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  Field Notes From
Frederick Law Olmsted

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Frederick Law Olmstead On AssignmentArrows

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From Photographer

Melissa Farlow

Frederick Law Olmstead On Assignment

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From Author

John G. Mitchell

In most cases these accounts are edited versions of a spoken interview. They have not been researched and may differ from the printed article.

Photographs by Mark Thiessen (top) and Brian Strauss


Frederick Law Olmstead On Assignment Photographer Frederick Law Olmstead On Assignment Photographer
Frederick Law Olmsted

Field Notes From Photographer
Melissa Farlow

Best Worst Quirkiest
    When I first visited some of Olmsted's parks, I found them underbudgeted, abused, and forgotten for years.  It was initially dispiriting. As I read more about Olmsted and walked through his spaces, I came to appreciate his vision and his ability to foresee the importance of open space. I believe people love their parks and that Olmsted would have liked that. And I found it heartening to find determined people working to restore them.

    I wanted to photograph Montreal's Mount Royal in the winter. I thought the park's beauty would be accentuated by snow and ice on the mountain. So I conned my husband, Randy, into accompanying me on the trip to carry my tripod while I hiked on the snowy paths. We flew there in February, and I hoped for a fresh snow during my stay to make things look magical. 
    I expected the cold, but the winds were exceptionally bitter. In fact, I was told that it was too cold to snow. I don't know, but the windchill factor made the temperature minus 37°F (-38°C).
    I was in Montreal for a week hiking through dirty snow and numbed by the cold. When the sun went down at the end of one day, the city lights came up, and the magic hour came and quickly disappeared. As we packed up equipment, our frozen hands were so stiff it was hard to hold the metal camera and tripod. Wind cut through us as we trudged back to the car in the dark. When we drove off, Randy began beating his hands on the steering wheel because he had no feeling left in them.

    While flying over Iroquois Park to photograph in early spring, I looked down and recognized the exact spot where I was arrested years earlier. I clearly recall the day I was sent to photograph a rock concert at Iroquois Park. It was my first professional job, and it was my first week at work for the Louisville newspapers.   
    Long story made short, I got into an unfortunate argument with an irrational, irate police officer that ended when I was arrested. In shock, I was hauled into the station to be photographed, fingerprinted, and given one phone call. I was terribly humiliated, so I called the newspaper office asking for help to get me out of jail. There was a small staff on duty that holiday weekend, and apparently there was confusion when we hung up the phone. My one phone call of hope went to a staff that thought it was a crank call. I had been hired less than a week earlier, and no one in the newsroom knew me.
    Charges were dropped. It all ended well. But it took 30 years to return to that site and be able to recognize the beauty of Iroquois Park.


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