Thursday, December 18, 2014

black mountain college in color

when we think of black mountain college, we think in black and white.

we think they taught in black and white,

learned in black and white,

worked in black and white,

and ate in black in white.

last spring, during a research visit to the western regional archives, i found the photographs of nell goldsmith. nell was a student at black mountain college from 1942-44. she studied architecture with larry kocher, drawing with josef albers, and weaving with anni albers. and in her spare time, she took photographs. color photographs.

(this photo and all the color photos that follow come from the nell goldsmith heyns collection at the western regional archives. i have archived a portion of the collection as a flickr set.)

through nell's lens, we get a whole new take on the college. we see the blues of lake eden and the beiges of the farm.

through nell's lens, we see black mountain college during the war years, when nearly all male students joined the war and the student population became almost entirely female.

with war-time restrictions on building materials and the studies building largely finished, the college shifted focus from building to farming. the farm was run by farmer ross penley, evangelized by college treasurer/math professor ted dreier, and managed by woodworking professor/BMC MVP molly gregory. in nell goldsmith's photo below, we see molly gregory (right) - in color! - with student patricia "patsy" lynch.

during the war years, the farm's student farmers were almost entirely female. i have been studying the farm for the last few years and i've always been struck by this unique stage of the farm's history. during the war, the farm was incredibly productive, supplying the college with seasonal vegetables, all of their dairy (milk and butter), and occasional beef, pork, and poultry.

i used to think of the war-time farm and its student farmers in black and white, like this

and this

now, through nell's lens, i see some of them -- including, below, jane "slats" slater (BMC student, 1940-45), patsy lynch (BMC student, 1942-48), and mary brett daniels (BMC student 1943-45) -- in color.


Ivan Chew said...

Intuitively I got the "b/w" vs "colour", and then it made me think why I thought there would be a difference in perception. Maybe b/w has simpler and basic tonal values and connotates less complexity (we are more detached, while we perceive colour as closer to our current reality and more complex. I wonder what would be your perceived differences, David. If at all.

david silver said...

good question, ivan.

to me, the black and white feels more historic, more archival, and therefore a bit more separated from our lived experience. the color photos, though, for me at least, make it all more alive, more near. plus, the setting is so beautiful that when you see the colors - the blues, the greens - i mean, come on. =)