Jeffers Photographs are “Windows to the Blue Ridge and Beyond”

Exhibition Features Second Set of Images Telling More Stories from State’s History

JackJeffers.VHS.1996.81.27On February 20, 2012, the Virginia Historical Society (VHS) opened an exhibition featuring twenty-three silver sulfide prints by award-winning naturalist photographer and Farmville  native Jack Jeffers. A year later, on February 11, 2013, the VHS unveiled another set of Jeffers images—twenty-three more—marking the start of the second rotation of the popular exhibition End of an Era: The Photography of Jack Jeffers.

The images depicted in End of an Era feature Virginia’s rugged mountain people, weather-beaten structures, and well-hidden landscapes. With the prints presented, visitors can read excerpts of stories Jeffers shares about what he saw in Virginia’s Blue Ridge, Tidewater, and Piedmont regions in the late 1960s, 1970s, and early 1980s.

“Like many of life’s adventures, my documentation of these people was not planned, but evolved through a series of unexpected discoveries,” the 79-year-old Jeffers said. “I realized half way through my journey that I was documenting a way of life that was rapidly disappearing from the rural byways. I might be the only person to have ever photographed some of those people. In fact, I know that to be true about at least a few of them.”

“Jeffers presents environments that sometimes startle us with a sense of isolation that is unknown in today’s world of cable television, internet connectivity, and smart phones,” VHS lead curator and exhibition curator Dr. William Rasmussen said. “Those environments are recounted in the show’s label copy, which is made up entirely of Jeffers’s own words. I wanted Jeffers to paint the picture and be the ‘windows to the Blue Ridge and beyond’ as he said in one of his books.”

JackJeffers.VHS.1996.81.83“Visitors were very interested in the first show,” Rasmussen added. “The second rotation of the exhibit allowed me to showcase more of the powerful images—some of which are among my favorite Jeffers photographs at the VHS—to continue to tell stories about Virginians who our visitors aren’t familiar with.”

All of the large-format silver sulfide prints—images made on paper coated with light-sensitive silver salts—come from the collection of 119 images featuring Virginia scenes that Jeffers donated to the VHS in 1996. In addition to the Society, four Virginia venues own a collection of Jeffers’s prints: Longwood University, Radford University, Ferrum College, and the Reedville Fishermen’s Museum.

Jeffers hand processed each print in the Society’s collection. “No one else has ever touched my negatives,” he said. “I don’t think anyone could print my images like I did. I still feel that way.”

Jeffers still owns all 2,500+ negatives. He says photography is a “serious hobby” for him today. Recently he has explored the digital photography world and has been capturing images of the American West, including the mountains of Colorado where he currently lives.

The second rotation of End of an Era: The Photography of Jack Jeffers is on display at the VHS until May 26, 2013. Admission to the Society is free. The VHS Museum Shop is selling signed copies of a catalog featuring Jeffers’s work.

“It was always my intention to have my work displayed in a historical context,” Jeffers said. “I wanted my prints in a museum devoted to the history of Virginia, and the VHS is the ideal place for that.”

“I preserved for future generations a viable record of this intriguing segment of Virginia’s—and America’s—past. Virtually everything in the images is gone—or dotted with power lines, giant new houses, and modern roads—and so too is a way of life.”

To learn more about Jack Jeffers and see examples of his work, visit his website at or his blog at

The VHS is located at 428 North Boulevard in Richmond’s Museum District. Admission is free. Museum hours are Monday–Saturday 10 a.m.–5 p.m. and Sunday 1 p.m.–5 p.m. Library hours are Monday–Saturday 10 a.m.–5 p.m. For more information, call (804) 358-4901, visit, or find the VHS on Facebook and Twitter.

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