In The Spirit
Robert Lindholms Visual Verbal Connection

"...I realized that science and aviation were good or evil according to their use, and that their usefulness must be judged."
--Charles A. Lindbergh, Autobiography of Values"
Photos© 2003, Robert Lindholm, All Rights Reserved

Words matter.

Of course a writer's going to say that, but most photographers will agree that while the image carries the message, the words that accompany it can illuminate and interpret, and often increase the impact of the photograph. But it works both ways: if words give voice to the image, then in return the image gives weight to the words.

"Preserving the environment is inseparable from maintaining our heredity itself."
--Charles A. Lindbergh, "Autobiography of Values"

Some 20 years ago photographer Robert Lindholm read in the St. Louis Art Museum some of the writings of Charles Lindbergh, and the aviator's views on conservation and the importance of preserving the environment had an immediate appeal. "I was very impressed by what he'd written," Bob says, "and by what he observed. Basically he was saying that we need to fit our use of technology to the natural world, and not overwhelm nature. Several years later I read more of his work and began to write down certain quotations."

At the time, Bob was an environmental attorney, working in the Missouri Attorney General's office. "I worked mostly with clean water laws, drawing up documents for their enforcement. I also worked with various commissions, like the clean water commission and the dam safety commission." He was also a dedicated photographer who used his skills to portray the beauty and dignity of the natural landscape.

"Is civilization progress?...We have no proof whatever that the five or six thousand years of civilization...have improved man's fundamental qualities..."
--Charles A. Lindbergh, "Autobiography of Values"

In true "six degrees of separation" fashion, it turned out that the Attorney General's wife knew one of Charles Lindbergh's granddaughters. Bob got in touch with her and then with other family members. His idea was to find images among his work that would complement Lindbergh's words. "Over the years I've always made sure that what I was doing with the quotations was in agreement with their thoughts," Bob says. "I always looked for photographs I'd taken that corresponded to the sentiments of the writing." It was not in any way an effort to provide a literal connection. "If he talked about a mountain, I didn't go looking for a photograph of a mountain. It was all about the spirit of what he was saying."

From the first, Bob appreciated Lindbergh's unique vantage point. "He was very accomplished in many fields," Bob has written, "and his multiple talents and interests played a part in his concern for the earth, certainly including his flights over so much of the earth at an altitude allowing him to observe the changes taking place."

"How beautiful and simple life really is, and how complicated man tries to make it. He worships God on the one hand; tries to improve upon him on the other."
--Charles A. Lindbergh, "The Wartime Journals of Charles A. Lindbergh"

The Result Of His Efforts
Perspectives on the Land, an exhibition of Bob's landscape photographs and Lindbergh's words on the environment, has toured the country, and will be on view again shortly, thanks to the efforts of the Sternberg Museum of Natural History, a department of Fort Hays State University, in Hays, Kansas. The images you see here are from that exhibit. They are paired with excerpts from the Lindbergh quotations that accompany them.

Bob has been taking pictures for over 25 years, and his interest has always been twofold: to show what is here right now to be appreciated and protected; and to reveal what has been damaged and is about to be lost because of lack of concern or attention. In recognition of his work on behalf of conservation, he received in 1986 the Ansel Adams award from the Sierra Club.

Although he does color photography, he prefers to work in black and white--"I think it gets closer to the emotions"--and shoots many of his landscape images with two much-used Pentax 67s. He does his own black and white processing in a darkroom he describes fondly as "a mess." He uses Luminos and Ilford papers and Ethol LPD developer. Like many darkroom practitioners, he advises selecting a single film and developer combination and working with it until you thoroughly understand its capabilities.

"Real wisdom is content to walk hand in hand with nature and with life."
--Charles A. Lindbergh, "The Wartime Journals of Charles A. Lindbergh"

The American Landscape
When we spoke, Bob was looking forward to the culmination of another long-term project. For 15 years he has been photographing in the footsteps of the Swiss painter Karl Bodmer, who in 1832 accompanied Prince Maximilian of Germany on the prince's Boston to Montana expedition. Bodmer's commission was, according to the University of Nebraska, "to make detailed illustrations of the life, habits, and customs of the Indians." In doing so, Bodmer also created detailed portraits of the American landscape of that time, and Bob's photographs, taken from positions as close as possible to those used by Bodmer, reveal the changes that time and development have brought to the land.

"The photos also show how accurate Bodmer was," Bob says, "and because he was so accurate, you can clearly see what's changed. One of the scenes he painted was of the Delaware Water Gap. Today you not only see the natural changes in the land, but also a highway and railroad tracks."

The result of Bob's efforts will be a book, Rivers Across Time, which is scheduled to be published next year. "So much of the route Bodmer took was the same as Lewis and Clark's," Bob says, "and 2004 is the 200th anniversary of their journey."

Note: Online sources for more about Robert Lindholm's photography and projects include Courtyard Gallery at www.courtyardgallery.com and the Sternberg Museum of Natural History at www.fhsu.edu/sternberg.

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