Vintage Ski Photography Exhibition: Ray Atkeson, “Ski and Snow” at the Duncan Miller Gallery

Posted By: The Ski Channel on March 12, 2012 4:33 pm

The Ski Industry has come a long way over the past century. Resorts have proliferated across the globe with nature-defying snowmaking capabilities and offer all the creature comforts one could imagine (slope-side Starbucks anyone?). Equipment has evolved leaps and bounds to improve fun and exhibit space-aged style on the slopes — and our athletes have progressed to a level where a subtle increase in jump height could potentially send them into orbit!

While the ski industry has never been one to resist technological advancement there is still an underlying desire hold on to the simpler times of the sport. Such is the draw for exhibits like the one currently going on in LA’s Duncan Miller Gallery where there is an incredible showing that features the life’s work of world-renowned photographer and skier Ray Atkeson.

Ray Atkeson is considered to be one of the ski industry’s first action sports photographers. Born in 1907, Atkeson was at his prime during the early days of resort skiing and captured some of the most iconic imagery of the era. His name and work is commonly featured alongside notable contemporaries such as Ansel Adams. Despite being limited to ski areas with few (if any) chairlifts, and photography equipment that weighed well-over 50 pounds he found a way to be in the right place at the right time. Atkeson’s photography captured some of the industry’s first extreme athletes in action along with mountain scenery that only becomes more epic as time goes on. Ray Atkeson has been the subject of an unprecedented photography exhibition currently taking place in Los Angeles at the Duncan Miller Gallery. The series began at the end of February and will continue through March 17th. The reemergence of these photos has attracted skiers from across the country to experience these exquisite works of art.

Snoqualmie Pass, WA, 1954

Gallery Director Dan Miller originally sought to put on an exhibit featuring works depicting the advent of the ski industry. Upon contacting various collections and archives he came across the Ray Atkeson Collection which has been stored in a vault for over 50 years. Miller recognized that the prolific nature of Atkeson’s photography and contribution to the ski industry warranted its very own showing.

“A very limited number of the vintage prints are available — perhaps even on or two prints per image — and that’s why they continue to hold so much value,” Miller explains.

Atkeson was a pioneer in the sport of skiing and within his craft as a photographer. He began photographing landscapes across the nation’s northwest during the 1930s. Over the next twenty years he became incredibly well known, and through his diligence amassed a collection of original prints that masterfully depict the early days of skiing in the West. Atkeson spent a great deal of time photographing throughout the Cascades at Sun Valley, Alta and Mount Shasta.

Even though the sport was just a budding entity in American culture, Atkeson had an astute awareness of what aspects were significant to skiing from an artistic perspective. His use of space and details, such as ski and boot tracks, exposed the mass public to the sport of skiing in a way that communicated the incomparable sensation of being amongst these pristine natural environments.

Mt Baker, WA, 1949

Ray would typically rise long before sunrise to begin his ascent up the mountain. He was very dedicated to getting the shot, and in order to accomplish his photography goals he would need to be on the slopes even before the first skier of the day got their boots on. His photos are extremely well detailed thanks to his use of large-format 4×5 camera, resulting in rich mountain scenery and unmatched action shots.

Mt Baker, WA, circa 1940s

Throughout his long career, Atkeson photographed such notable figures as Hollywood film star Errol Flynn and even boasts a vintage shot of the legendary Warren Miller during his days as a Squaw Vally ski instructor. Miller partnered with Atkeson to provide the text for Ski and Snow Country: The Golden Years of Skiing in the West, 1930s-1950s. Atkeson published nine books in all throughout his career and was featured in National Geographic, Time, Readers Digest, Life, Saturday Evening Post and Popular Photography. He was even featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated, Nov 23, 1957.  In 1976 Ray Atkeson was named Photographer Laureate of Oregon. The archive of Atekson’s quarter-million+ images resides in the Special Collections and University Archives in the Knight Library at the University of Oregon, as well as in several public institutions.

Atkeson’s photographs appear alongside his peers Ansel Adams, Edward Weston, Dorothea Lange, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Richard Avedon, Lillian Bassman, Eliot Porter and others in several collections, including Ansel Adam’s This is the American Earth (1960), U.S. Camera’s The Best of 1957 and John Steinbeck’s America and Americans (1960). 

The exhibition’s closing celebration will take place at Duncan Miller Gallery on Friday, March 16th from 7:00-10pm. It’s going to be an exciting evening. The exhibit is absolutely inspiring and it will be a great opportunity to class it up with your fellow ski enthusiasts!

See you there! Please rsvp to: info@duncanmillergallery.com.


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