RALEIGH — The late Hugh Morton is easily the High Country’s most famous photographer in history.
Morton, a native of Wilmington, spent decades in the High Country as the owner and operator of the Grandfather Mountain tourist attraction in Linville.
Through his lens, Morton (1921-2006) captured the majesty of Grandfather Mountain, and his photographs are still used to promote the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games, the annual Singing on the Mountain event and other notable events in the area.
But Morton was more than just a nature photographer. He photographed sporting events at the University of North Carolina, common people in the coastal and mountain areas of the Southeast and historic events such as Civil Rights marches.
Morton’s photographs are featured in the new exhibit “Photographs by Hugh Morton: An Uncommon Retrospective,” opening Saturday, Aug. 13, at the N.C. Museum of History in Raleigh.
The traveling exhibit is on loan from the UNC Library’s North Carolina Collection Photographic Archives, and it will run through Sept. 4, 2017. Admission is free.
“Morton’s images showcase his love for Tar Heel people, events, landmarks, nature, sports and tourism,” said Museum Director Ken Howard. “We are pleased to highlight the work of this prolific North Carolinian whose career spanned eight decades.”
The exhibit features breathtaking mountain views, scenes of coastal fishermen folding nets, a mighty Vince Carter dunk in the Dean Dome in Chapel Hill and others. It contains 87 images: many of Morton’s lesser known photographs, as well as some classics.
To create “Photographs by Hugh Morton,” Stephen Fletcher, photographic archivist at the UNC Library’s North Carolina Collection Photographic Archives, selected images from the library’s collection of Morton’s estimated 250,000 negatives and transparencies (slides).
Fletcher and his co-workers made high-resolution digital scans from Morton’s original negatives and transparencies, which were made into prints for the exhibit.
For more information, call the museum at (919) 807-7900, or visit ncmuseumofhistory.org.
‘The Making of the Mountain’
For those who might not be able to make it down to the N.C. Museum of History, another new exhibit takes advantage of the treasure trove digitized at the UNC Library. The Grandfather Mountain Stewardship has created a new exhibit titled “The Making of a Mountain.” It showcases the history of Grandfather Mountain the life of Hugh Morton.
“If a picture’s worth a thousand words, Hugh Morton’s vocabulary was astronomical,” said Frank Ruggiero, director of marketing and communications for the Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation. “This new exhibit allows viewers to experience the story of Grandfather Mountain through the personal lens of its founder. The Mile High Swinging Bridge, Mildred the Bear, the world-famous profile — they’re all here, and then some. Call it a profile on a profile.”
According to Ruggiero, the new exhibit is especially enlightening for those interested in the history of the Grandfather Mountain area.
“Did you know, for instance, that Grandfather Mountain had a filling station at its entrance gate? Or that hang-gliders used to soar from these very peaks, the same from which Mickey Mantle batted a baseball into oblivion? This photo retrospective brings the mountain’s storied history to vivid life,” Ruggiero said.
To honor Morton’s legacy as an environmentalist, tourism innovator and photographer, Mountain Times Publications established and continues to sponsor the Hugh Morton Photographer of the Year Award. The award, administered by the North Carolina Press Association, recognizes a photographer’s body of work for the contest year.
Mark Dolejs, a freelance photographer from Durham, is the most recent recipient of the Hugh Morton Photographer of the Year Award. He will serve as one of the panelists when Grandfather Mountain hosts its annual Camera Clinic Aug. 13-14.