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Carol Highsmith: Generosity of Spirit

Posted by Laurie Frost on May 27, 2009

I had a lovely surprise in my email this morning: notification of a comment from Carol Highsmith regarding an earlier post,  “Is Carol M. Highsmith the Most Generous Artist of Our Time?”.

Carol Highsmith is a highly regarded photographer who is donating her work, as it is created, to the Library of Congress and placing it in the public domain for free use, asking only for a credit line.

I cannot tell you how exceptional this is.

Anyway, this is what Ms. Highsmith wrote me.

Thank you for running this feature about my work. Yes, I am dedicated to leaving behind a large body of work depicting America during the turn of the 21st Century just as Frances Benjamin Johnston did 100 years ago. 90% of my collection is either on 4×5 film or my current 39 megapixel Phase One camera. I work in large format so that 100 years from now people can study each image and see the detail.

There was a book published about Ms. Johnston entitled “A Talent for Detail” and since she is my mentor, I want to follow exactly in her footsteps. I travel throughout America most of the year documenting everything and often going way out of my way to catch something small or special that I think might be appreciated 200 – 2000 years from now. Route 66, back roads, small town America, urban neighborhoods, national parks, aerials and much more. I love what I do.

And this is what she does (LA descriptions are Highsmith’s as well):

First stop: Los Angeles.



 The (1954) sign, as much as the baked goods, is the lure at Randy’s Donuts, in Inglewood, California. One roadside-attractions website notes that because of its proximity to an L.A. freeway, the sign gets frequent ’smog and soot scrubs.|04/07/05|01409 (digital file from LC-HS503-532)

Mann’s (formerly Grauman’s) Chinese Theatre is the ultimate Hollywood tourist attraction, with crowds often jamming the patio to inspect handprints of movie stars. The opening of Grauman’s in 1927 was the most spectacular theater opening in film history. 04/07/05, LC-DIG-pplot-13725-01364 (digital file from LC-HS503-489)

Then back east to Virginia:

Washington & Lee University Liberty Hill Ruins in Lexington, Virginia, 9/29/02, LC-DIG-pplot-13600-01214 (digital file from LC-HS503-363)


And finally, this great shot. Can you guess what this is?


Second floor corridor. Library of Congress Thomas Jefferson Building, Washington, D.C.[LC-DIG-highsm-03179]


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