Fielder slide show tonight

Photographer draws on historical perspective

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John Fielder returns to Steamboat Springs tonight to regale his audience with the mystery of the giant boulder and the long-dead horse. Along the way, he'll also raise doubts about "digitally altered" images from the 1870s.

Colorado's best-known photographer, Fielder will make two public appearances here, one tonight and another Thursday morning.

Slide show and book signing

7 to 8:30 p.m. Wednesday (doors open at 6:30 p.m.), ballroom of the Steamboat Grand Resort Hotel. The photographer will discuss his new book, part 2 of " Colorado 1870 2000." Forty percent of the proceeds of book sales will go to the nonprofit Community Alliance of the Yampa Valley. Admission is $5

Photography workshop

8 to 9:30 a.m. Thursday at Depot Art Center. Meet John Fielder and ask questions about his work. The cost is $20 in advance and $25 at the door. Contact Maggie Berglund at 879-6252 or magie@wccongress.org.

He is returning to Steamboat to promote his new book, "Colorado 1870 2000 II," in a benefit for the Community Alliance of the Yampa Valley. The new book is a continuation of his best-selling 1999 effort to pair "then and now" photos of Colorado landscapes about 130 years apart. Fielder traveled thousands of miles across the state to place his tripod in the same locations where frontier photographer William Henry Jackson stood in the late 1800s.

Everyone who has traveled the Four Corners region has gazed at massive boulders that have tumbled from sheer sandstone cliffs to lie improbably in a sagebrush flat. And they've wondered what it would have been like to witness the event. At one point during tonight's slide show, Fielder promises a graphic illustration of the consequences that might be expected.

There is thoughtful intent behind Fielder's landscape work. Like most nature photographers, he seeks to inspire a sense of wonder with his photographs. But he also hopes that by looking back in time, he will inspire readers to contemplate the future of the Colorado landscape.

"When I set out to make these photographs, I hoped it would be fun to see the changes that have taken place," Fielder said. "But I wanted people to think carefully about what is important. I hope people will draw a line from 1870 to the present and look ahead 100 years and ask, 'Are we doing right by Colorado?'"

The first "Colorado Then and Now" book captured the imagination of Coloradans and Westerners -- there are more than 135,000 in print. However, Fielder, best known for landscapes of undisturbed natural landscapes, could not include all of the image pairs in the initial book. The new book offers 108 additional looks at the change wrought on the landscape by a quarter and a century of human habitation and industriousness.

During the slide show tonight, don't be surprised if Fielder reveals that Jackson wasn't above reproach. The intent behind Jackson's mission to photograph Colorado's beauty was one of manifest destiny, Fielder said. His aim was to attract more settlers to the region.

Perhaps that explains why, in Jackson's photo of the Mount of the Holy Cross, there appears a beautiful cascade that doesn't show up in Fielder's modern image, and in fact, was never there. A century before computer image editing software was invented, Jackson is thought to have etched the image of the water fall and plunge pool beneath it, into his glass-plate negative.

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