It is time that I tell you about the This is America! Foundation. I have been remiss in not doing so, especially since I am on the Foundation’s Board of Directors. The pictures featured on today’s posting will come into focus as you learn more about the Foundation’s work and its founders.
Ted Landphair is a long-time close friend and former colleague. We worked together at a radio station in Washington, D.C. for just short of a decade throughout the 1970’s. We rose through the ranks while there, each of us eventually becoming a department head, he News and I Programming. We then went our separate ways, both of us staying in radio and both of us maintaining our friendship. We are retired now…well, I know I am, but I am not so sure Ted is.
Ted remarried in the late 1980’s and his life, from that point on, would never be the same. That’s because he married the “energizer bunny.” Her name is Carol Highsmith. She also worked with us at the radio station in Washington, but when she left, she changed her career. Carol liked two things: history and taking photographs that would help preserve it. Her first major project that put her in the album titled Soon to be Famous American Photographers, was chronicling the restoration of the landmark Willard Hotel in Washington. It resulted in a lot of media attention, recognition in the architectural restoration community and notoriety among the who’s who in the nation’s Capital. Other similar historical projects followed, along with a growing reputation as one of the country’s outstanding architectural photographers. Simply said, within her genre, Carol Highsmith has become a rock star! But this is just the beginning of the story about my friends, Carol and Ted.
Ted’s background as a journalist married well, not only to the lady, but to what she did. The two of them went on to publish a pile of coffee table books featuring Carol’s photographs and Ted’s meticulous text. Also piling up were enough projects to keep both of them busy for years to come. If you go to amazon.com and do a search for “Carol Highsmith and Ted Landphair” you will scroll through four amazon pages listing the unbelievable number of coffee table books they have produced. These feature profiles of many states of our nation, various historic landmarks, monuments in D.C., the World Trade Center, and lots more. It is a jaw-dropping collection of lavish photographic journals. If you like your jaw dropping enough to hit the floor, then google “Carol Highsmith” and get ready to feel inadequate regarding how much of a “doer” you may consider yourself to be.
Today, Carol and Ted work long hours, seven days a week, as they have been for several years and will continue for many more to come. They are rarely home because they have many miles to drive, many places to see, many people to meet and many, many pictures to take. Their SUV is loaded with all the necessary supplies from socks to wide-angle lenses. Ted serves as driver, writer, administrative assistant and grip while Carol lugs her gear to incredible heights, through tretchorous terrain and to wherever and whatever it takes to get the shot.
Carol has obviously been inspired by our country’s history, especially its structural content. Her inspiration intensifies as structures–large and small, famous and not, usual or just plain weird–are threatened to be torn down or decay and eventually disappear. She is in a hurry to document them for all the world to see us—you and me and our country—as we exist here in the beginning the 21 Century.
Through the years, and through the lenses of other famous photographers before her, Carol came to a decision that she would donate her entire collection of photographs to the Library of Congress so that anyone who wants to use them can do so…FOR FREE! Thus evolved the concept for the This is America! Foundation whose mission it is to photograph an extensive pictorial “snapshot” of America, state by state. It will ensure that those who follow us will have easy access to an incredible collection of well over 100,000 views of just about anything representative of the people and places in America today.
As an afterthought for your consideration is the fact that both Ted and Carol are well into their retirement years. That’s one picture neither one of them quite gets. See and learn more about this incredible undertaking at http://www.thisisamericafoundation.org/ Contributors are always welcome.