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Names in Mojave History

Burton Frasher

(July 25, 1888 - April 24, 1955) Burton Frasher photographer in Eastern Sierra Nevada
Burton Frasher may not have been the first man there, but in many cases he was the first man there with a view camera...

Frasher and his camera went everywhere in the California desert wasteland and that was long before pavement and four-wheel-drive vehicles.

The sandy washes of Death Valley knew Frasher in 1920 when the best way to get there was up the washboard roads out of Barstow, over flinty Jubilee Pass and through the sugary sand into Furnace Creek Ranch and its little date palm grove. On his many trips into the desert country Frasher's cars broke down, became stuck in the sand, were slowed by weather stopped by wind. but he kept going back into the desert with camera and film "on any excuse."

In the beginning it was as much just an itch, call it a hobby, as it was anything else. There was not much market in those early days for large and arty scenes of Death Valley and the surrounding desert country. Later, when Frasher began funneling his energies to the creation of picture postcards, views of the strange California desert country went all over the world. Frasher became a kind of postcard king of the Southwest. His tripod-footed cameras might be found sitting on any rise between Washington and New Mexico. And since part of the funding for Frasher was in the going, he drove his cars into the desert until he could drive it no farther and then he walked, camera and tripod over his shoulder, to get the view from the farthest hill.

Frasher postcards are seldom seen these days, but there passing does not mean that the work of this inquisitive explorer has gone for naught. His earliest views--some 1500 glass plates-- have already been turned over to the Pomona Valley Historical Society in Southern California for safekeeping and for use by historians in the future. The enormous bulk of his later work, some 60,000 celluloid negatives, guarded in fireproof vaults in Frasher's studio in Pomona, will soon be transferred to the Historical Society's archives.

Some of those early Frasher glass plate negatives might surprise some collectors of the Southwest scenes: group pictures of fruit packing house workers. This was the beginning of Frasher as a traveling photographer.

from Photographer of the Desert by Russ Leadabrand

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