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RECORDING HISTORY WITH PHOTOGRAPHY

As dedicated Photographers we must understand our place in recording the History of People and Places that we Photograph.

Photography is not just about today, but is a recording of our times so that future generations can look back and learn about their past.

It is a legacy we leave to our future
children and grandchildren. We must keep that in mind as we view and photograph the
 World around us.



Since early man first made records of the World around him through cave drawings, man has been obsessed with keeping our history alive for future generations. This is just as true today as has been for thousands of years, From school projects leaving time capsules to photographic records of the Civil War, leaving our mark on history for the future has become our legacy. Now that people have become more aware of their history and study their ancestry, photographers must realize their place in keeping history alive. Photographs of family members and others we know are just a small part of this historical legacy that we create and save for the generations. The World around us is changing at a record speed. I am amazed at the many changes I have seen just in my own lifetime as many cities have changed, old historic buildings are torn down and events unfold around us as much of our past is lost to us. I only mention this as I hope that those who truly care about photography remember that many of the images we capture are not just about the here and now, but what value our work may hold for the generations which follow us.

Always keep your place in history in mind as you make your travels through life and record images of the world around you. Even if you don't work in photojournalism, always open your eyes to change and events around you as you go forth with your camera. Quite frequently it is the amateur who records true history by being in just the right place at the right time. Many of our younger visitors to this site may not recognize the name Abraham Zapruder. But he was an ordinary citizen who had a small home movie camera with him the day that President John F Kennedy was tragicly shot and killed in Texas. This short piece of movie film has gone down in history as one of the most important series of images ever taken with a camera. So I hope that all of us who consider photography as an important part of our lives also realize that we must always keep our eye for events open as we travel around capturing images of the World around us. Someday, the image you take today may have historical importance and be of great interest to our children, grandchildren and beyond.


In my younger years I worked as a freelance photojounalist for local news papers and also did work of this nature in the Army National Guard as well as the volunteer position I still hold as Public Information Coordinator for County Emergency Services. I have photographed local football games, International Sky Flying competitions, Military demolition of old bridges as well as covering local disasters such as Floods and Gas Pipeline explosions. In my 25 years in Law Enforcement, I also photographed everything from recovered crime scene evidence to fatal auto accidents. But even today since I have retired from such things other than my Emergency Services position, I continue to photograph events as I come across them as you never know what future need these images may have so I encourage any dedicated photographer to do the same. But with one caveat - Never interfere or get in the way of emergency personnel as they go about their duties. Their duties come first and all photographers must be mindful of this. The key to gaining access to critical scenes is through mutual respect with the responsible agencies who often put their lives on the line to do their jobs. They do not need to be watching out for what you are doing as they go about their duties. Being a photographer does not give you the right to get in the way or put others at risk.Now on to a few photos that represent my views above.


Wakefield Memorial Bldg photo
Photo Credit: James L Davey - Photo taken in 2006

The Wakefield Memorial Building - An iconic representation of days gone by. At one time it housed city offices, various organizations, a movie theatre and a public swimming pool. It was built in the prosperous days when Iron mines were the chief employer of the Gogebic Range. It honored the  vets of World War 1 and at one time the windows now boarded up in this photo displayed beautiful stainglass representations of the war vets.

Back in my teen years, it was sold to private parties and it had become a motel with a basement restaurant and an addition was added to the East end to handle more guests. Note: (Addition already removed when this photo was taken in 2006) But over the years, this beautful structure fell into disrepair and the building became unfit for occupation.

After sitting unused for years, a former Wakefield resident - Mr. Marvin Suomi who had become involved in the construction field, generously decided to step in and donate to the community by doing what he could to restore this historical site, so he purchased the building with the intent of repairing it and returning it to the city. But alas time and the elements had taken their toll on the structure and it was finally decided that the renovation would be too difficult and expensive of an undertaking. So it was decided that Mr Suomi  would have it torn down and he would construct a new modern building to take it's place. Once completed, the new facility overlooking beautiful Sunday Lake will once again be a focal point in the community housing city offices and various rooms and resources for the local residents.

My thanks to my brother James Davey for the use of this photo he took of the building before demolition started. I know I have some older photos someplace of this structure, but at my age I do tend to misplace things from time to time...
Wakefield Memorial Bldg in Demolition photo
Final Demoltion of the Memorial Building began in 2010 - The end of a local icon.
Photo above taken on July 10th

Rubble of Memorial Building photo
Remains of the Memorial Building as of July 22nd 2010
CM Storage Bldg Fire photo
Way back in my Photojounalism days, I took a number of photos of fires in the area for the newspaper I was freelancing for. Some copies of news photos were later requested by the Fire Marshalls and used in their investigations of any suspicious fires. One series of news fire photos I took of a blaze at a lumber mill had later led to me being hired by the lumber company that suffered the fire loss to take after shots of the damages for their insurance company.

 The above photos were taken years after my newspaper days around the time that I had retired from law enforcement. I was driving home one afternoon when I came across this scene and since I knew a number of the firemen and the police personnel on scene, I was able to gain access to get these images.  I believe this fire occured around 2003 and it was located in a storage building at the C&M Service station in Bessemer.
CM Storage Bldg Fire
Two of the professions that I truly have the greatest respect for are my brothers and sisters in law enforcement and that of our firefighters. Members of both professions risk their lives daily to protect us all. Many people take these professionals for granted but think of what our lives would be without them. Forget your Sports and TV Stars.
The true heroes in our world are our Military, our Police and our Firefighters.

 This photo is dedicated to firefighters everywhere
 who go into harms way on our behalf.
Old Mine Building Photo
As mentioned earlier, at one time the Gogebic Range was peppered with Iron Mining operations that for many people was the life blood of this area. Most communities had numerous mine sites but the last of these mines closed in the early 1960's. Over the years, many of the structures that were part of these operations were torn down, but a few live on as work and storage space for other forms of business or Government departments that use the buildings for storage of various equipment, etc. But like the dinosaur, these structures are slowly vanishing and part of our history is being lost to future generations. But as Photographers, we can save much of our heritage by documenting these structures while they still remain.
Old Mine Building Photo
Flooded Road Photo
In April of 2002 massive flooding hit our area. As Public Information Coordinator for County Emergency Services, it was part of my duties to document the flooding. Looking back at this scene years later, I would have to note that this sign was a just a bit of an understatement.
Flooded Streets Photo
Flooded Streets Photo
During the flooding, many members of the local communities turned out in large numbers volunteering their efforts to try and stop the flood waters
Flooded Streets Photo
Being a Wakefield resident, I must state I was one of the lucky ones. The above photo was taken just 2 blocks from my residence, but the water didn't get to us. Some friends of ours were not so lucky as many basements and first floors of homes had extensive damage.
Flooded Highway Photo
Many of the local communities were hit hard by the flood waters and the cost of damages done was quite high within the 2 counties hit. Here part of Highway M-28 along Sunday Lake in Wakefield became mostly submerged in the high waters. Our local high school can be seen in the background.
Flood Damage Photo
After the flood waters had subsided, Jim Loeper - Director of Emergency Services for Gogebic County and I went out to view and photograph damage done. Here a large section of roadway had been washed away by the powerful flood waters.
Pipeline Rupture photo
In June 2009, a Natural Gas Pipeline located just North of Bessemer ruptured. Again as part of County Emergency Services I was called out to the EOC (Emergency Operations Center) to handle public information. It is incredible the power that a ruptured gas line has. We were lucky that it didn't ignite, but we still had to evacuate the area due to the massive flow of gas coming from the ruptured pipe. From even 2 miles away, you could hear the roar as the gas spewed into the air and the sound it made was like a jet aircraft taking off. Even with my position with the County, it was about 2 days before I could get to the scene to photograph the site as they wouldn't allow anyone into the area until the gas flow was shut down which took some time.
Pipeline Crews photo
When the pipeline ruptured, repair crews were called in from several states to deal with the emergency. All homes in the immediate area had to be evacuated and roads leading up to the rupture site were road blocked.
Pipeline Bottle Truck photo
Although the gas line rupture did not affect a large area as far as consumers, parts of the surrounding community did lose access to natural gas supplied to their homes. So special vehicles which are called bottle trucks were brought in to provide gas for consumers until the main line was fixed.
CLOSING EDITORIAL ON THE STATE OF SOCIETY
By now, I think I have rambled on long enough about the importance of documenting events around us for historical purposes. Hopefully you have gained some insight into the part that photographers can play in the recording of history.


Before ending this page though, I feel I need to address a problem within the realm of this topic. I refer to the growing issue of photos and videos shot and shared of what I can only look upon as a disgrace and an insult to our humanity. I sometimes wonder if IQ's have dropped considerably in recent years as kids as well as adults who should know better have taken up the hobby of taking photos and cell phone videos of truly disgusting behavior and are sharing these images as well as posting them to the web.

I refer to people who stage or witness fights or dangerous stunts and film these events while standing by and watching people get hurt in the process. Also the recent trend of kids shooting sexually explicit photos and videos of themselves for sharing with others. What has happened to our humanity and common sense when we can stand by like mindless sheep and watch a person being brutally beaten and we somehow find this humorous and record it with our cameras or cell phones. Maybe I am just old fashioned, but I find this total disregard for others to be stupid and a disgrace. Also remember that what goes on the Internet, stays on the Internet forever. 10 years from now when finally maybe maturity sets in, how do you intend to explain the nude photos of yourself as a teen making the rounds on the Internet when discovered by a potential employer.  

Throughout life our actions have consequences. But apparently this fact has been lost to many of this generation and even some of my generation who have failed to instill simple common sense into their children & grandchildren.


Perhaps it is time that we take a hard look at what we as a society have become. Much of the current scenerio is somewhat disturbing. When we lack respect for others, we lack it for ourselves. But then again, that's just my point of view.. I have been wrong before and will no doubt be wrong again... Now that I have no doubt ruffled some feathers of the thin skins out there, I await the nastygrams in my E-Mail in box.

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