A Look Back in Black & White
Recently I have spent some time reading about early photography in the west, and when I could find it, Wyoming. One man that comes to the forefront of early Wyoming photographers is Charles Josiah Belden.
|Beldon was so well known, that Stetson made a hat called the Belden - Here he is wearing it|
Most of his Wyoming work was in and around Meeteetse. Belden was born in San Francisco in 1887. He graduated from MIT in 1910, then toured Russia, with an MIT friend, Eugene Phelps, who would later become his brother in law, taking photos with his first camera. After coming back to America, Belden stayed on the west coast for a few months but eventually found his way to Wyoming and his good friend’s ranch. By 1912 he was working as a ranch hand and in 1913 married his friend’s sister. She was Francis Phelps, the sister of his good friend Eugene Phelps. When he married Miss Phelps, it was into the family that owned the world famous, quarter of a million acre, Pitchfork Ranch. For the next twenty years, Belden photographed and published photos in widely read national publications. Most of the photos were from in and around the stunning mountain area of the ranch.
|Charles Belden raised and sold Pronghorn to zoos all over the country. |
For the rest, of his time in Wyoming, he was called Antelope Charlie.
He even sold a few, air transported to Germany by the Hindenburg.
With the economy strained the ranch was turned partially into a dude ranch before 1920, and by the 1930s was in financial trouble. Things turned from bad to worse and the Belden’s divorced in 1940. Soon after, Charles Belden moved to Florida with his new wife. Belden would become a world class photographer and journalist working for National Geography, Life Magazine, and the Saturday Evening Post, and many others, taking on assignments around the world. Mr. Belden lived on until 1966 in St Petersburg, where, suffering from health problems, he took his own life.
It is interesting that although he was one of the world’s best known and most hired photographers, his best work was in Wyoming.
The American Heritage Center at the University of Wyoming holds a large collection of photographs and negatives taken by Belden. If you would like to know more Wyoming PBS has a wonderful half hour documentary that can be viewed online here.
|Remains of the old Fort Laramie Hospital|
Don’t be continually wishing you had a better camera. Learn to know your machine.
If a picture does not tell a story, it’s not worth taking.
Charles J. Belden
All of today's photos are in black and white in honor of Mr. Belden's work.
|Cloud Shrouded Laramie Peak over Guernsey Lake|