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Winter Prather

 

“Back in the fifties, I had sensed the zeitgeist of the time…that is why my photos are always so different from other ‘technically perfect’ photos.  Truly, I am a camera." 

Winter Prather

 

Though an authoritative history of Colorado photography has yet to be written, a number of photographers who worked in the state have already been rediscovered, some of them internationally.  At the turn of the 19th century, and into the first years of the 20th, master class artists such as William Henry Jackson and William Pennington made solid contributions to the glass plate negative era.  Then Laura Gilpin set a national standard in modernist photography in the ‘20s and ‘30s.  Her protégé, Myron Wood, did the same from the ‘50s to the ‘70s, and Robert Adams, who learned the craft from Wood, emerged as a nationally significant photographer, beginning in the 1970s.

 

Another photographer that needs to be added to this august group, but who has been mostly forgotten, is Winter Prather, who spent much of his time in Denver, and who produced a remarkable body of highly heterogeneous work in the medium during the second half of the 20th century.

 

Prather died on March 18, 2005 in abject poverty.  Living in a nursing home, he suffered from mental problems, exacerbated by his lifelong interest in the irrationality of mysticism.  Luckily he did have the wherewithal to preserve some of the records documenting his career, and in the 1990s he obsessively wrote extensive notes about his glorious past as well as his then-unfortunate circumstances.

 

His writings reveal his extreme bitterness and his belief that he was underappreciated considering his formidable talent.  It’s hard to argue with this assessment, since when he died, he was not even the subject of an obituary in the newspapers.  However, there were some in the community who valued his work and so the documents he left behind wound up, not in the trash can, as could be expected, but in the archives of the Colorado Historical Society.  The society’s Prather file reveals in scattered pieces, the story of the career of a notable Colorado artist.  It also demonstrates that he had almost no understanding of how the real world worked, and for this reason, it’s amazing he did not wind up homeless, and, as a consequence, had his work blown to the four winds.

 

Excerpt from The Blink of an Eye

Forward By Michael Paglia

 

 

 

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