Documenting Eden

Documenting Eden: The Wine Country Photographs of Turrill & Miller
January 19 – July 29, 2005

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The images in Documenting Eden were drawn from a photographic survey of the wine industry conducted by Turrill & Miller in the Sonoma and Napa Valleys during 1906 and 1907. Over the course of three visits spanning fourteen months, Charles Turrill produced a series of 554 glass-plate negatives. Together, these images of epic western landscapes, combined with a range of Old World viticulture methods and traditions imported by California’s new immigrant populations, reveal the transformation of the undeveloped rural landscape of the state’s North Coast into the premier wine-growing region of the nation. Among the familiar names and places shown are the vineyards and buildings of such well-known makers as Greystone, Korbel, Sutter Home, and Italian Swiss Colony.

Documenting Eden showed an industry and a way of life during a pivotal moment of prosperity. It offers a window into an important era in the state’s history, with its glorious monuments, such as vineyards facades, set next to the lives of everyday men and women, whom Turrill saw as being equal in importance to more prominent public figures in the state’s history. “I want the record truthful,” Turrill said in a 1923 interview with a San Francisco newspaper; “I want the real California heroes to be given their proper places in the halls of fame.” Turrill commented, “A new country has one advantage: we can get in on the ground floor in our historical picture-making”—a theory amply borne out in the images of Documenting Eden.

~Thomas Fels

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