Go directly to the Shantz Photograph database

The late Dr. Homer L. Shantz, botanist, professor, and president of the University of Arizona, was also a remarkable photographer. He traveled widely, with an emphasis on the American West and Africa, and made documentary photographs wherever he went. The Shantz Photograph collection contains four to five thousand photographs and negatives, together with field books with notes on locations for many of them.

Among Dr. Shantz's research interests was photographic documentation of vegetation change. The sites from which four of his series of photos were made were revisited and rephotographed decades later. In the late 1950s, Shantz and Walter S. Phillips rephotographed many Shantz locations from the central part of America (Shantz and Phillips, 1963). With B.L. Turner, Shantz had earlier rephotographed many African sites (Shantz and Turner, 1958). The most complex of these collaborative efforts resulted in McGinnies, Shantz, and McGinnies (1991). The third author worked with Shantz in the 1950s to rephotograph sites originally documented by Shantz just after the turn of the century. The first McGinnies (son of the third author) then rephotographed the sites in the mid-1980s (after the deaths of both Shantz and the senior McGinnies), and completed the now published volume. Dr. R. M. Turner, now retired from the U.S.G.S. at the Desert Station on Tumamoc Hill, is producing a third view of Shantz' earlier matched photographs from Kenya. Shantz first made photographs in Arizona during the teens. He began focusing on the Arizona-Sonoran desert area intensively in 1931 and continued for about twenty-five years. Also notable in the collection are a number of exquisite shots of native Americans.

Shantz's photographs are a valuable resource, both locally and globally. Photographic documentation of vegetational change is an important survey method that helps researchers understand the impact that climate change and human activities have on our environment. Sadly, the negatives are deteriorating. The earliest negatives are preserved on glass, but most are of the nitrate type which degrade over time. Fortunately, in most cases, a positive print accompanies the negatives. However, the condition of the negatives restricts their use. For example, portions of the African Expedition collection have been requested by botanists in Africa for comparison with current conditions but the condition of the negatives and the limited number of prints dictate that access be limited to local viewing. The herbarium is eager to work with researchers, archivists, and funding agencies toward securing the collection for the future.

We present here a few of these images to communicate something of the flavor of the collection. Click here to view sample images.

Go directly to the Shantz Photograph database


McGinnies, W.J., H. L. Shantz, and W.G. McGinnies. 1991. Changes in vegetation and land use in eastern Colorado: A photographic study, 1904 to 1986. United States Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, ARS-85.

Rogers, G. F. 1982. Then and now. A photographic history of vegetation change in the central Great Basin desert. University of Utah Press: Salt Lake City.

Rogers, G.F., H.E. Malde, and R.M. Turner. 1984. Bibliography of repeat photography for evaluating landscape change. University of Utah Press: Salt Lake City.

Phillips, W.S.. 1963. Vegetational changes in the northern Great Plains. From Homer L. Shantz' records and negatives. Agricultural Experiment Station, College of Agriculture, University of Arizona, Report 214.

Shantz, H. L. and B. L. Turner. 1958. Photographic documentation of vegetational changes in Africa over a third of a century. College of Agriculture, University of Arizona, Report 169.