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Dail Art Moment: Jonathan Calm

“In 2016, Jonathan Calm, artist and Stanford University Assistant Professor of Photography, traveled through the American South by car. He documented many of the locations marked as ‘safe spaces’ in ‘The Negro Motorist Green Book,’ which was published from 1936 through 1966. Recently, Calm began photographing ‘Green Book’ sites located in the American West, including Oregon’s Crater Lake Lodge. In 1957, the lodge was listed in the ‘Green Book’ as a safe place for African Americans to spend the night, along with the Astoria Court Motel, Crater Cottages in Klamath Falls, Eugene’s City Center Lodge, Cascade Court in Bend, the Pendleton Hotel, and the Salem Hotel. Only two locations were listed as welcoming in Portland: the Medley Hotel on N. Interstate Avenue, and the YWCA on N. Williams Avenue.

Prior to World War II, segregation was a reality in many national parks, particularly in the south, where visitors found segregated campgrounds, restrooms, coffee shops, and even parking lots. In late 1945, new federal regulations required the desegregation of all national park facilities, but full integration was a years-long process. Today, although African Americans make up nearly 14 percent of the population, less than 2 percent of national parks visitors identify as Black.

In Calm’s photograph of Crater Lake Lodge, no tourists or lodge guests appear near the normally bustling facility, although Calm’s shadow is included at the bottom of the composition. His shadow reminds me of the many millions (perhaps billions) of tourist photographs taken throughout the country each year. For me, his shadow symbolizes the sense of ‘having been there’ expressed in so many tourist pictures. But the scene is otherwise empty of people, pushing me to think about who ‘belongs’—whether in stores and restaurants or the country’s national parks, which are touted as spaces where everyone is welcome.

This photograph, newly acquired for the Museum’s permanent collection, will be included in the upcoming exhibition ‘Ansel Adams in Our Time,’ which opens on January 30, 2021.”

Julia Dolan, The Minor White Curator of Photography

Jonathan Calm (American, born 1971). Untitled (Crater Lake Lodge), 2019, from the “Green Book” series. Pigment print. Museum Purchase: Photography Fund, 2020.25.1 © Jonathan Calm, courtesy the artist and Rena Bransten Gallery