It has been 40 years since a 16-year-old Gordon Sullivan, new driver’s license and camera in hand, jumped in his beat-up 1955 Ford and headed for Glacier National Park.
“Honest to God, I didn’t know where I was going,” said Gordon, who was born and raised in Butte. “Thank goodness I got a Montana roadmap because I would have ended up in New Mexico.”
Sullivan and his wife have photographed Montana and the American West for decades and The Countryman Press recently published their new guidebook, “Photographing Montana: Where to Find Perfect Shots and How to Take Them.” The 112-page softcover offering is the couple’s eighth book. The Sullivans have also written “Saving Homewaters,” “The Photographer’s Guide to Glacier National Park” and “Photographing Indian Country.” The couple also own the Focal Point studio in Libby.
“We’ve just been sitting here in the little burg of Libby, pumping books and stuff out and having a blast,” Gordon said. “There is no better way to spend your life.”
Gordon attributes his interest in photography to his upbringing in Butte. As a kid, his grandmother would show him photos from old issues of National Geographic. Gordon said the landscape and nature images were a stark contrast to the mining town he lived in and it was there he realized he wanted to explore other places, such as Glacier National Park.
“Everyone would say ‘this is it, these are the mountains of Montana,’” he said.
Gordon illegally camped out at the top of Logan Pass his first night in the park – a ranger later told him to move along. The next morning he photographed the sunrise and his love of Glacier has only grown over the last four decades.
Years later, Gordon met and married Cathie, herself an accomplished studio photographer in Libby. Since then, the two have traveled the West a couple months of each year. Gordon says they make a great team because they both see things in different ways.
The Sullivans’ most recent book takes readers on a photographic tour of the state, which is divided into regions. In each section, the two photographers share their favorite spots and how to get there. Each book also has another purpose: conservation.
“We ask ourselves, do we really want a bunch of photographers standing in the places we do and the answer is always yes, we do,” he said. “Every time someone takes a picture some place, it’s a celebration of that place.”
Gordon said with the advancement of digital technology, anyone can take a great photo with a little patience and practice.
“Today we can all be Ansel Adams,” he said.
And Gordon said there is no better place to emulate Ansel Adams than in Montana, with its national parks, wilderness areas and miles of pristine rivers.
“Photographing Montana” sells for $14.95. For more information visit www.countrymanpress.com.
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