Fred Payne Clatworthy—Landscape Photographer

ART AND PROGRESS—October, 1914

 

I

N one of the lovely Alpine valleys—high in the Rocky Mountains which form what is called Estes Park, Colorado, is the studio of the artist photographer, four of whose pictures [too dark to scan] are reproduced in this number of ART AND PROGRESS.

Mr. Clatworthy is primarily a lover of nature, especially in her grandest and loneliest aspects. He has followed her call through all the beauty spots of the West, usually on foot and with only a camera as his sole means of expression. His chosen work has required an open-air life far from the encroachments of man, tramps of literally thousands of miles and inexhaustible enthusiasm for natural beauty wherever found.

The enlarged photographs in sepia exhibited in his studio show the scenes he loves best—snow-capped mountain peaks, purple shadowed canyons, rushing mountain torrents and quiet glacial lakes, misty waterfalls, lonely outstanding pine trees, snow scenes, alluring mountain trails and roads through pine forests and steep rocky ascents. Like the Japanese he has one particular mountain which dominates most of his Rocky Mountain scenes, and Long's Peak has been pictured from every point of vantage as the eternal brooding spirit over all the mountain landscape.

In the pursuit of adequate expression for what he has been privileged to see he has developed a remarkable technique and his "instinctive sense of selection and intuitive feeling for composition" have served to place his work on a plane which good authorities have declared to be unexcelled in his particular field. His pictures are composed and taken with infinite care though the selection of subject, the viewpoint and lighting are matters of instinctive choice, often made when not in pursuit of pictures. In such cases he will return to the scenes determined upon and wait for hours for the right lights and shadows or actually in part compose the foreground which he considers to be two-thirds the artistic value of his pictures. Often his photographic trips may be entirely barren of results, the artist in him knowing whether his camera box encloses any real "pictures." Others may copy his identical viewpoints, but, ignoring some of the delicate values, fail to secure the artistic ensemble. He affirms that it is in the composition of the picture, not in the perfection of the lens, that success lies, much of his best work having been done when he has had along only a cheap camera. He does not care for what he calls "mere effects," being interested chiefly in depicting characteristic landscapes. In Colorado, the land of sunshine and clear-as-crystal atmosphere, he delights to interpret the sharp outlines of the mountains with sunlight and shadow playing upon them.

Artists with mastery of the technique of painting have in several instances secured ideas in subject and composition from his photographs. Visitors to the scenes he has reproduced are especially impressed with the perfection with which he has caught the characteristic spirit of the scenery, and this explains the satisfaction they feel in possessing his pictures to carry away with them. In the Colorado Rockies Mr. Clatworthy has been particularly fortunate in finding his chosen subjects, but he has been equally happy in views he has secured in the further West. The first chance to secure pictures of the kind he loves best ,vas in a camping trip to the Southwest in 1898 when several hundred photographs were made among the cattle ranches of New Mexico and the cliff dwellings, petrified forest and the Grand Canyon of Arizona. On this trip he walked six hundred miles from central New Mexico to the Grand Canyon, this being before the building of the present railroad. He was often more than one hundred miles from any railroad and carried his photographic 'outfit on the backs of burros over rocky trails to places seldom pictured.

He made his way across the Mojave Desert of California by compass where for miles all trace of the trail was obliterated by drifting sand. Further on the wagon outfit was abandoned for a tramp of a hundred miles to see the natural wonders of the Tonto basin in central Arizona.

The Santa Fe Railroad sent him on a special mission to the Grand Canyon to secure a series of photographs of this most sublime scenery in the world, and one of his sunset pictures secured at that time is considered by a well-known artist who resides there as the finest ever made of the Grand Canyon. Some of these views were selected by John Burroughs in a competition to illustrate his article on the Grand Canyon in The Century Magazine, January, 1911.

Mr. Clatworthy has also made some pictures in the Yosemite and along the California coast. His work has been frequently reproduced in such magazines as World's Work, Country Life, The Outlook and Century, and he has been asked to furnish enlarged transparencies and photographs for the Government exhibits at the Buffalo and San Francisco-Panama expositions.

He believes that there are a dozen different localities in North America where the opportunity for artistic pictures of natural scenery are equal to and some possibly surpass anything the Old World can offer. In fact, he feels that few real artists have yet attempted to reproduce our matchless natural scenery. Even such places as the Yosemite and the Grand Canyon have only been attempted and few really great pictures have been made of them. He believes that by far the best are yet to come.