David Plowden

Several thousand photographs depicting America's vanishing landscapes.

For five decades, the photographer David Plowden of Winnetka, Illinois, has documented America’s vanishing landscapes and artifacts, his stunning black and white photographs forming an image of life in 20th-century urban and rural America.

Since 1952, when he began to photograph steam locomotives, David Plowden has studied, documented, and commented upon the transformation of America. He has described himself as “an archeologist with a camera” who has spent his life “one step ahead of the wrecking ball.”

“I have been beset,” Plowden says, “with a sense of urgency to record those parts of our heritage which seem to be receding as quickly as the view from the rear of a speeding train. I fear that we are eradicating the evidence of our past accomplishments so quickly that in time we may well lose the sense of who we are.”

History of the Collection

Plowden, who graduated from Yale College in 1955, has written and illustrated two dozen books and provided photographs for numerous others. In 1995, the Beinecke Library acquired a major portion of his archive of prints and research materials. The Plowden archive is part of the Yale Collection of Western Americana, noted for its outstanding collection of 19th-century photography of the American West, including works by A. J. Russell, Timothy O’Sullivan, Carleton Watkins, and William Henry Jackson.

The Collection

Nearly 2,000 black and white photographic prints are available online.

The Exhibition

IMPRINTS. David Plowden: A Retrospective September 26, 1997-December 23, 1997

For additional information about Mr. Plowden’s career and work consult davidplowden.com.