The Susan Parish Collection of Photography

Celebrating the Photography & Photographers of the Pacific Northwest since 1982

overview OF COLLECTION, approach & intention
My Story so Far
I was born and raised IN THE southern Puget sound, PART OF THE GREAT Salish sea OF THE pacific northwest AND this environment AND ITS PEOPLE ARE THE BASIS AND REASON FOR MY LOVE OF ITS history, photographs, and stories AND WHAT MOTIVATES ME.
   I approach photographs and photography with the eye of a Storyteller, photojournalist as well as Artist.  Photography is witnessing ~ and what is captured in a photograph is a moment in time that we enjoy privately or share as visual communication.  Visual communication is a form of telepathy.  We are now beginning to communicate primarily ~ visually. And, now with the advent of cell phones that contact cameras this form of communication has exploded.  (More on this subject in my 'Journals of a Shadow Catcher')

   My career has been in communications - with additional professional education and experience in the humanities and history of my generational homeland of the Puget Sound, the Salish Sea, and the Inside Passage into Alaska.  I've been involved in photography since childhood, and I've worked in all professions in communications, choosing photo-journalism - and my specialty for the last 40 years has been the past.  
   The people the places we see in these photos really existed and there are many stories shown in the photographs still to be told. And I'm excited because time is ripe to 'review' our history and these photographs tell us stories of our past. to enjoy art but also to educate us.  
   Personally, I have a spiritual connection to this area, and I've seen it change in my lifetime dramatically, so I support the people & companies that are working toward similar goals of protecting our environment to remain sustainable.  My business is sustainable, and I am also mindful of the responsibility given to me as a caretaker of these images in photographs.  I've chosen to protect this photographic history and I've been honored that others chose me to protect them as well. 
   Ken Burns films have shown us all the value of our 'visual history'.  Photographers show us reality and we need that, now more than ever, as our public education is changing and finally becoming more inclusive.  We know that what was and is 'written' both in the past and now is often distorted and slanted to favor certain people and ignore or degrade others.  A reality with an agenda.  historical photographs can change all that and reveal the truth of history.  What would we know about time past and the people ~ without photographs of that past?  Only what some wanted us to believe. We've seen how dangerous that can become.
   every picture truly tells a myriad of stories. And may answer questions we have not yet asked.
~ Who, What, When Where and Why ~
The Five W's are questions whose answers are considered basic information-gathering and often mentioned in journalism, research, and police investigations.
   The Shadow Catchers (photographers) I currently have cataloged 125 separate photographers in the Collection.  Although 90% of collection photographers are those who have resided in my home area of the Southern Puget Sound region of Washington State works from others came my way ~ by choice and circumstance. (Which I will write about in another section as well as provide a list of photographers as I build out this website.)
   Most of the photographers whose work is in Collection have passed on ~ leaving only their photographs which are used but not attributed. I choose to remember them however as artists ~ and want them also to stand as testament to their makers artistry ~ not just as their time on earth.  
   Also, most of them were very respected working professionals in their time working and sought after for their skill and artistry by loyal patrons as well as successful operators of small businesses ~ active participants within their communities and supported their families with their work.  
   Very few were amateurs but even those were serious in their art. All genres of photography are represented in their work. 
     The collection contains original negatives and positives, prints and many related materials dating back to the 1870's and encompasses the full spectrum of the photographic medium.  When I could I also kept their cameras, materials and documents related to the history of photography - both as art and as a communication form which is an important adjunct and as an asset for the community and history that can be found in them.
     Subject Matter in the photographs is extensive ~ with the common themes associated with the Pacific Northwest and its natural and cultural landscape well represented in beautiful and landscapes, seascapes, and soaring mountains, old growth forests and the forest product and seafood industries, transportation methods including steamboats, steam ships, tugboats, railroading ~ and the dusty main streets of emerging cities.  of special note ~ portraits of indigenous Native Americans.  multi-cultural pioneers and their struggles to 'tame' the wilderness they faced.  And all the diverse outdoor recreational activities such as skiing, hiking, fishing, hunting, as well as the many historical events that are of national importance. ​​​​​​​
   The time the original photographs were made coincide with photographer's earliest work in the Americas beginning in the 1870's until the present.
   While most of my collection photographs were made in the Puget Sound region of the State of Washington there are many photographs of the Salish Sea, Alaska and the Pacific Rim partner to the Pacific Northwest, Japan. And there are many photos of other regions of the state, particularly Central Washington viewed through Mary's Eyes. There are photographs from thirty-five other states in the union and from over twenty countries.
   The collection reflects and celebrates the vital role photographers and photography plays in our image-based culture now and in the past.  As a communication tool as primary documentary records and ~ as expressions of the photographers who made them.   
MY Journey as A Shadow Catcher
​​​​​​​ ~ Susan Parish is Owner & Curator ~ born Susan Plantenberg, in Olympia, Washington.  a multi-generational native of the southern Puget Sound region of Washington State.  I began making and collecting photographs as a child in the 1950's and have been a working professional in the fields of communications and the humanities - specializing in photography & photojournalism - since 1975.

   It was While working on the history of Early Women Legislators of Washington in 1980 for an Elected Washington Women project discovering and telling the stories of our women 'political Pioneers' I located not only their photographs I created a statewide traveling display. during this project I also was shocked to discover not only the Jeffers Studio Archives - but, that the holdings of old photographic studios were regularly destroyed & not considered at that time to be primary resource materials.  and, that the state of Washington had no facility for Photographic Archives in place.  I went on to promote and assisted in creating the WA state Archives Photography Division.
Seeing the quickly passing away of a way of life in the PNW that I had known and loved ~ my life's mission of preservation and education honoring the photographers, their art and using this means of visual communication to learn our 'true' history thus began and continues to this day.
I created Shadow Catchers in 1992 as the distributor of photographic based products using images Licensed from The Susan Parish Collection of Photography, I created in 1982 because I wanted to separate the photo archives from the commercial end. I needed to make money to take care of the collection I was building.  Link to Shadow Catchers
I created Shadow Catchers TV in 2006 when I realized the opportunities to easily share my projects to a greater audience with the advent of digital movie making and I missed the storytelling inherent in photojournalism. Because I had the intro and influence from my dad and his 8mm's, I grew up with him documenting our lives and travels. In college I studied Humanities and Communications and had the good fortune of learning various forms of capturing life's moments. I gravitated to capturing oral histories of elders when I realized that our elders held valuable information that would be lost if I didn' my own witnessing of vanishing information. I made Slide/Tape Shows for large audiences in my career and I missed telling stories of the Pacific Northwest that I had been writing & collecting over the years
movies & News about where sit all started...
video is almost ready!!
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