You’re looking at the cover of Water & Light: S.R. Stoddard’s Lake George, a handsome new book featuring the work of Seneca Ray Stoddard, one of the greatest 19th century American photographers. It is on sale at the Chapman Historical Museum, 348 Glen Street, Glens Falls. Or you can go to the Chapman’s website to purchase a hardcover or softbound copy.
For anyone who loves the Adirondacks, here’s your book.
Water & Light: S. R. Stoddard’s Lake George is a 160-page book taking you on a scenic tour of Lake George via Stoddard’s photographs of “The Queen of American Lakes.” In all, there are nearly 150 reproductions of his photographs, painting, sketches and maps. There’s an introductory essay to give you some of his history and discuss his why his art is so highly prized today. Whether you live on Mohican Point on Lake George, in Midtown Manhattan or in Malibu Beach, California, you will find these photographs of Lake George exquisite.
Stoddard’s work is a guarantee of beauty. The earliest photographs date from 1868 with one of his first images of the lake and go through to the mid-1880s. All the images in Water & Light: S.R. Stoddard’s Lake George are printed using the duotone process, which offers incredibly faithful color reproduction. The paper reproduces the look and feel of the albumen paper on which Stoddard printed his photographs.
Starting at the southern end of Lake George, Stoddard’s photographs take you northward. The book divides the lake into five regions, the final region ending where the waters of Lake George join Lake Champlain at Fort Ticonderoga. Each region is accompanied by a corresponding section of Stoddard’s Map of Lake George, surveyed and drawn by him.
The Chapman’s Executive Director, Timothy Weidner, selected the images used in this book, quite a feat considering that, of an estimated 10,000 images Stoddard took in the Adirondacks alone, over 1,000 were of Lake George! The majority of the images are from the Chapman’s own Stoddard Collection. The remainder were graciously loaned by photographer Dr. Daniel Way. Susan Pearce designed the book, producing a layout that perfectly complements Stoddard’s work.
I was honored to be asked to write the introductory essay and other text for Water & Light: S.R. Stoddard’s Lake George. It’s been a dream come true, as I first “met” S. R. Stoddard in 1977, when the Chapman Historical Museum was offered its huge Stoddard Collection. I was the museum’s Director then and under the leadership of its Board Chairman, Dr. Richard C. Merrill, Stoddard’s great legacy was brought home for all to enjoy.
Here’s a bit of history on S. R. Stoddard. He was born in Wilton, NY, in 1843. He began his career in 1862 in Troy, NY, as a painter of interior murals for railway cars, then moved to Glens Falls in 1864. In 1867, he began photographing professsionally, taking his earliest iamges in and around Glens Falls. He started photographing Lake George in 1868. He quickly moved into the rest of the Adirondacks and by 1872 was photographing the entirety of them.
Also by 1872, Stoddard was writing very readable, humorous and popular guidebooks for Lake George and the Adirondacks, reminiscent in humor and pithiness to Mark Twain. Only two years later he was producing excellent maps for those regions. Some were later adopted as official maps by the State of New York and became standards over the decades to come.
But Stoddard’s genius was in his photography. Fine arts scholars have ranked him among the greatest 19th century American photographers, including William Henry Jackson, Timothy O’Sullivan, and Mathew Brady, Carlton E. Watkins. The National Gallery of Art placed his photographic compositions on a parallel with those of Hudson River School painters.
Stoddard was a household name by the 1880s. An ardent conservationist, he greatly influenced the New York State Legislature, with lantern slides of his Adirondack photographs, to create the Adirondack Park in 1892. While he went on to photograph throughout the United States, Europe and the Middle East, he repeatedly returned to Lake George, which he photographed until shortly before he died in Glens Falls in 1917.
So there you have a brief introduction to S.R. Stoddard. Get to know him and his art even better with Water & Light: S.R. Stoddard’s Lake George. It’s being offered in softbound for $29.95 and hardcover for $49.95, plus tax, shipping and handling. For further information, or to order, go to the Chapman’s website, call the Chapman at 518-793-2826 or visit the Chapman at 348 Glens Street, Glens Falls, NY 12801. [Click for map.]