Tidewaters: Looking Back on Oregon’s Coast Range Rivers

Photographs by Richard Bergman & Objects from the LCHS Collection

Exhibition Run Dates: October 14 – January 29, 2023
Opening Reception: October 14, 4-7 PM
Panel Discussion: October 25, 2-4 PM

Location: Pacific Maritime Heritage Center
333 E Bay Blvd. Newport, OR 97365
541-265-7509 oregoncoasthistory.org
Hours: Tuesday through Sunday, 11am-4pm

Exhibition Summary

           A series of vintage platinum/palladium prints depicting scenes along Oregon’s major estuaries by Corvallis photographer Rich Bergeman. Supportive artifacts from the Lincoln County Historical Society collections will also be featured as part of this exhibition. Exhibition venue: Galley Gallery inside the Pacific Maritime Heritage Center, located on Newport, Oregon’s historic Bayfront. The October 14 opening reception and the October 25 panel discussion are free and open to the public. Admission fees apply to daily visitation to the PMHC; LCHS members and active-duty military get in free.

Exhibition Description

           “Tidewaters” includes 25 prints, along with maps and text panels recalling the history of Native American life and early Euro-American settlement along the Columbia, Yaquina, Alsea, Siuslaw and other navigable rivers along the Oregon Coast.  Using 8×0” and 5×7” cameras, Bergeman spent several years in the 1990s and early 2000s exploring the lower reaches of the rivers, looking for scenes that reflect the region’s early history.

           “I’ve always loved photographing in places where the past seems more palpable than the present,” the Corvallis photographer said, “and on these rivers time’s passage is plainly seen in the old docks, wooden fishing boats and gnarled pilings climbing out of the ebbing tide.”

           While researching the region’s history at local museums up and down the coast, from Astoria to Coos Bay, he discovered a complex, multi-layered story.

           Each of the river systems was home to its own distinct Native American population, and all were disrupted in the 1800s by encroachment of Euro-Americans in pursuit of the region’s resources.  For a time, beginning in 1855, the entire Central Coast–over one million acres from Cape Lookout to the Oregon Dunes–was a Congressionally designated Indian Reservation, but it was gradually chipped away until all that remained was the small present-day tract at Siletz.

           During that time new towns slowly began to take shape near the mouths of the rivers—some flourished while others disappeared altogether. Among the so-called “lost cities” were Bayocean, a Tillamook Bay resort once billed as the “Atlantic City of the West;” and Yaquina City, the ill-fated “San Francisco of the Oregon Territory.”

           In keeping with the historical nature of the images, Bergeman printed them in the traditional platinum process, which dates to the early years of photography in the late 19th century.  Known for their permanence, long tonal range, and soft contrast, platinum prints are made by placing hand-coated fine-art papers in contact with large negatives and exposing them to ultra-violet light.

           A book on the exhibit that expands upon the show will be available in the museum bookstore, along with digital reprints of images in the show.

Artist Summary

           A retired community college instructor, Bergeman is perhaps best known for his black-and-white photographic narratives of forgotten histories of the Pacific Northwest.  Since 1987, he has hung more than 50 solo shows at galleries, art centers and museums throughout the region.

           Besides “Tidewaters”, he has exhibited and published portfolios on several historical projects, including the lost homesteads of Oregon’s Fort Rock Basin, the early settlers on Washington’s Willapa Bay, and the Rogue River Indian Wars of 1851-56.

           Originally a large-format film photographer and darkroom printer in silver and platinum, he also has created portfolios with pinhole and Polaroid cameras, and currently works primarily with digital infrared cameras and archival pigment inkjet printers. You can see examples of his work at www.richbergeman.zenfolio.com, and his book projects at www.blurb.com.

Museum Statement

We are excited to be able to bring a dynamic series of art related exhibits to the Pacific Maritime Heritage Center. By incorporating art with our ongoing history programming, we can educate and inform our visitors about relevant concepts and real-life stories in an interdisciplinary way. By expanding our program offerings, we will reach an even broader audience. Our challenge is to offer exhibits and events that can get our visitors thinking about concepts previously not on their radar.  Susan Tissot, Executive Director, LCHS

News-Times article: Tidewaters: Looking Back on Oregon’s Coast Range Rivers