Capturing the Adirondacks

seneca ray stoddard canoe nysm

"The Way it Looks from the Stern Seat"

An exhibit of work by early 1900s Adirondack photographer Seneca Ray Stoddard opened Friday at the State Museum. Blurbage:

Seneca Ray Stoddard: Capturing the Adirondacks is open through February 24, 2013 in Crossroads Gallery. It includes over 100 of Stoddard's photographs, an Adirondack guideboat, freight boat, camera, copies of Stoddard's books and several of his paintings. There also are several Stoddard photos of the Statue of Liberty and Liberty Island. These and other items come from the State Museum's collection of more than 500 Stoddard prints and also from the collections of the New York State Library and the Chapman Historical Museum in Glens Falls.

The museum says it's the first time it's exhibited these photos from its collection. It's also created a mini-site online to highlight the photos -- definitely worth a look.

Stoddard himself is an interesting story. He was born in Wilton in 1844, and started his career as an ornamental painter at a railroad car factory in Green Island. Stoddard was one of the first people to photograph the Adirondacks, using a method that sounds like a tremendous hassle. His photos and guidebooks played a big part in making the Adirondacks a tourist destination.

It's interesting to us think about what motivates someone to basically drag an entire dark room through the Adirondacks. It makes sense. There's something about photographing a place and telling other people you were there that's a very strong draw -- even today. Facebook, Flickr, and Instagram are full of place photos. It's just a lot easier now.

We wonder what he would have done with an iPhone.

photo: Seneca Ray Stoddard via New York State Museum


Seneca Ray Stoddard wasn't even the only one dragging gigantic box cameras, formidable tripods and jugs of chemistry across the rutted roads and barely cut trails of the Adirondacks, but he was definitely one of the best. There's also a notable book called "Exposing the Wilderness" that highlights the works of five early twentieth-century postcard photographers from various reaches of the park.

Two generations of my father's family were among the earliest Adirondack guides. I keep hoping someday I'll realize one of them is peering out at me from one of Stoddard's amazing photographs.

Very cool, I gotta see this. Thanks for the heads up!

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