Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Lynn Whitney Shares Her Vision of Lake Erie in New Photo-book

Lynn Whitney has been fascinated with photography for as long as she can remember and has spent her life turning that fascination into a career. After over a decade of photographing the Lake Erie landscape, Whitney has put her work together to create a new photo book called Lake Erie.

Whitney was first introduced to photography in her hometown in Massachusetts by her father, a WWII veteran who was asked to take photos as they were liberating the concentration camps. Her father was always taking pictures and videos as Whitney grew up, which inspired her to do the same.

In college, she continued to pursue photography and, at first had doubts about whether it was the right path for her. Then Whitney and her father saw an image of an androgynous farm boy taken by Paul Strand which helped her realize that photography is what she was meant to do.

“He looked at me and I looked at him in this image and I thought that’s what I want to do,” Whitney said. “Because you can go out and bring home every person, everything you love.”

After that, she became more confident in her photography and began adventuring out meeting new people and visiting new places. One of her other big projects that she is extremely proud of is her work on a farm where she took pictures of the animals. Another is her work with the Army Reserves and taking photos of the sisters at a convent.

Whitney’s camera of choice for all her projects is a view camera, which is a lot more cumbersome than a digital camera and takes longer to set up and take pictures. Then the photos are brought back to a dark room and developed.

“The effort, the physical effort is tied to the emotions and the psychology and it really reinforces the individual identity,” she said.

Whitney moved to the Toledo area in 1987 to teach photography at Bowling Green State University and for a long time tried to avoid Lake Erie because of the environmental challenges it faced in the 60s and 70s.


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Her mother, having grown up in the Toledo area, would tell Whitney stories of Lake Erie. Once she moved near the lake she had a hard time reconciling those stories with the state of the lake at the time.

“But as I came of age in the 1960s and 1970s this memory was upended, of course, by news reports that cast Lake Erie as a less-than-great lake,” Whitney writes in her introduction.

Then in 2009, the Gund Foundation in Cleveland commissioned her to take photos of Lake Erie so she finally made the trip to the lake and began her journey with Lake Erie. Working with the Gund Foundation gave Whitney access to places that she wouldn’t have been able to go on her own. 

This commission made her realize how much potential Lake Erie had, so she continued photographing it. In 2013, the first event that brought about the creation of her book occurred, when her friend and co-worker Dawn Glanz was murdered. Then just a year later she was taking photos in Sandusky and saw a woman watering flowers that looked just like Glanz.

She asked to take a photo of the woman and was kindly granted permission. This photo made her realize that all the images in her Lake Erie collection have some connection to her own story or the female story. Finally, when she retired, Whitney decided it was time to take this collection and create it into something for a larger audience to see.

The book consists of her collection of photos of Lake Erie spanning across the 96-mile stretch between Toledo and Cleveland known as the lake’s western basin. There are also three afterward in the book, one from Robin Reisenfeld that gives some of the history of the lake, another by George Bullerjahn, who explains the environmental crises occurring in Lake Erie and the final afterward from Nicholas Nixon, who was an inspiration to Whitney and started her off with the view camera.

On Aug. 10, Whitney is hosting a program at the Toledo Museum of Art where she will discuss her book and her inspiration. Bullerjahn will also be there speaking about the book and the environmental struggles that Lake Erie is still facing today.

For more information or to purchase a copy visit lynnwhitneyphotographs.com.

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