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Photography conjuring up the Wild West
Art Center pic
The Bowen Center for the Arts features Wayne Robinsons True Americana- Bodie Series photographs that capture the desolate remains of an abandoned 1800s town that was once a booming city for the California gold rush. - photo by Chelsea Thomas Dawson Community News

The Bowen Center for the Arts is featuring a new exhibit by celebrated scenic photographer Wayne Robinson titled "True Americana- Bodie Series." The exhibit focuses on Bodie, a Californian ghost town located near the Sierra Nevada mountain range.

"Acclaimed as America's best-preserved ghost town, it exists in a state of ‘arrested decay' as a California State Historical Monument high above the tree line," Robinson wrote on his Web site.

As a small town that was inhabited from 1859 to 1942, Bodie was a site of the booming California gold rush and a mining business.

Robinson's black and white photographs of Bodie reflect on a seemingly forgotten piece of American history.

According to Robinson, Bodie is "in the middle of nowhere" with "nothing around it." In 1995, after trekking out to California and traveling to the desolate region, Robinson and his friend had to obtain special permission to visit and photograph the buildings.

"The thing that really intrigued me when I got to Bodie was the furniture, the pool table and the stuff the people brought was elegant and substantial furniture. They were creating an elegant town," Robinson said.

Bodie's buildings still hold the furniture, belongings and personal effects of its one-time residents in the 1800s. The grocery store still has coffee cans, liquor bottles and sugar packages. A local church is still filled with its wooden pews and altars.

Now serving as the relic from a time known as the Wild West, Bodie was populated and then mostly vacated within a period of five years. Its residents were the hopefuls from around the country and the world who thought they could make a fortune on gold.

"It was a brutal place because they spent all day digging in mines and then they might get paid a wage or some cash with the gold they had found," Robinson explained. "There were up to 100 saloons, so their day's miseries were soothed by drinking and gambling. People left their morals behind."

After learning about Bodie's "lawless" nature, the residents mentality of "every man for himself" and the legendary winters, Robinson chose to capture the remains of the town in classic, colorless photographs.

Inspired by the early 18th century photographer Ansel Adams, Robinson views his images of Bodie as "the genesis of ‘True Americana,'" a project based on capturing American history, geography, folklore and artifacts.

Robinson received his photographic education from several regarded art schools, including Santa Fe Photographic Workshop, Savannah College of Art and Design and the Showcase School of Photography. He has taken workshops from Bruce Barnbaum, George DeWolfe, Jay Dussard, Huntington Witheral and John Sexton, who was Ansel Adam's previous dark room assistant.

Decatur-based Robinson has contributed photographs to the Georgia Trust for Historical Preservation and serves as a member of the advisory Board of Directors of The Michael C. Carlos Museum of Emory University.

His photography will be featured through Feb. 24 at the art center at 334 Hwy. 9 North.

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