Few artists have so completely dominated their subject matter, both artistically and historically, as Harvey Caplin did in the post World War II Southwest. Because he had such a thorough knowledge and love for the people and physical environment of his adopted Southwest, he was able to be much more than just another photographer of a very well documented region. With wonderful insights, he understood the environment of the Four Corners in much the same way as the renowned Taos painters did. He used the clarity and depth of the light to create magnificent contrasts of light and dark and of shadows and bright images. With enormous sensitivity for the region, he framed his pictures so that the composition itself often intensified an already penetrating subject.
Harvey Caplin's photographic career spanned more than forty years - from 1942 until his death in November, 1984. He created an impressive photo library of over 50,000 images of the land, people, animals, architecture and industries of the Southwest. Almost all of the work was done in the Four Corners region of New Mexico, Arizona, Utah and Colorado, as well as the Pan American Roadrace in Mexico in the 1950's.
Caplin would go anywhere, in any weather, with no regard to personal risk, as he worked cattle with cowboys, climbed cliffs with the Barbary sheep hunters, beat Mexican road racers to the finish line, and waited for hours in the desert sun and on snow covered peaks - all for that perfect shot. He captured the translucent light, cathedral-like clouds, weathered rocks, and the dignity of the people, all in his own unique way.
His images are an artistic and pictorial history of an ever changing Southwest. He rode and worked with the cowboys of New Mexico, taking extraordinary shots of cattle drives, branding, horse breaking, their daily lives and cow camps, chuckwagons, and campfires.
The four most noted of these cowboy images have been printed in the Stetson hat box since the early 1960's. A poster of the four photographs on the Stetson hat box is currently available, as well as museum quality, limited edition photographs.
Raised in upstate New York, he was educatedat the Rochester Institure of Technology, and came to New Mexico as a ground photographer at Kirtland Field with the Army Air Force during World War II. After the war he returned to New Mexico with his wife to begin his photographic career.
Some years later, New Mexico Magazine name Caplin, "New Mexico's Million Dollar Outdoor Salesman" because his photographs of the state were published and admired in so many national magazines, books and other publications.
The artistic and historical value of Caplin's work is undeniable. He captured the American Cowboy and the Indians at work and play - ways of life that have changed but never disappeared from the American Southwest. His artistic talent resulted in superb photographs. One of his pictures of Shiprock in the northwestern part of the state was the New Mexico Statehood Commemorative Postage Stamp in 1962. There is double pleasure viewing his work, which is stunningly beautiful as well as historically important. Harvey Caplin's work is a rare treasure, documenting the changes which too place in the post World War II Southwest.