Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Horsted on photos - Then & Now

Photographer Paul Horsted of Custer has unveiled new information about an early-day photographer with the Custer expedition, William Henry Illingworth.

“We owe him (Illingworth) a lot for recording pictures of the Black Hills,” Horsted told members of the Spearfish Area Historical Society during their January meeting (1/6/09).

A near record turnout of history buffs crowded in to the Senior Citizen’s Center to see the work of Horsted and hear about his latest project. His beautiful tome The Black Hills Then & Now has become something of a collector’s item, following his 2002 book, Exploring with Custer, which mapped the 1874 Custer expedition through the Black Hills.

Once a staff photographer for the Sioux Falls Argus-Leader, Horsted later served as Chief Photographer for the South Dakota Tourism Department before becoming an independent photographer and publisher 15 years ago. Samples of his work can be found on his website

Horsted’s trademark style juxtapositions contemporary photographs alongside historic photos of the hills region. It’s a technique that has won him great acclaim. But more than that, Horsted has demonstrated great skill as a researcher, adding immensely to his demonstrated photographic skills.

The Black Hills Yesterday & Today includes 150 images from some 50 photographers, including Illingworth. The photos date from mid-1870s into the 1930s. Horsted shared new information about Illingworth, noting that when he and an Illlingworth descendant tracked down the family burial site in St. Paul, Minnesota, they discovered that one of the Illingworth graves had been marked that very day!

During his presentation, Horsted not only paid homage to those photographers who’ve gone before, he gave full acknowledgement to some of those persons instrumental in his latest publication – especially his wife, Camille, who did the design work, and Ernest Grafe, who did the editing. He also expressed gratitude to the many landowners who’ve given access to their property. He noted that photographs came from many collections – and he specifically mentioned the Journey Museum in Rapid City, the Adams Museum in Deadwood, and the old photographs made available by the Spearfish Area Historical Society.

Horsted provided some insight into how he has incorporated new and emerging technologies into helping identify and locate the sites where many of the old photographs were taken. Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) and Google Earth are resources routinely tapped by Horsted. Of course, digital photography – rather than film – has become his dominant method for capturing images.

“If you can find the background, you can usually find your way to the foreground,” said Horsted, whose success at this technique is vividly documented in his books.

Horsted says it takes him about three years to research, photograph, write and publish a book. His next publication is tentatively named Crossing the Plains with Custer, a companion to his 2002 book. It will be published later this year, likely before November 1st. You'll find a few more snapshots of Horsted's January presentation in our Spearfish Area History Gallery.