The strength of “Yellowstone Yesterday & Today,” by Paul Horsted with Bob Berry, is that it melds history, nature and art in a 160-page book.
The book is available at Barnes & Noble in Billings for $45.
Horsted, who lives in the Black Hills in Custer, S.D., is an independent photographer and publisher who owns Golden Valley Press. For this book, Horsted teamed up with a Cody, Wyo., guide and collector who owns 3,000 historic photos of Yellowstone Park. The challenge for Horsted was to pare down Berry’s Yellowstone collection to find the 103 rare and historic shots spanning Yellowstone’s history from 1871 to the 1930s. Some of the photos are in print for the first time.
In trips to Yellowstone in 2011 and 2012, Horsted traveled to the same sites in the photographs and photographed the same spot, attempting to get similar lighting, angles and season.
On the opening page of the “Yellowstone” book, Horsted uses a 1931 photograph, which was a publicity shot taken by William Bull of park visitors near Artist Point looking at the Lower Falls on the Yellowstone River. It’s obvious the photo was staged as a photographer is shown in the picture aiming his camera away from the falls and toward the parking lot.
Horsted has produced or contributed to nine books about his home state of South Dakota, including his 2006 book “The Black Hills Yesterday and Today,” where he rephotographed historic sites in the Black Hills.
What was the most striking for Horsted in his Yellowstone project was discovering that so much of the park looks as it did in the late 1800s.
“You’ve got to give the Park Service credit because there aren’t any billboards or four-lane highways like here in the Black Hills,” Horsted said in a phone interview.
Horsted said he was intrigued by photographs showing the park’s earliest visitors who camped out in sheep wagons and traveled by horse and wagon. Some of the photos in the book are from William Henry Jackson’s 1871 expedition into Yellowstone where they surveyed the park by horseback.
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In his foreward to the book, Gardiner historian Lee H. Whittlesey complimented Horsted’s efforts to rephotograph historic scenes in Yellowstone Park.
“Horsted saw detailed context and striking, deeper levels of meaning in the comparison of scenes as they linked past and present in ways that made his ‘heart beat faster,’” Whittlesey wrote.
At least two previous efforts were made to rephotograph the park’s historic scenes, one by the U.S. Geological Survey, but the works were small and limited in the historic places that were photographed.
Horsted spent two years collaborating with Berry, first finding the right photos and then locating the historic sites. The two faced challenges setting up the photos because of changes due to forest fire, river channels, and tree growth. Some of the areas were illegal to enter and the two had to find alternate sites.
Horsted pointed out that some of the scenes, like Trout Lake, were easier to shoot because the same trees, whether dead or alive, were at the site more than 100 years after the original 1878 photo used in the book was taken.
“The trees provided a really good marker for me to line up my camera,” Horsted said. “And to think how narrowly it escaped the fires of 1988.”
Horsted said he often gives slide programs on the book, describing the “treasure hunt” he took on for the book. The captions provide the historical context for the photographs and Horsted included the GPS coordinates of the sites so visitors can find them on their own.
“I hope it’s entertaining. It was exciting for me to stand right there where these photos were taken,” Horsted said.