Stranahan photo collection comes to CMC in Edwards |

Stranahan photo collection comes to CMC in Edwards

"Hyeres, 1932" by Henri Cartier-Bresson is one of more than 60 works that are part of the George & Patti Stranahan Collection being exhibited at Colorado Mountain College in Edwards through April.
Henri Cartier-Bresson | Special to the Weekly |

If you go ...

What: George & Patti Stranahan Collection, with photographs by Ansel Adams, Margaret Bourke-White, Henri Cartier-Bresson, and more.

Where: Colorado Mountain College, Edwards.

When: Thursday through April 29. Opening reception set for 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday.

More information: Colorado Mountain College in Edwards is at 150 Miller Ranch Road. Contact CMC ArtShare Director Alice Beauchamp at 970-947-8367 or, or visit cmcartshare/Stranahan-collection for more information. For information on days and times the building is open, please call the CMC-Edwards front desk at 970-569-2900.

EDWARDS — For Coloradan George Stranahan — educator, photographer, physicist, philanthropist, purveyor of good beer and finer whiskey — the collection of world-renowned black-and-white photographs he and his wife Patti have collected over several decades should be seen by as many people as can appreciate them.

The collection is appreciable: It contains collected work of more than 60 photographers, including Ansel Adams, Margaret Bourke-White, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Sally Mann, Robert Mapplethorpe, Mary Ellen Mark and Edward Weston, plus so many more.

“They’re meant to be moved around, hung on walls and in halls,” Stranahan recently said from his Carbondale home. “They don’t need to be in a box in the basement.”

That’s why the George & Patti Stranahan Collection, consisting of museum-caliber images that represent some of the finest photographic works in existence, will come to Colorado Mountain College in Edwards today. An opening reception from 6 to 8 p.m. at the college is free and open to the public. The photographs will remain at the campus until April 29.


Edwards is the last of the Colorado Mountain College campuses to host the collection since the tour started in 2009. After this, Alice Beauchamp, the CMC ArtShare director, plans to offer it as a traveling exhibit to other arts organizations and universities. For both the college and Stranahan, the point is having the photographs interact with viewers in a variety of settings.

“George and Patti collected the photos over three decades,” Beauchamp said. “The collection is an education and a historical timeline on the history of black-and-white photography. He has included all of the prominent photographers of their time.”

“I hear back from people who have seen the collection,” Stranahan said. “They tell me, ‘I never knew black-and-white photography could be so intense, so personal, so grabbing.’ It’s a new experience for them. It’s what education is about.”


Stranahan isn’t only a connoisseur of fine photography, he’s an established photographer himself, so he’s watched the evolution of the image go from film to digital. In an age of Instagram where people are constantly snapping photos on their smartphones, he says there’s a difference in the photography in the collection and how photos are used to communicate today.

“Photography is slow and permanent; what’s happening today is quick and transient. I still want images on the wall. In contrast, you can take a picture, show it to five people directly on your screen, and it’s off in the cloud,” he said. “Instagram is flashes of light on screens; it’s not repeated. It’s gone.

“When you take a print and hang it on a wall,” he continued, “it takes on an entirely different look. It’s there tomorrow, it becomes a permanent part of your life. Photographs are like your children. You notice different things about them as time passes.”

So, does Stranahan miss seeing these photos that the college is exhibiting?

“What I like to do is go back and look at them where they are now,” he said. “While I miss them, it’s extra nostalgic to see them again.”


Stranahan has some advice for those viewing photography at this level.

“What I do when I’m teaching photography is I ask students what it is they like about a certain photograph,” he said. “Then I ask them to, unrelentingly, tell me what it is that they like about it. They have to be very specific. There’s no letting them off the hook. If they can tell me what it is they like, then maybe they can photograph what they like.

“Another exercise I recommend is, when looking at a photograph, start back a little bit from it,” he said. “Walk a little closer to it, then closer still. Determine what the sweet spot is, when you are really able to relate to that photograph. It’s a magic moment, maybe inches closer or further away, but you’ll experience more of the photo when you do. It’s worth doing.”

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