FLX KODACHROME: National Geographic Photographer Nathan Benn

This exhibition is made possible with support from Kathleen and Peter Schweizer

On view in the Spotlight Gallery (Floor 1M)
May 29 – September 7, 2021

FLX KODACHROME features the work of Nathan Benn who photographed the Finger Lakes over the course of a year for National Geographic Magazine in 1975.

Aerial photograph over farms near the shore of Owasca Lake near sunset.

Steam launch ‘Phoebe,’ a rare wood-burning powered boat, is piloted at north end of Skaneateles Lake by Steve Wikstrom. Steve is a merchant seaman and son of the boat's owner A.S. Wikstrom. Phoebe was built by the Davis Dry Dock Company in Kingston in 1914. The company dates from the late 1800-s and was once a major shipbuilding company on the Inner Harbor at Kingston. Skaneateles Lake, NY. October 15, 1975.

At Corning Glass, a production line for making measuring Pyrex cups. The worker, Roy Davis, is inspecting production and lubricating the molds. Corning, NY

Spiritualist clergy lead followers at the Freeville Spiritualist Camp. The woman is Rev. Marion Newby of Rochester, the "medium of the week." Freeville, NY.

Alice Freeman, who is nicknamed ‘Rosie the Riveter,’ works on assembly line at American LaFrance, makers of fire trucks. Ms. Freeman reminds us that Finger Lakes was an early cradle of feminist movement. Elmira, NY. June 18, 1975.

Boys sit in wet trees and watch a parade pass during the Cohocton Fall Festival. The tree sitting was a contest, with some boys sitting over 48 hours through rain and other weather. Cohocton, NY.

Spectators departing Watkins Glen racetrack area at dusk on the day before the Grand Prix racing at Watkins Glen.
Watkins Glen, NY. October 4, 1975.

Dr. Konstantin Frank, owner of Vinifera Vineyards, was committed to racially pure grapes. Dr. Konstantin Frank ignited the “Vinifera Revolution” a movement that forever changed the course of wine growing in the Finger Lakes and the United States. He was born in the Ukraine. Hammondsport, NY. October 6, 1975.

Montour Falls Fire Dept. has annual carnival when teams of firemen compete. Young woman crowned as Miss Montour Falls gives kisses and hugs the winners. Montour Falls, NY

At Corning Glass, bins of broken and discarded glass, sorted by color, await disposal or recycling. The fragments are remains of glass objects that were rejected as imperfect in production. Corning, NY. May 25, 1976.

FLX is the whimsical abbreviation for the Finger Lakes region of western New York State. As one of the state’s ten distinct regions, the Finger Lakes is characterized by numerous lakes and waterfalls, spectacular natural beauty, abundant agriculture, rich history, and nationally recognized wine. An epicenter of glass production, the town of Corning is home to fine arts and culture, an award-winning town square, and a preserved downtown historic district recognized by the National Trust.

For nearly two decades, Nathan Benn worked for National Geographic and saw more than three hundred of his photographs appear in their publications. In 1975, National Geographic Magazine assigned the photographer to document this vibrant region in a special feature. Over the course of a year, Benn focused his lens on the unique culture, heritage, industry and social landscape that comprise the Finger Lakes. Benn’s documentary photography has preserved a visual time capsule of the people and places that existed in the mid-1970s. 

Benn captured sweeping aerial landscapes of the Finger Lakes and surrounding small towns, as well as portraits of assembly line workers, glassblowers, winery pickers, auctioneers, parade spectators, scout troops and racing enthusiasts of the 70s. Visitors will recognize locations such as the Watkins Glen racetrack, Corning Glass Works (now Corning Incorporated), the Columbian Rope Company, American LaFrance, Widmer Wine Cellars, Bully Hill, Vinifera Vineyards, the Mark Twain family farm, and boathouses of Canandaigua Lake.

Photography buffs know Kodachrome as one of the oldest brands of color film, known for capturing rich colors and complex lighting. The Eastman Kodak Company based out of Rochester, NY, ceased production of the film in 2010, but in its prime, the film was the favorite of National Geographic explorers and photographers in the first decades of the publication’s transition to color.

Visitors will be encouraged to contribute their own written stories or memories that are sparked as they view the photographs.


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