A photo essay on the birth of Mormonism, produced in 1907–8, is the crowning achievement of one of the LDS Church’s most artistic photographers, George Edward Anderson, an obscure village photographer from Springville, Utah (1860–1928). Church History in Black and White brings together for the first time the words and pictures of the photographer’s year-long odyssey to document Church historical sites in the eastern United States. Anderson’s work has been rediscovered by photographers, artists, and scholars in recent years, and I am delighted to see another publication of these magnificent photographs.
Anderson had an uncanny obsession to tell stories with his camera. He was a photojournalist ahead of his time. Before the turn of the century; he had documented construction of the Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad through Utah, the lives of miners in Carbon and Emery counties, and the Scofield Mine Disaster of 1900. In his travels with a portable gallery throughout rural central Utah, he documented the lifestyles of his beloved Mormon people. But the most ambitious project of all began when he was called on a mission to England in 1907. On his way east, he decided to make nearly a year of detours to document the roots and historical sites of his church in Missouri, Illinois, Ohio, New York, Pennsylvania and Vermont. These photographic detours were not part of an official Church mission, although some ecclesiastical leaders did give their blessings and verbal permissions for the stops along the way.