Most of the books I have the chance to review are directly related to genealogy research in one way or another. However, I recently have been fortunate to review a number of books that don’t directly relate to research; yet, I find them every bit as important as they tell the histories and stories of a time gone by, a time in which my ancestors lived. These stories and histories may not be directly related to my own ancestors, but they provide a important perspective.
Otto Ping: Photographer of Brown County, Indiana 1900—1940 is just such a book. Otto Ping was an itinerant photographer who began taking pictures at the age of 17 in 1900. Unlike most itinerant photographers of his day, he chose not to travel, but rather conducted all his work in a single county. Brown County is in many ways typical of rural America during this time period. Many were poor with few opportunities. Life was not easy and times were tough. This is the period of the Great Depression, of World War I, and the build up to a second world war. Otto Ping caught life and people as they were. His pictures can easily represent life in any rural town across the country.
Pictures cover portraits, home and work sites, the countryside, and people going about their daily business. In one section, facing pages show a young child asleep in bed while the other page shows a dead woman on a bier. Otto Ping was not the greatest photographer of his day. He clearly learned as he went along and made many technical mistakes. However, he clearly had an eye for capturing life as it happened.
This unique book was put together by W. Douglas Harley and was published by the Indiana Historical Society. Essays covering Otto Ping, his photography, and their value beyond the obvious intent are included and were written by Anne E. Peterson and Stephen J. Fletcher. While Otto Ping may seem like a simple, coffee-table book, its value is clearly in the historical perspective and look into rural American life for the first 40 years of the 20th Century.
Table of Contents
Otto Ping 1883–1975
The Photographs of Otto Ping
“Otto Ping and Itinerant Photography” by Anne E. Peterson
“Signigicant beyond Intent” by Stephen J. Filetcher
Get your own copy of Otto Ping: Photographer of Brown County, Indiana 1900—1940 from Family Roots Publishing; Item #: IHS034; Price: On sale at 50% off – Only $14.98 Reg.$29.35.