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MSS 304 - William C. Phelps Collection of Photographs: :

William C. Phelps COLLECTION of Photographs

(Mss 304)


Earl K. Long Library

University of New Orleans

March 2002




Size:                          6 linear feet


locations:                 American Southwest; Mexico

Inclusive dates:      1997-1998 and undated (probably 1990s)

Bulk dates:              1990s

Summary:                Color photographs by William C. Phelps, a professional photographer in New Orleans.  The photographs fall into two groups: scenes of the American Southwest and Mexico, and vegetables arranged creatively.

Source:                     Gift, August 2001

Access:                     No restrictions

Copyright:                Physical rights are retained by the Earl K. Long Library, University of New Orleans.

Citation:                    William C. Phelps Collection of Photographs, Earl K. Long Library, University of New Orleans


Series and Series Descriptions


Series I.         The Southwest (11 items)

                        Framed photographs by William C. Phelps, a professional photographer, chiefly in color, depicting locales in the American Southwest and Mexico.  Most are accompanied by Mr. Phelps’s descriptions.


Series II.        Vegetables (4 items)

                        Framed photographs by William C. Phelps, a professional photographer, chiefly in color, depicting vegetables creatively.



Container List




Series I.  The Southwest.


304-1              #3  The Painted Desert (2 copies)

304-2                          This area is located just outside of Big Bend National Park west on highway 170 near the town of Study Butte.  This area consists of sandstone, limestone, shale and some igneous material.  The only plants growing in this desert are the creosote bush, lechuguilla, ocotillo and tarbush.  The lechuguilla was the bane of the cavalry.  The short spiny leaves created big problems for the feet of the soldiers and horses.  The creosote bush has an odor similar to creosote and is avoided by animals.  The bush has a built-in protection system.  The roots spread out further than the branches to protect the bush.




304-3              #10  Terlingua Abaja Cemetery (2 copies)

304-4                          When cinnabar was mined in Terlingua to produce quicksilver mercury, little was known of its effect on human beings.  Many of the gravestones in this cemetery show that people buried here died at an early age working in the mines.  The adobe huts that were built in Terlingua Abaja to house the people that worked in the mines, contained lead which also contributed to an early death.

                                    The town of Terlingua Abaja which was abandoned when the mines closed, appears to be starting to rebuild.  Located here are river cruise companies, stables for horseback riding, a general store, motels, a post office and La Kiva, the cave.  The cave is an experience in its self.




304-5              #12  Convoluted Strata in Earnst Canyon (2 copies)

304-6                          In my opinion the Earnst Basin is a miniature Grand Canyon.  Great volumes of water drained from the once fertile mesas above, and carved the basin.  The hydraulic action of the water carried large boulders careening down the basin.  As the boulder dropped to lower elevations, this action carved large holes in the rocks which the natives named Tinijas or hole in the earth.  These tinijas held water which the animals would drink from.  Unfortunately, the action of the water and the rocks polished the surface of the adjoining rocks leading to the tinijas.  When the water was low, many of the animals could not get out and drowned.  Animals in this region were javalinas, mountain lions, bears, deer, coyotes, rabbits, lizards and a multitude of birds.  The cliffs are colored buff, yellow gray and reddish brown.  The rocks above the tinijas are titled, contorted, and broken by faulting.

                                    As can be seen in this photograph and accompanying photographs, there is diversity in the geology of Earnst Basin.  It is my opinion that the Earnst Basin is the most fascinating area in Big Bend Park.  The Earnst Basin is off the old Oar road [i.e., Ore Road?].  This road is named Oar road because it was used to transport minerals mined in Mexico, to smelters in the United States.  The road is restricted to high clearance vehicles.


304-7              #23  Grapevine Hills

                                    Grapevine Hills consist of massive granite boulders.  A picturesque window of boulders can be found by following a marked trail.  Grapevine Hills are a laccolith.  Igneous rocks intruded between sedimentary rocks which causes some to bulge upwards.  A mushroom-shaped underground lava flow that domed the rocks above, was later exposed by erosion.  There was a water well at this area which was once a cattle ranch.  The area was named from the grapevines which once grew there.




304-8              Rio Grande Raft Trip

                                    This photograph was made on one of my raft trips on the Rio Grande River.  The object in the center of the river is one of the rafts on the trip.

                                    This photograph was made on the river above the Boquillas Canyon.  You can see from this photograph the extent of the range of the canyon, very impressive.


304-9              Rio Grande River

                                    Look downstream at Boquillas.




304-10            “Alto Relex”

                                    Old Ore Road, Big Bend, TX.


304-11            Strawberry Cactus, Big Bend, TX.




Series II.  Vegetables.


304-12            Still life depicting an artist’s palette with two brushes and an easel containing a board upon which is mounted a red pepper, sliced in half.


304-13            “Chorus Line.”  No. 6 in an edition of 20.  [1998].

                        Depicts carrots, other vegetables, and greenery posed to depict a chorus line.




304-14            “Venus de Garlique.”  Black-and-white.  No. 10 in an edition of 50.  [1997].


304-15            “Venus Di Garlique.”  Color.  No. 17 in an edition of 50.  [1998].



Index Terms



Phelps, William C.

Southwestern United States—Views