Early settlements in Oregon’s Coast Range are elegantly captured in photographs by Rich Bergeman on display from October through December at Oregon State University’s Center for the Humanities.
“The Place Names Project” is the culmination of more than a year in which the photographer traveled the back roads of the Coast Range, searching out small towns and communities originally founded before 1900.
A retired photography instructor at Linn-Benton Community College in Albany, Bergeman has been chronicling evidence of Oregon’s bygone days on both sides of the Cascades for more than 20 years.
“I like photographing places that are close to disappearing, but it’s not really a documentary project,” he said. “I’m less interested in documenting what’s left behind than in looking for beauty and nobility in places that have endured the passing of time.”
Though the places he has photographed once claimed spots on the map, many—such as Kernville and Norton in Lincoln County–no longer exist as actual towns. Others, like Elk City, retain more evidence of having been thriving communities and, despite declining populations, have hung on in the face of waning prosperity over the past century.
The 22 prints in the show are done in the platinum process, which dates back to the late 1800s, before the invention of enlargers and small cameras. Platinum has long been prized for its permanence and richly nuanced tonal scale, which Bergeman says makes a good fit for the content of his pictures.
Many of the images were made while Bergeman served as artist-in-residence at the Sitka Center for Art and Ecology on Cascade Head in early 2009.
The Center for the Humanities is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. There is no admission charge. For information, call 541-737-2450.