Fishtrap will offer a free public presentation Thursday, October 29, featuring extraordinary photographs by dozens of artists and comments by John Laursen, co-author of "Wild Beauty: Photographs of the Columbia River Gorge, 1867-1957."

"The presentation will be anecdotal and free-flowing," Laursen said. "I invite questions both during the presentation and after." The event starts at 7 p.m. at Fishtrap's Coffin House, 400 E. Grant Street, Enterprise.

The book features 134 images by Carleton Watkins, a photographer who shot the Gorge in 1867 and again in the early 1880s. His photos are widely considered to be some of the greatest landscape photographs ever made. Other photographers featured are Benjamin Gifford, Fred Kiser, Lily White, Sarah Ladd, Alfred Monner and Ray Atkeson.

These rare photographs, most of them previously unpublished, have been meticulously restored and reproduced to capture the nuances of albumen silver prints, gelatin silver prints, platinum prints, hand-colored photographs, and early Kodachromes.

"The story of the American West is written across the surface of the Columbia River," Toby Jurovics of the Smithsonian American Art Museum said, adding that the book captured not only the landscape but the history "played out in the Columbia River Gorge over the past two centuries" and brought back to life "a Columbia we can now only imagine."

Wild Beauty is the inaugural book in a series produced by the nonprofit Northwest Photography Archive, founded in 2002 by Laursen and late photographer and curator Terry Toedtemeier. The purpose of the Northwest Photography Archive is to restore rare and valuable photographs to public view by publishing them in book form in collaboration with Oregon State University Press.

"Wild Beauty" was selected as Oregon's official representative at the Library of Congress' National Book Festival in Washington, D.C., and reviewed in the Oregonian, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, and the Wall Street Journal. Jeff Baker, the Oregonian's book reviewer, named "Wild Beauty" the best book of the year from the Pacific Northwest.

The Portland Art Museum mounted a major exhibition of the photographs which attracted 80,000 viewers, making it one of the museum's most successful shows. Oregon Public Broadcasting created an Oregon Experience television show, "The River They Saw," which has aired several times and is available on DVD.

Now in its second printing, "Wild Beauty" has received the Pacific Northwest Book Award and is a finalist for a 2009 Oregon Book Award. Terry Toedtemeier, co-founder of the Northwest Photography Archive and for 25 years the curator of photography at the Portland Art Museum - and himself an exceptional photographer - died suddenly from cardiac arrest last December after a presentation on "Wild Beauty" in Hood River. The archive's next project will be a book of Toedtemeier's photographs of the Oregon landscape.

Laursen is a writer, designer, editor and typographer. Born in Tacoma, he first experienced the Columbia Gorge on his family's many trips back and forth across the country. For four decades, he has owned and operated Press-22, a Portland studio specializing in the design and production of high-quality books and text-based public art projects.

He has produced books and art catalogues for the Oregon Historical Society, the Portland Art Museum, Whitman College, Reed College and others. His work in public art includes the creation of commemorative installations for the Oregon Cultural Heritage Commission and serving on the design team for the Oregon Holocaust Memorial.

This presentation is one in a series of on-going readings and lectures offered by Fishtrap. For information about Fishtrap: (www.fishtrap.org) or 541 426-3623.

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