By Sarah Gianelli EBS Associate Editor
BOZEMAN – Photographer James P. Blair spent more than 30 years on the staff of National Geographic covering critical events and topics around the world and close to home. In 1984, the National Geographic Society published a collection of his photography called “Our Threatened Inheritance: Natural Treasures of the United States,” which has since become one of the benchmark publications on U.S. Federal lands.
For the first time, images from the book, which bring the ethereal beauty of America’s public lands into sharp focus through a photojournalist’s lens, have been printed for public display and will be available for sale, exclusively at Bozeman’s Old Main Gallery and Framing.
Old Main Gallery and Framing, which has a sister gallery in Blair’s hometown of Middlebury, Vermont, will host a solo exhibition of 19 of Blair’s images from “Our Threatened Inheritance” through the end of October.
The first public showing of these images is in direct response to the political climate and the uncertainty of the future of U.S. public lands.
“The current Secretary of the Interior comes from here and I hope he will see the photographs and perhaps consider his decisions more carefully,” said 86-year-old Blair, who was in Bozeman for the Oct. 7 opening of the show.
Blair explained that “Our Threatened Inheritance” was a major effort spearheaded by the National Geographic Society in 1983. Blair was the staff photographer assigned to the project. It took him about six months to amass the images for the book.
“The society’s idea was to stop the selling off of the federal estate by then Interior Secretary James Watt,” Blair said. “They were threatened then and are again thanks to the policies of the current administration.”
The original images were shot on Kodachrome. The images were scanned for this project and Blair printed them himself.
Blair studied at the Institute of Design at the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago. As a freelance photographer, Blair has had commissions from the U.S. Information Agency, Time Magazine and Life.
Blair’s photographs are represented in the permanent collections of the National Portrait Gallery in Washington D.C., the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, Maine’s Portland Museum of Art and the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh.
Since retiring from the National Geographic Society in 1994, Blair has continued to photograph and teach.