The opening exhibit of 2019 at Josephy Center for Arts and Culture explores the area’s history through early photos and photographers
“History in Photos from Wallowa County” opens Sunday from 3-5 p.m. at the museum, located at 403 N. Main St., Joseph. David Weaver of the Wallowa History Center chose the photos from his own collection, the Wallowa History Center Collection, and from family photos brought in to the center during the past few weeks. The exhibit remains on display through Monday, Feb. 25.
Wallowa County has gained a reputation for its art and artists in recent years, but photographers were roaming the area and sometimes setting up shop in a storefront in Enterprise or Wallowa from the earliest days of white settlement. They were undoubtedly the area’s first professional artists, said Rich Wandschneider, director of Josephy Library of Western History and Culture.
The exhibit, which features about 50 photos with captions, and in some cases brief essays explaining the context and naming the photographer, is a “sampling.” Because family portraits were common, and with the invention of cheap cameras and advent of “postcard” photos in the early 1900s, taking photos of homes, camping, fishing, and hunting trips, trains, airplanes and football games was fair game for all, Wandschneider said.
“We know that there are thousands of photos still in albums and closets,” he added. “And we hope that you will be inspired by this exhibit to do your own family photo history exploration.”
One of the photos on display features the Enterprise “Red Shirts” football team taken in the winter of 1902 at the Wallowa County Fairgrounds by Sterling C. Smith (1866-1936). It’s one of the earliest known photographs of a county football team and shows a crowd of 100 or more fans assembled to watch the game.
According to local history, the earliest Wallowa County football teams were clubs comprised of men, young or otherwise, tough enough to play the game. In later years, teams were formed in each of the high schools. Leather helmets and matching uniforms followed the development of school teams. The rivalry, then as now, was fierce between the valley communities and closely followed by fans.
Visitors to the exhibit might also have comments on the photos on display — and the Josephy Center welcomes them. The center is exploring the possibility of posting more photos on its website.