Thursday, March 01, 2007

Kansas-Based Photographer Captures Flint Hills!

Kansas-Based Photographer Captures Flint Hills
For April Issue of National Geographic Magazine

Shows of the Photographs Are Scheduled at Lindsborg’s Small World Gallery
Kansas Capitol Rotunda and In a Traveling Exhibit through 2008

The gentle beauty of Kansas’ Flint Hills has beckoned Lindsborg’s Jim Richardson since he was in his first job as a news photographer at The Topeka Capital-Journal.

“I would photograph the Flint Hills but it always was frustrating,” Richardson said. “I never was able to really capture them, to show what I felt when I was there.”

Thirty years later, Richardson’s frustrations about photographing the Flint Hills may be subsiding. National Geographic Magazine is set to publish a 22-page story about this distinctive Kansas landscape by Richardson and respected essayist Verlyn Klinkenborg in its April 2007 issue.

Note that the photograph exhibit will be traveling around the state. Stops include Olathe on April 2; Council Grove on April 9; McPherson on April 16, and Augusta on April 29. Other scheduled exhibit locations include Manhattan, the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve, Arkansas City, Hutchinson, Abilene, Hays, Salina and Wichita. The full schedule will be posted at

The story will introduce the magazine’s nine million subscribers worldwide to a rare landscape and ecosystem that Richardson believes some people in his home state take for granted.

“It is time that we all learned to stop looking beyond the borders of our state for inspiration, learn to see what has been here all along and cherish what we have. The Flint Hills should never play second fiddle to our nation’s more recognized landmark landscapes.”

National Geographic’s April issue will not reach mailboxes and newsstands until mid March; however, Richardson will host a public “sneak peek” show of 25 Flint Hills photographs in his Lindsborg gallery, Small World, from 2 to 5 p.m. Sunday, March 11. The show will continue on display at Small World Gallery for the rest of 2007.

On Monday, March 19, an exhibit of 34 large-scale photographs from Richardson’s National Geographic story will be unveiled in the rotunda of the State Capitol. The exhibit is sponsored by the National Geographic Society, the Kansas Division of Travel and Tourism, Flint Hills Tourism Coalition, Epson and Wolfe’s Camera of Topeka.

Many photographs in the exhibit are nearly three by four feet to show an unusual level of detail. One is a multi-panel photograph eight feet wide that shows a lone Flint Hills tree against the rich night sky, filled by the stars of the Milky Way.

The photographs in this Statehouse exhibit will travel to many Kansas communities this year and next, making one-week stops in more than 30 locations across the state. The first stops are in Olathe on April 2; Council Grove on April 9; McPherson on April 16, and Augusta on April 29. Other scheduled exhibit locations include Manhattan, the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve, Arkansas City, Hutchinson, Abilene, Hays, Salina and Wichita. The traveling exhibit is being coordinated by the Richard Smalley at the Kansas Department of Travel and Tourism; the full schedule will be posted at

Richardson proposed the Flint Hills landscape story to National Geographic editors two years ago as part of the magazine’s ongoing coverage of the nation’s great landscapes.

“It was important that the photographs allow our readers to see the Flint Hills in both its grand geologic scale and also in seasonal detail,” Richardson said.

“I looked at the Flint Hills from airplanes so I could see the lay of the land. I looked at them down on my hands and knees with a micro-lens to see the working of a wildflower that is only three-quarters inch wide. I looked at the hills in the slow, almost imperceptible march of seasons. I also dwelled in glorious moments, such as when massive thunderstorms flash across the stoic hills.

He started work in spring 2006 as ranchers started to burn off the hills to seedling trees at bay and allow fresh grasses to grow. By the time he was done, frost was nipping at the red leaves of the sumac.

“I worked on the Flint Hills story over a year’s time, but it seemed short even at that. When you see the Flint Hills in the distance from I-70, for example, the subtlety of the landscape can be deceiving. When you try to get closer, its essence seems to slip away. It is not an easy landscape.

“In the end, I had to accept the Flint Hills on their own terms. They are like no other subject I have photographed.”

The Flint Hills are generally accepted by geologists to be an area in Kansas that runs from southern Mitchell County in the north to Cowley County on the south. The band of hills is bordered on the west by eastern Saline County and on the west by western Wabaunsee County. The geology of the Flint Hills continues south into Oklahoma, where it is called the Osage Hills.

Within the Flint Hills of Kansas is the largest remaining unbroken area of tallgrass prairie.

Richardson is a veteran of more than 35 stories for National Geographic and its sister publication Traveler, where he is a contributing editor. He also is known for a respected body of black and white photography about rural Kansas life. He has lived in Lindsborg for nine years. More about Richardson’s work can be found at


For more information, contact Richardson at 785-227-4442 or or Heather Riley at National Geographic Magazine at 212-610-5518.



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