California Views provides Monterey County with an unparalleled trove of local photos.
Thursday, March 15, 2012
The history of a place can be hidden in the open. A faded advertisement painted on a brick facade for a bygone vendor. A building discreetly keeping its secrets. An incongruous tree that’s survived decades of development.
The history of a place can be buried, too, faded by time or paved over. Or it can be preserved. Our libraries and museums are champions for the preservation of Monterey County’s fascinating timeline. But likely the largest single assembly of our history, in photographs, is housed in a small but packed shop on Pacific Street in downtown Monterey, archived and curated by one man: Pat Hathaway.
His collection is made of snapshots of the growth of California, though the Pacific Grove native focuses in on his home peninsula. It numbers 82,000 photos, most culled from film or glass negatives. Of the collection, 21,000 are of Monterey County, and about 9,200 of them are searchable online at www.caview.com. Hathaway has operated his business of collecting and disseminating history for 42 years. Its beginning, in 1970, was modest.
“I saw an ad from a lady trying to throw away negatives from her [deceased] husband,” he says, scanning images on an iMac in the back of his store. “The city didn’t want them. As soon as I saw what they were, I wanted them.”
That photographic collection of Carmel and the Peninsula was from a man named Lewis Josselyn (1883-1964) and numbered about 5,000. Hathaway purchased the lot for one dollar. That began California Views, which has snowballed from a hobby into a vocation.
Pieces from the collection have appeared at Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula, Monterey Museum of Art and Sacramento’s Crocker Museum. National Geographic and Smithsonian Magazine have licensed photographs. The Monterey Bay Aquarium are patrons, but the pictures can be found at the Long Beach Aquarium, too.
They’ve appeared on TV, from ABC’s 1980 Golf at Pebble Beach to the currently airing Who Do You Think You Are? on NBC. Locally, prints reside at hotels, law offices, restaurants and private homes, in the form of black-and-white or sepia-toned prints (there are color prints, too).
“[My photographs] have been in over 100 books,” he says. Those titles include the Images of America books, Pebble Beach: The Official Golf History by Neal Hotelling and Sandy Lydon’s Chinese Gold: The Chinese in the Monterey Bay Region.
“I know very little about Chinese people in California,” Hathaway says. Though he researches a lot, he doesn’t have to. His website is a deep and wordy catalog of the images, indexed by place, content and, where possible, photographer and caption information. There are 170 searchable galleries: 111 entries for Pacific Grove’s Chinatown, 257 for the Presidio. Marina clocks in low with 45, but the Hotel Del Monte racks up 1,087.
On his iMac, Hathaway pulls up his website’s analytics, showing the search stats. On one day, it was visited 119 times by people in the U.S., but also by people whose I.P. addresses originate in South Africa, Brazil, the United Kingdom, the Philippines, Sweden and Bulgaria.
So much traffic and sales occur through the website that he says it has “saved [his] business,” and that he could have closed the storefront except that he likes it. The store is plastered with prints of old photographs of Fort Ord, an iconic photo of Ed Ricketts, biplanes, railyards, aerials, the Carmel Mission in 1927 surrounded by only pasture and meadow. Bins are labeled “Ships & Boats,” “Military,” “Salinas,” “Mining.” Prints are crammed in binders, stacked against the wall, piled in little heaps. Hathaway used to make prints in a darkroom in the back, but since digital technology, he is constantly scanning images onto external hardrives, several terabytes of them.
“I have 30,000 scanned,” he says. “And that’s not even half my collection. They start in the 1850s and go to yesterday.”
Hathaway is himself a lifelong photographer. He studied with Ansel Adams, he says casually, after being invited as a high-schooler to the legendary photographer’s home. He took photographs of Monterey County while in the Army and stationed at Fort Ord, and of Vietnam during his tour of duty there. He tried his hand at wedding photography but “hated it.”
His own images populate his collection too, including the Highway 1 landslide and closure in Big Sur last year and evocative pictures of the 1999 Bixby Bridge seismic retrofit. He’s not only a photo hound and archivist – the negatives and prints have overtaken his home, too, he admits – but has become “spokesperson for the dead photographer society.” The woman who provided that first cache of photographs from her husband, which started Hathaway on this long journey, has seen her husband’s name credited with his photographs again and again.
“History is always happening,” Hathaway says. “As soon as you take a picture it’s historical. And history should be shared, not locked up in a box.”
CALIFORNIA VIEWS is open 11am-5pm Tuesday through Saturday, at 469 Pacific St., Monterey. 373-3811, www.caviews.com