On August 25, 1916, President Woodrow Wilson signed the act that created the National Park Service, a new federal bureau responsible for protecting the then existing 35 national parks and monuments, as well as those yet to be established. There are many ways to celebrate its 100th birthday, and one of them is by visiting the “Yellowstone National Park Through the Lens of Time” exhibition.
This exhibit compares photographs taken by civil war photographer William Henry Jackson’s Yellowstone in 1871 with local photographer Bradly Boner’s contemporary shots taken from the same vantage point. Validating many decades of conservation efforts, these photographs tell the success story of the National Park Service’s efforts to preserve landscapes considered especially valuable.
“Finding the same vantage point, and then fine-tuning it… Sometimes you just get goose bumps,” Bradley describes the feeling when showing his pictures to NBC. “It was very impressive both how similar things could be, and how different things could be.” He also explains how William Henry Jackson got into photographing Yellowstone, which eventually persuaded Congress to create the world’s first national park, 140 years ago.
On the Kickstarter he launched to crowdfund his project, Bradley writes that he is “comforted to know that my kids, my grand kids, and beyond will have the opportunity to see a Yellowstone that is more-or-less unchanged from when I first experienced it as a child, and from when Jackson first photographed it almost a century and a half earlier.” He describes Yellowstone as “a gift, with all its rivers, canyons, geysers, mountains, and lakes. It has been here for millions of years before we came along. It will remain for millions more when we are gone. But while we are here, it is ours to care for.”
“There were points where I would find individual rocks, like a bowling ball-sized rock, that was sitting in the same place,” said Boner. “Those were the times where you almost feel like you’re looking at a museum or you’re staring through a window into the past.”
– Bradley Boner in a talk with NBC.
The exhibition opened in May and will remain so through August 28 with tickets costing $14 for adults. Bradley also partnered with the University Press of Colorado to produce a large-format, fine-art coffee table book, shipping in February 2017 – the main reason for his Kickstarter project. Watch this video and some more examples below for more comparisons.
All pictures by courtesy of National Museum of Wildlife Art of the United States. All contemporary color photos: © Bradly J. Boner. All historic black & white photos: © William Henry Jackson.