A former Collegian and Royal Purple photographer is receiving national attention for his images of the Flint Hills.
Photos of Kansas from the April 2007 issue of National Geographic will be on display May 7-20 at Manhattan Town Center mall as part of a traveling exhibit by K-State alumnus Jim Richardson.
According to the Kansas Travel and Tourism Division Web site, Richardson’s photos of the Flint Hills are featured in “The Flint Hills: A Kansas Treasure,” an article in the April 2007 edition of National Geographic.
“The Flint Hills beckoned because they provide a spectacular landscape in our own backyard,” Richardson said in a press release on the Kansas Travel and Tourism Web site.
The National Geographic Society and the KTTD “are sponsoring a traveling exhibit of 32 large-scale versions of the photographs featured in the magazine … to complement the magazine spread and further celebrate the Flint Hills,” according to the Web site.
According to the site, Richardson’s photos have been on the traveling exhibit since March 19 when they debuted at the state capitol. The 18-month tour will display Richardson’s work in 30 Kansas communities.
Dennis Toll, tourism sales manager of the Manhattan Convention and Visitors Bureau, said an opening ceremony for Richardson’s exhibit will be at 5 p.m. Monday at the center court in the mall.
Toll said the ceremony will feature remarks from a county commissioner and Mayor Tom Phillips. Karen Hibbard, director of the convention and visitors bureau, will be host of the ceremony. Toll said Richardson will be out of town on a photo assignment during the ceremony, but someone will read a letter from Richardson. “The letter talks about the exhibit and why he did it and why he thinks the Flint Hills are important,” he said.
Kathy Richardson, Jim Richardson’s wife and business partner, said she helped Jim prepare the traveling exhibit. Although Jim has done something like this before, she said it has not been for a long time and it wasn’t in Kansas.
Kathy said she and Richard had to make quick decisions for the traveling exhibit when the editors moved the publication date of the story in National Geographic.
“This story was not supposed to run until September, but the editors were so excited that they bumped it up,” she said. “With the help of the Division of Travel and Tourism, we were able to do this. If it was just us on our own, we wouldn’t have been able to do it quite like this.”
Jim Richardson said in a prepared statement that Kansans sometimes forget the beauty of the Flint Hills.
“It is time that we all learned to stop looking beyond the borders of our state for inspiration and learn to see what has been here all along and cherish what we have,” he said in the release. “The Flint Hills should never play second fiddle to our nation’s more recognized landmark landscapes.”
In Verlyn Klinkenborg’s “The Flint Hills: A Kansas Treasure” article in National Geographic, Klinkenborg said, “Americans have always lived in a land of possibility – a place where the grass is ‘hopeful green stuff,’ as the poet Walt Whitman put it.
“Our habit is to wonder what we can make of a place, to gaze at the future instead of the present. As a result, nature often lies hidden beneath our expectations.”
Klinkenborg continued to describe the Flint Hills of Kansas as “the last great swath of tallgrass prairie in the nation,” and later he discussed the bareness of the Flint Hills and its ecosystem.
Janet Ulrey, reference librarian at the Manhattan Public Library, said while the exhibit is at Manhattan Town Center, other events coinciding with the Kansas Flint Hills will take place throughout Manhattan, including presentations and book signings at the library.
Toll said the Manhattan Arts Center Annex and docents at the Konza Prairie Biological Station also will have activities during the exhibit’s display.
“It all revolves around the subject of the Flint Hills,” Toll said.
According to an article about Richardson’s photos in National Geographic, Richardson said he started working on the Flint Hills photos in spring 2006.
“I worked on the Flint Hills story over a year’s time, but it seemed short even at that,” he said in the article. “When you see the Flint Hills in the distance from I-70, for example, the subtlety of the landscape can be deceiving. When you try to get closer, its essence seems to slip away.
“It is not an easy landscape. In the end, I had to accept the Flint Hills on their own terms. They are like no other subject I have photographed.”