For the first time, the public will be able to see the Alpine photography of George L. Kinkade when a new exhibit opens Wednesday at the White River Valley Museum in Auburn.
The exhibit is comprised of 33 of the 369 images that were donated to the museum after Kinkade’s death in 1975. The photographs featured in the exhibit are those Kinkade selected himself to display in club exhibits, for contests and to publish in the Photographic Society of America Journal from the 1930s through 1950s.
Kinkade worked in the 1930s-1940s as a typesetter and printer for the Auburn Globe-Republican. Along with his 45-year newspaper career, Kinkade helped create the Northwest International Exhibition of Photography at what was then called the Puyallup Fair.
Each image is accompanied by comments from his own writings discussing the photographic process, wilderness experiences and his philosophies on photography and life, museum director Patricia Cosgrove said. Also on display is his ice axe and early number REI membership card.
Kinkade shot in locations considered inaccessible by many today, hiking into mountains without advantages like logging or Forest Service roads, high-tech equipment or modern outerwear, Cosgrove said.
“The level of skill and knowledge it took to get where he went is remarkable,” she said.
Among the dozens of images on display are a series featuring ice caves and glaciers, many of which are no longer in existence or deemed so unsafe that they are off limits to today’s hikers.
“His photos have the type of detail that shares the vastness of the mountain environment while also humbling the viewer as they stand there in the warm, dry gallery,” Cosgrove said. “At other times his work appears abstract because of his unique cropping. One does not generally expect these qualities of a nature photographer in the 1930s and ’40s. I believe Kinkade’s photos are artistically well ahead of their time.”
The decision to create the exhibit was driven by a museum patron and fan of Kinkade’s.
“While we owned this vast collection of prints, to be honest, we really didn’t appeciate it,” Cosgrove said. A museum patron who lives in California, and was in some of these Alpine photo clubs with Kinkade, really opened our eyes to what we had.”
WHITE RIVER VALLEY MUSEUM
What: The museum’s collections focus on Puget Sound history, native culture of the Northwest, Japanese immigration and the Northern Pacific Railway.
Where: 918 H St. SE, Auburn
HOURS: The museum is open noon-4 p.m. Wednesdays-Sundays. The museum also is open 6-8 p.m. on the first Thursday of each month.
Admission: $5 adults, $2 seniors and children and free for children 2 or younger. Admission is free for everyone all day on the first Thursday and the third Sunday each month.
Information: 253-288-7433, wrvmuseum.org