders like Rainbow Bridge and spires and peaks of the future national parks.
Using the slides that he and his team created, Hall lectured, cajoled and educated the general public, corporations, universities, the federal government and organizations such as the Sierra Club on the need to preserve and protect
The book, an updated version of an earlier work, is really three books in one: the story of Hall and his associates, the early days of national parks and an enormous treasure trove of lantern slide images. Turner has done an excellent
job of researching his grandfather's archives and that of others, including the Center of Southwest Studies, and has
written a superb homage to Hall and the expedition team.
The 80 colored images gracing the pages, some in black and white as examples of before and after colorization, are
testimony to the loving care and skilled hands of the artisans who hand-painted the original photos. The detail is
astounding, with each pine needle or leaf of a tree, flowers in a field, the rocks along a mountain trail, even
beadwork on a Navajo hat band, all meticulously rendered with a thin oil-based tint.
As a legacy to Hall's diligence, the book is a masterwork, and Turner has put together an important piece of
historical documentation that is not only fascinating to study and look at, it acts as an historical tour guide into
19th century Southwest America.
Stew Mosberg is a freelance writer and has written about art regionally and nationally. Reach him at email@example.com.