- Associated Press - Friday, February 20, 2015

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) - From wild berry picking in Columbia Falls, Maine, to the state ferry called M/V Columbia in Alaska, one photographer has declared a mission to capture the Columbias across America.

On March 1, New York photographer Francis Smith will embark on an eight-month journey through 33 states to capture the essence of 50 towns, cities, counties, ships and universities, all of which share Columbia as part of their names.

New York photographer Francis Smith will soon embark on an eight-month journey through 33 states to capture the essence of 50 towns, cities, counties, ships and universities that all share Columbia as part of their names.

He calls the project “America by Another Name,” a reference to the Colonial era when Columbia was a poetic label for the budding land of opportunity, The Columbia Missourian (https://bit.ly/1EEK7RV ) reports.

Smith is using the crowd-funding site Indiegogo to support the project. He has raised more than $10,100 of his $15,000 goal. The funding campaign has ended.

He says he wants to capture a wide swath of American society using “Columbia” as a cross-section through the perceived boundaries of race, politics and socioeconomic status.

Smith, 49, has photographed Columbias intermittently since 2011, but his commercial career kept him from committing to the project full time. This year, he’s devoting all of his time to his brainchild, which he hopes will lead to a book and a film.

To date, Smith said he has visited more than 20 Columbias - some superficially. He has not visited Columbia, Missouri, and he has yet to schedule the trip.

He has already photographed Columbia, Connecticut; Columbia Station, Ohio; Columbia, South Carolina, the state’s capital; and West Columbia, West Virginia, among others.

His camera has captured images such as these:

NASCAR fans at the Michigan International Speedway in the Columbia Township of Jackson County, Michigan.

A party for Little Miss Columbia in Columbia, Alabama.

A wild blueberry harvest with the Passamaquoddy tribe in Columbia Falls, Maine.

Hinkle’s Pharmacy in Columbia, Pennsylvania. He calls it “a store that’s up-to-date and yet seemingly frozen in amber (maybe it’s the honest-to-goodness Muzak they play).”

Some of the 50 stops on Smith’s 2015 tour are places he’s already previewed, but most - including Columbia, Missouri - will be new destinations.

He will hit the road in two weeks driving a Grand Caravan specially outfitted with lockable cabinets for camera equipment and enough space for a cot, just in case he can’t find anyone in Columbia to take him in.

A few of this year’s highlights include the 150th anniversary of the burning of Columbia, South Carolina; log-pulling competitions, wagon trains and the “Hee-haw” chili supper during Mule Week in Columbia, Tennessee; and maybe a tour of the USS Columbia, a nuclear-powered submarine in Pearl Harbor.

Smith said he’s not following a strict schedule, which is why he can’t name the dates for his visit here.

“I’ve outlined it, but a lot of it is intuitive,” he said. “A journey is about discovery, and discovery has its own path.”

In fact, he has only two scheduled destinations during the eight-month tour: Columbia, Tennessee, in April for Mule Week, and Bellingham, Washington, in June, where he’ll board the MV Columbia for a ride to Alaska and back.

Smith said the project was inspired by photographers such as Walker Evans, who documented life during the Depression through funding from the New Deal in the 1930s.

Michele Ward, owner of Principle Gallery in Alexandria, Virginia, and Charleston, South Carolina, has worked with Smith for six years. Smith photographs the homes of people who collect art from her galleries and publishes his work in magazines such as American Fine Art and American Art Collector, she said.

But his passion for the Columbia project impresses her the most.

“It’s something nobody else is doing,” Ward said. “When he talks about it, he talks with such zeal. It’s really impressive.”

German photographer August Sander, who captured life in Germany during the early 20th century, might be the greatest precedent for Smith’s massive cross-sectional study.

“I want to show people that this is how we live here and now,” Smith said. “And I want the photographs to have heart without being sentimental … and to be insightful without being cruel.”

___

Information from: Columbia Missourian, https://www.columbiamissourian.com

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

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