Works by rediscovered 1930s-1960s photographer now benefitting OCCHS
Eleven years ago, local photographer Don Kallaus looked into an estate sale for the late Glenn Murray, who'd left behind a box of close to 6,000 film negatives.
His decision to examine that box has proven to be a surprising and satisfying experience for Kallaus, not to mention a great fundraiser for the Old Colorado City Historical Society (OCCHS).
After a well-received show of 50 prints he'd made from Murray negatives last May, Kallaus has organized “City Works 2.0” - a display of 65 more. The opening reception will be Friday, May 15 at the Pikes Peak Regional Development Center, 2880 International Circle. Admission is free and the public is welcome.
Those who can't make the reception can also view it in the Development Center's lobby during the ensuing three months, Kallaus said.
The show's OCCHS fundraising success has resulted from people buying copies of the prints.
Why was there so much interest in local black-and-white photos from the 1930s to the 1960s? It stems initially from Murray's unique life, serving 40 years as a city electrical employee while maintaining a commercial photography business. As a result, several hundred of his shots reveal city projects or events from those times.
But it's not just the history in the pictures, according to Kallaus. He's impressed with Murray's photographic eye, seeing seemingly mundane objects, such as a bridge or a culvert or the inside of a train station “as a field of art.” Murray was also “very scientific” about his work, including pertinent details on the negatives, such as the time of day, lighting conditions and what developing chemistry he used, Kallaus noted.
Since the first City Works show, he's proud to point out, the local Bemis Art School has added Murray as one of three Colorado Springs historical photographers that it believes are of educational importance. (Laura Gilpin and Myron Woods are the other two.)
Such favorable outcomes were scarcely predictable when Kallaus first delved into the box. Murray's family did not even know what they had. Kallaus' motivation, at least at the outset, was personal curiosity. He's retired now as a professional phographer, but it's a hobby of his to seek out old negatives, on the off- chance he'll find something unexpected.
At the time, Kallaus told Murray's son that in taking the negatives he'd make sure that if anything historically significant turned up, he would “get it into the right hands,” Kallaus recalled.
That turned out to be a prophetic statement. “When I started looking through them, I was totally blown away,” he said. “I thought, what a perfect opportunity to make it known who he was and what he did.”
The problem then was how to make it happen. Being retired, Kallaus had the time - although “some of the negatives, it's taken an hour to get it right.” But he faced considerable expense in terms of equipment use and darkroom supplies.
A big boost came from a single Murray photo, shot in 1948. The location was the Nevada Avenue bridge at what was then the northern city limits. It included a sign beside the road, informing new arrivals interested in construction that “Colorado Springs requires building permits” and to “see the city inspector.”
Kallaus shared this print (and later others) with Henry Yankowski, the current Regional Building Depart-ment head inspector, who suggested the idea of a show at the department's headquarters.
Happily, sales have been so brisk from the first show that OCCHS has recently offered to let him take a share of the income.
The amount he'll get is hardly overwhelming, but he's far from complaining. It's not every day, as Kallaus can attest, that a person gets a chance to rediscover a major forgotten talent from the city's past.
Westside Pioneer article